Lawmakers are charged with solving problems by enacting laws that promote statewide success, and the passage of SB-957 does exactly that. Specifically, the 2019 session closed with legislation that requires increased access to computer science instruction in our public schools and updates teacher preparation/certification laws relating to computer science to make it easier to attract the talent and expertise schools will need to teach relevant, timely material.
The impact of this legislation is multi-fold. First, jobs and economic development.
Presently, there are nearly 5,500 Connecticut-based computer science jobs available, yet last year just over 500 Connecticut college seniors graduated with computer science degrees. With an average salary of $97K (which is significantly higher than the statewide average salary of roughly $59K), a plan to address this dearth —this opportunity— is nothing short of urgent.
Importantly, this demand is expected to skyrocket; over the course of the next decade, the state Department of Labor estimates that 15,000 computer science-based jobs will be available, spanning sectors that include health care, insurance, advanced manufacturing, and traditional IT/software. Thus, on its face, SB 957 is an economic and workforce development boon.
Next, consider the public education landscape. SB 957 affords new workforce frontiers to current and future STEM educators.
Certification to teach computer science will be available to novice and seasoned educators alike, as well as career computer science professionals who can leverage their experience to benefit public school students. On this last note, exposure to computer science experts who have been on the front lines in their field may well lead to enhanced career-connected learning for students.
Finally, this law can bring forth equity. It is no secret that Connecticut has one of the largest opportunity gaps in the nation.
Although prior to SB 957 Connecticut was one of 30 states with K-12 computer science standards, only about 52 percent of high schools are currently offering formal computer science instruction, and there is even less access in our highest-need school districts. Because computer science careers do not necessarily require the time and resource burdens of traditional four-year higher education —there are many non-traditional, certification-based offerings available in computer science— computer science instruction for all may well afford opportunities for a professional, well-paying career that otherwise may not exist.
Ultimately, SB 957 offers good policy, and as committed advocates for the passage of this law, we welcome the opportunity to help inform this work as it is enacted. We encourage those tasked with its implementation to closely track progress.
Specifically, the following should be explored as part of the implementation phase:
A survey of the current state landscape for K-12 computer science education, including disaggregated demographic data on the students currently enrolled in available courses;
A plan for expanding computer science education opportunities to each and every public K-12 school in the state within five years;
A design for ongoing impact evaluation of new programming;
proposed rules that incorporate the strategic plan into the state’s public education system as a whole; and
A long-term sustainability proposal.
If follow through on this legislation isn’t taken seriously, we can be sure that neighboring states will leverage this opportunity, steal away our talent, and see their economies prosper—all to Connecticut’s detriment.
This, though, can be avoided, and with a concerted effort and cross-sector collaboration, we can proudly and confidently answer But now what? with a resounding Now, THIS!
Shannon Marimón is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).
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