Letter from the Executive Director
5 January, 2022
In 2017, Virginia became the first state in the nation to mandate computer science education for all Virginia students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, with an innovative provision calling for mandatory integrated standards for all students from kindergarten through middle school.
And then, of course, every school in Virginia instantly made certain that computer science literacy was a reality in every classroom for every child.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
In reality, during the five years since that mandate, CodeVA has provided state-supported, no-cost professional development to thousands and thousands of teachers across the commonwealth, representing literally every single school division in the state.
But it’s a drop in the bucket when considering there are tens of thousands more teachers yet to be reached – and unlikely ever to be reached without some plan and direction from school administrators who, bluntly and understandably, have to make up on their own how to make this state mandate a reality.
Collaborations between school administrators; individual, foundation, and corporate donors; and CodeVA fuel this vision.
Who could have accounted for the fact that our school leaders – principals, school counselors, superintendents, and everyone in between – had never before been asked to add a core subject to all public school classrooms?
And since Computer Science is the first such core subject to be added to comprehensive education in more than 150 years, it stands to reason that there’s really no roadmap for anyone to follow, no prior institutional knowledge, no sage veterans to call upon for assistance.
Which leads us to CS Ready.
In 2020, CodeVA, with funding from Amazon Future Engineer and other private donors, launched a pilot program that is helping Virginia’s school leaders to develop the tools and know-how – and actual roadmaps – for a future where every child truly does have access to meaningful computer science literacy.
Presently about 40 schools – with plans to add another two dozen schools during this school year – are serving as pilot sites for this long-term planning process. They represent all regions of the state and run the gamut from urban to very remote rural schools. All are Title I or qualify as economically disadvantaged, because if a school with the greatest challenges can successfully implement CS for All, so can the best-resourced schools.
Each CS Ready school has assembled an Impact Team of school leaders with positional and budgetary authority to make things happen, and to support the school’s CS plan. Now in year two, a number of these schools – even in the midst of likely the most challenging school year ever, thanks to the global pandemic – are coordinating across their schools to make sure regular and intentional CS instruction is happening.
This is a major shift from CodeVA’s past efforts, which focused on individual teachers, who for the most part could only impact their own classrooms, and not the other 10 or 20 classrooms in their elementary school, or who as a high school elective teacher couldn’t rely on the school counselor to know why CS is so important to nearly all career fields graduates might pursue in in STEM fields, and in many humanities fields, too.
The CS Ready framework eventually will comprise planning tools not only for schools and school divisions, but also for the community that those schools serve, creating a collaborative and reciprocal planning cycle that builds on success, but that ultimately has the student as the focus of that communal effort. After all, what is the measure of educational success but a community’s success in translating all that hard work educating a child into a skilled and desirable workforce that drives economic development and community prosperity?
During this global emergency, our communities took their first true steps to bridge the Digital Divide for all, when they suddenly were forced to provide one-to-one laptops and internet so students could attend virtual classes.
Do these advances ensure that students have any more than the basic minimum?
It’s now time to ask ourselves: Are our communities really ready for the digital future? Is your community CS Ready?
Do we have the investment we need in our programs to meet the demand? Through private donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations and support from the State of Virginia, CodeVA is helping to answer this question.
As we enter the New Year, and as we face the new challenge of reimagining our communities in this post-pandemic New Normal, it’s a question we all should be asking ourselves. It’s a question CodeVA wants all Virginia schools to be able to answer with confidence.
Yes Virginia, we are CS Ready.