Coding for the future: Gov. Inslee leads computer education effort

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is leading a national effort to teach tech skills to the next generation of students.

But making computer science an integral part of basic education starts with having the right teachers. Governor Inslee promised to make that one of his top priorities in the coming year, during a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, DC.

"Not all teachers grew up in this particular age of coding," Inslee said. "We are 7,000 teachers short in my state and when we work to decrease the teacher shortage this is going to be an important part of that."

Inslee has announced that he will be leading a coalition of government and business groups, encouraging all states to create and implement a computer science curriculum.

President Barack Obama is asking congress for $4.1 billion to support computer science in all K-12 classrooms.

In addition to filling jobs and creating a highly skilled workforce, Inslee said having a generation that is proficient in new technology is imperative for our safety.

"I was at Google in Kirkland the other day, and they're rolling out their autonomous vehicles. When we're in autonomous vehicles, we want to make sure people know how to code when they develop those cars," Inslee said with a laugh.

But, Margo Day, Vice President of Education at Microsoft, said computer science is about more than just coding. It teaches children teamwork and problem-solving skills.

"Thinking about how to code, to solve problems, lights up their creativity," said Day.

Although 90 percent of parents surveyed say they want computer science taught in the classroom, only about 25 percent of public schools currently offer this type of instruction.

Megan Smith, the U.S. Chief Technology Director, noted that computer science jobs aren't only found at Microsoft and Google. They're in every state and in every industry.

"The 600,000 jobs that are open in the United States right now are in every sector," Smith said. "They're in retail. They're in agriculture. They're in manufacturing."

The governors joining the Partnership for K-12 Computer Science have three main objectives:

• Enable all high schools to offer at least one rigorous computer science course.
• Fund training for educators, who in turn can teach tech courses.
• Create a set of high-quality academic K-12 computer science standards.

Governor Inslee said it will also be important that states share information with each other and with industry experts.

"We've signed a $2 million program to scale up our computer science programs just last year and start the process of creating a real curriculum for schools across the state," Inslee said. "And, it's happened because we've had very vigorous public-private partnerships."

Code.org is also a driving force behind this effort. They will be providing the interstate partnership with resources as the states work to create computer science programs. They will also be working to facilitate collaboration among lawmakers from different states.

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