If we are to ensure that our nation remains globally competitive, Americans must have the skills necessary to compete for 21st century jobs — and increasingly this includes ensuring that young people of all backgrounds have access to high-quality computer science education.
The good news is that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has taken a major step toward this goal with a bold new initiative called Computer Science for Rhode Island – CS4RI.
CS4RI is a public-private partnership, which includes organizations like Microsoft, Code.org, and colleges and universities throughout Rhode Island. It will dramatically expand computer science education through three critically important components.
First, it provides curriculum, software, and professional development so that Rhode Island will be able to train and recruit high-quality computer science teachers. It's not enough for students to use technology, they need to learn how to make it work.
Second, it will help make computer science available to students of all backgrounds, particularly to young women and students from underserved communities. Mentoring and programs that provide real-life, hands-on, project-based opportunities can inspire students to pursue computer science and science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
And third, CS4RI will contribute to more innovation in the classroom through the use of digital content and tools to provide individualized, data-based learning. Today, teachers are only scratching the surface of what's possible through the use of tablets, digital tools and rich media. We must make sure that digital learning resources and technology integration in the classroom are available to all.
Taken together, this initiative will improve computer science education in the state and open the door to more good, well-paying jobs. Expanding computer science education will give Rhode Island an important leg up. Technology companies must have workforces with 21st century skills. Delivering a pipeline of trained workers — and expanding computer science education is an important part of that — will give Rhode Island a big advantage when trying to grow new jobs.
Computer science education is fundamental. Every student in the United States should learn about algorithms, how the Internet works, or how to make an app. But more important, computer science teaches kids to be problem solvers and innovators. Helping students develop these skills will benefit them in every subject, in the classroom and beyond.
This won't happen overnight. It's a generational challenge. Governor Raimondo is stepping up, and we need more leaders around the country to follow her example. This leadership will help expand the pool of students trained in computer science, and help make Rhode Island a more attractive place for technology businesses.
Expanding computer science and focusing on the other STEM disciplines will help us to find the next great American innovator and encourage millions upon millions of students to pursue careers in these groundbreaking fields.