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Sen. Casey urges more Computer Courses

Sen. Casey urges more computer courses

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

By Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

At the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Science and Technology Academy the motto is “Dream, Discover, Design.”

“We need more schools like this in Pennsylvania and across the country,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who found the Oakland school the perfect setting Tuesday to promote the Computer Science Education Act he introduced in the Senate two weeks ago.

The bill, which Mr. Casey hopes will be folded into pending revisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has as its goal strengthening K-12 computer science education to prepare students for high-paying computing jobs.

The bill calls for providing two-year grants so states can assess computer science offerings in schools and develop a plan to increase and strengthen their capacity to offer effective computer science education. After that, five-year competitive grants will be offered for implementing effective plans.

Mr. Casey said such action is necessary because studies indicate that at least through 2018 the number of good-paying computing jobs will far outstrip those prepared for them.

He noted that at the very time more education should be available in the computing science field, less is being offered. Public and private studies indicate that fewer than 40,000 people graduated with bachelor’s degrees in computer science in 2009, but nearly 140,000 jobs are projected for each year between 2008 and 2018.

The availability of introductory high school computer science courses has decreased by 17 percent since 2005, he said, and the number of Advanced Placement computer science courses has dropped by 33 percent.

“Just when we need more students to focus on this course of study it’s going in the wrong direction and rapidly in the wrong direction,” Mr. Casey said.

Moreover, women and minorities are under-represented among those taking existing courses, he said.

To compete effectively in a global economy, Mr. Casey said, those trends need to be turned around.

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