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Diegnan, Fuentes & Eustace Bill to Bolster Computer Science Education in NJ Goes to Governor’s Desk

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Angel Fuentes and Tim Eustace to bolster computer science education in New Jersey’s middle schools and high schools was approved 73-2 last week by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.
The bill (A-3440) requires the State Board of Education to develop rigorous curriculum guidelines in computer science at the middle and high school levels that will be incorporated into the existing Technology and Science Core Curriculum Content Standards, where appropriate.
The goal of the curriculum guidelines would be to prepare students to understand the nature of computer science and its place in the modern world; foster an understanding that computer science interweaves concepts and skills; enable students to use computer science skills, primarily computational thinking, in their problem-solving activities in other subjects; and complement information technology and Advanced Placement computer science curricula in school districts.
“Many of our young people are graduating with fewer job prospects. Computing and information technology are among the fastest growing occupational fields in the country,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “By exposing our students to these professions at an earlier age, we are giving them the tools they will need to compete and thrive in the global marketplace.”
“Colleges are not graduating enough computer science majors to keep up with the demand. The gender and racial disparity among high school students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam is even more disproportionate,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “By enhancing computer science education in our classrooms, we can expose students from groups that are typically under-represented in computing and close the gender and racial gaps ingrained in the profession.”
“Computer science is transforming industry, creating new fields of commerce, driving innovation in all fields of science and bolstering productivity in established economic sectors,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Computer science education has been encumbered by confusion with technology education and the use of technology in education, which are related but distinct concepts. Exposing middle and high school students to computer science education in New Jersey would give them a deeper knowledge of the fundamentals of computing, yielding critical thinking skills that will serve them throughout their lives in numerous fields.”
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by the year 2020, there will be 4.2 million jobs in computing and information technology in the United States, putting these fields among the fastest growing occupational fields.
The College Board reports that of the 3.4 million Advanced Placement exams given in 2011, only about 20,000 of those were in computer science. In the 2012-13 school year, only nine states allowed computer science courses to count toward secondary school core graduation requirements, chilling student interest in computer science courses.
Under the bill, beginning in the school year following the development of the curriculum guidelines, a school district would be required to incorporate, where appropriate, computer science curriculum guidelines in grades 6 through 12 which are in conformance with the curriculum guidelines developed by the State board. The bill defines “computer science” to mean the study of computers and algorithmic processes and includes the study of computing principles, computer hardware and software design, computer applications, and the impact of computers on society.
The bill now goes to the governor.