Harrisburg, PA - Code.org, a national advocacy group for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, has highlighted Pennsylvania’s investments in STEM throughout the commonwealth in its recent annual report. The report, 2021 State of Computer Science Education, noted that Pennsylvania has dedicated $56 million since 2018 to teacher training, support for gaining teacher certification in computer science (CS), and support for STEM ecosystems and collective impact models of local and regional STEM education-workforce collaborations.
The report also elevated Governor Tom Wolf’s statement that, “strong computer science education can break down barriers and open a world of opportunities for all students.”
“Over the past seven years, the Wolf Administration has been committed to preparing Pennsylvania’s students for good-paying jobs, supporting our educators, and providing multiple pathways to success after graduation,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Noe Ortega. “Our investments in STEM and computer science programs—and our efforts to ensure equity in access to these programs across the commonwealth—will have an impact on our workforce and communities for decades to come.”
During the Wolf Administration, Pennsylvania has dedicated $20 million annually to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for PAsmart, a program established to expand STEM and computer science education to learners of all ages. Targeted and Advancing PAsmart grants support high-quality STEM and computer science learning and professional development opportunities to communities across Pennsylvania, including within early learning centers, libraries, out-of-school time providers, career and technical education centers, post-secondary institutions, and K-12 schools. PDE has awarded 438 PAsmart grants since the 2018-19 school year.
Pennsylvania’s investments in STEM have enabled more children and youth—especially lower-income students—to access computer science education and STEM education more broadly. In 2019-20, 63 percent of public high schools in the commonwealth offered a foundational computer science course—and 81 percent of high school students attended a school offering computer science. Since 2015, schools offering computer science programs increased by 271 percent, and there has been a 1,000 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in computer science programs.
The report also noted the commonwealth’s support for postsecondary institutions that prepare teachers for the classroom and the program guidelines developed by PDE for educator preparation programs in computer science. To enable licensed teachers to gain specialized expertise in teaching computer science, Pennsylvania joined 40 other states in offering a teacher certification in computer science and currently has three postsecondary institutions offering the program: Clarion University, Swarthmore College, and Messiah College.
Much of this work was accomplished by the CSinPA team at the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN). CSinPA developed a number of tools to complement Governor Tom Wolf’s PAsmart initiative including the CS Teacher Toolkit, CS Administrator Toolkit, and Family Toolkit. These resources help provide equitable computer science education for all students including students of color, historically underrepresented populations, English language learners (ELLs, and students with disabilities.)
“The team at WeTeach_CS worked with our CSinPA team to tailor the course for Pennsylvania educators for inclusion in our PAsmart professional learning resources,” said Judd Pittman, PDE’s Special Consultant to the Secretary of Education. “The course provides flexibility for full-time educators to learn computer science content, and it is crucial support towards our goal of 500 certified computer science educators in the state by 2023.”
As of November 2021, Pennsylvania has 41 educators fully certified for grades 7 to 12 in computer science, an additional 23 educators who have passed the exam, and 18 who have registered for the exam. Thirty-six local education agencies (LEA) have at least one computer science certified educator.
For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education, please visit the website or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest.
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