Gov. Phil Murphy continued his push Monday to inject more computer science education into New Jersey public schools, announcing $2 million in state grants to train teachers to prepare K-12 students.
The Computer Science for All State Plan is the latest in an initiative by the governor, who said he wants to make sure every student in the state gets a comprehensive computer science education. Murphy said he wants to improve students’ critical thinking skills and prepare them for careers in a job market that doesn’t have enough qualified applicants.
“Expanding and improving computer science programs in our public schools will help provide our students with the critical thinking skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy,” Murphy said. “Computers and technology are integral to our society and workforce, and students must be given the opportunity to learn and master these foundational skills.”
The plan was drafted with input from a Computer Science Advisory Board that included educators in the computer science and STEM fields. It includes curriculum materials, online training, and coaching for teachers.
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It calls for developing rigorous computer science standards at all grade levels, implementing professional learning, increasing the pool of computer science teachers, and using data to evaluate the program’s success.
Murphy said the state’s workforce has 15,000 unfilled computer science jobs, with an average salary of $107,000. In 2017, New Jersey’s state universities graduated about 1,600 computer science majors, according to Code.org, a nonprofit that advocates for the expansion of computer science programs.
“We must close the gap that sees us unable to fill the growing number of jobs that require a firm grasp of STEM concepts and computer science skills,” Murphy said.
Murphy also announced plans Monday to extend the state’s “Expanding Access to Computer Science” program in 2020 with part of the funding. So far, 44 school districts have received grants to focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math. In South Jersey, Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School in Atlantic County and Gateway Regional High School in Gloucester County received grants for the 2019-20 school year.
The latest grants will be used in part to create a network of computer-science hubs to provide training for teachers. Three universities in each region of the state will receive up to $265,000 each to partner with districts that have at least one Title I school. The state said 15 comprehensive high schools will receive grants of up to $66,500 to reach a more diverse pool of students. The grants will be awarded by early spring.