CHICAGO (Built In) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced today a partnership that will make Chicago’s school system friendlier to computer science, and students more trained for a tech-friendly workforce.
“This plan will help us compete with countries like China and the UK, where children take coding classes in elementary school, and create an environment where we can help support the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Meyer,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement.
“By democratizing computer science, we are leveling the playing field for all children to have the same skills, appetite to learn, and access to technology to excel in this growing field.”
The partnership is with code.org, a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding computer science education in K-12 schools nationwide. Code.org will provide a free curriculum and help with professional development and stipends for teachers implementing the city’s long term vision of tightening the computer literacy gap.
Over the next five years, the plan is to ensure that at least one computer science course will be taught at every high school in Chicago, and that it will be raised to a core subject rather than an elective. It will be allowed to count as a graduation requirement and the training pipeline will start early on so that students in at least a fourth of local elementary schools will be learning how to build and create computer programs and applications.
The plan is to “bridge the digital divide and the gender gap,” the city reported. Of all advanced placement computer science classes nationwide, fewer than 20 percent of students are women and fewer than 10 percent are African American or Latino.
And while the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects up to 760,000 jobs created in computer and information technology by 2020, only close to 40,000 U.S. Bachelor’s degrees are expected to be earned in the field.
Kicking off the initiative, close to 20,000 students are participating in code.org’s “Hour of Code” initiative this week. Chicago’s Starter League is helping facilitate the initiative to “demystify” computer science by introducing students to one hour of the capability of computing. While the initiative aims to reach 10 million students, the city reports that Chicago demonstrates the highest participation worldwide.
“Computer science offers students a pathway to some of the best jobs in the country,” said Code.org founder Hadi Partovi in a statement. And throughout the week, major politicians and business leaders including President Obama and Bill Gates have been supporting Partovi’s goal in teaching code.
“This is not only a course you study to get a job as an engineer,” Partovi said. “It’s a fundamental course for our future nurses, doctors, lawyers, and even future presidents.”