The state’s task force on computer science education met in Little Rock Wednesday to work on making recommendations for Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Task force member Tom Chilton of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said a new law requires the task force to plan for teacher training and to reassess how students are taught computer science subject matter at earlier grades.
“We're in the process of putting together by committee various activities that have to go into effect so that the transformation can take place, and so that the teachers can be certified and the students can be made aware of what's going to be made available in the fall school year this year,” said Chilton.
The Arkansas General Assembly passed a bill in this year's session to realize Governor Asa Hutchinson’s goal of teaching computer science courses in every high school.According to Suzanne Mitchell of the non-profit advocacy group for computer science training, the Arkansas Stem Coalition, part of the job of the task force is to get out the word about new course offerings.
“Our work here is probably to develop some kind of media to get parents and students to understand this is a great career opportunity," she said.
"Students must sign up for a class to get that kind of computer science training. It starts in high school and if they like it they can make something out of it in their career,” added Mitchell.
Training courses have been offered for teachers who wish to teach computer science at the high school level. Chilton said the task force may recommend younger students start to learn coding and other skills as well.
“What we would like, and the committee has made kind of an initial recommendation, is trying to figure out a way to broaden that, potentially coming out of the elementary school in to the middle school age," said Chilton.
Tim Johnston from the office of workforce development said the task force is still grappling with some basic questions about which are priority skills in preparing students for STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math jobs of the future.
"I think one of the biggest challenges for the task force is actually just defining what computer science is. It means a lot of things to different people. Any time you ask someone to define computer science you get a variety of answers," he said.
"So that's one of the things the task force is working on and also just identifying which courses we already have in place that should count towards this computer science requirement for students,” added Johnston.
The group has until November to issue recommendations.