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Four girls programming a Beebot

Computer science curriculum prepares SF students for new economy

12/04/17

Let me start by stating the obvious: Some of the skills our graduates need to tackle a changing world are different than the ones I needed 20 years ago.

When I joined San Francisco Unified School District last spring, I learned about its vision for future graduates. As I look at the ways the district is getting closer to realizing this vision, our approach to teaching computer science (CS) stands out.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s noticed.

Today, at a CSEdWeek event featuring Peggy Johnson of Microsoft, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Susan Wojcicki of YouTube, the SFUSD will be the first and only school district in the nation to receive a Champions for Computer Science award.

Why we won

According to the Computer Science Teachers Association and Code.org, SFUSD was one of 15 winners selected out of nearly 1,000 nominations—and the only winner in the school district category—because of our progress in expanding access to CS.

It’s true. We are committed to providing engaging, rigorous and relevant computer science instruction to all students.

By 2020, every student from preschool through 8th grade will participate in computer science classes, and a menu of classes will be offered at all high schools.

We’re already well on our way. This year, SFUSD expanded computer science classes to reach 100 percent of our middle schools, 100 percent of our comprehensive high schools and 40 percent of our elementary schools.

Over the past three years, SFUSD has increased participation in computer science courses from 701 students to 17,175, representing a 2,450 percent growth.

It takes a team

Though our amazing staff lead for computer science will accept the award on behalf of the school district, this really is a team award.

The award goes to our community partners, including funders like Salesforce, universities like San Francisco State University and nonprofits like TEALS and MissionBit, which provide the resources we need to teach computer science.

It goes to our teachers, who have stepped up to learn new skills and tools so they can in turn teach them to our students.

And it goes to our Board of Education for recognizing the importance of universal access to a course of study that is becoming increasingly important in the new economy.

Tackling a changing world

Computer science is an everyday part of our students’ lives in the 21st century.

Historically, certain students have been sparsely enrolled in CS classes when they are offered as electives.

Now, our enrollment in computer science classes looks like the great diverse student body we serve. Everyone is getting a chance to learn the basics, so they can make an informed decision about pursuing computer science after high school.