Guest post by Chris Dovi, co-founder of CodeVA
When we launched CodeVA in 2013, my wife, Rebecca Dovi, and I had in mind the simple goal of making sure that Virginia students didn’t fall behind.
Last week, Virginia took a giant leap forward toward becoming a national leader in computer science. CodeVA helped convince state legislators to pass a law making computer science a topic that will be taught in all schools, and to all Virginia students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The new bill adds “computer science and computational thinking, including computer coding” to Virginia’s Standards of Learning.
Over the next few years, computer science standards will be reviewed and adopted that integrate concepts, and expose students to real-world uses of computer science. Virginia has long provided basic access to computer classes to all high school students through a statewide virtual learning school, but now coding courses also will be added to what students can take.
The road to Virginia’s victory started very differently
In January, lawmakers introduced legislation to allow computer science to count for foreign language credits. We knew there were problems.
Had any of the bills become law, they might have further confused schools on just what constitutes computer science. CodeVA had already found that many classes considered to be computer science by the state were instead productivity software classes. Luckily, all of the lawmakers who proposed foreign language bills were well intentioned, and determined to do right by Virginia kids. But none were aware that state universities wouldn’t accept high school diplomas that substituted computer programming languages for French or Chinese. And what would people think about students missing out on foreign languages?
We made it our mission to educate them. With the help of Microsoft, all five bills were soon set aside in favor of a single substitute bill carried by Del. Tag Greason. Not a bad bit of teamwork.
The bill passed both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate on unanimous votes, with the nod of the Virginia Department of Education, and blessings from stakeholders like the Virginia Educators Association, superintendents, and the school board association.
When this change is officially signed into law in July, Virginia will be the first state to require computer science to be integrated at all K-12 levels. After that, the Virginia Department of Education will get to work developing standards for each grade level.
All of this means lots more hard, but rewarding, work ahead for us, with help from our partner Code.org.
It’s time to train a whole lot of teachers!
CodeVA, an independent nonprofit, was Code.org’s first national affiliate partner. Since 2014, CodeVA has trained teachers in 33 Virginia school districts, impacting tens of thousands of Virginia students.
Very excited to see this happen in the state I’m working on transferring to for the next school year!