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Gov. Jay Inslee, center, gets a demo at Tumwater High School as incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal looks on. (John Stang Photo)
Gov. Jay Inslee, center, gets a demo at Tumwater High School as incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal looks on. (John Stang Photo)

TUMWATER, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee wants 50 percent of Washington’s schools to meet new computer education standards by early 2019.

Washington Superintendent of Public instruction Randy Dorn signed those new standards on Thursday, putting them into effect. Chris Reykdal, who takes over Dorn’s job in January, also backs the new goals.

“Every child in this state is going to have access to computer education,” Inslee said Thursday at Tumwater High School.

The new standards map out computer literacy goals for students in elementary and middle schools, while also mandating the levels of proficiency a student needs to pass a high school computer science course.

Right now, roughly 11 percent of Washington’s schools meet these standards, Inslee said. He wants to bump that up to 50 percent in the 2017-2019 budget biennium, which will begin on July 1, 2017. “Then we can move on to 100 percent,” he said.

Washington has 295 school districts with a hodgepodge of locally designed computer courses, if they even have such classes. “Even the smallest districts are going to get into the game,” said Andrew Shouse, chief program officer of the state’s science, technology, engineering and math education program

Dorn said $170 million in extra state money will be needed to meet the 100 percent target. So hitting a 50 percent target in 2017-2019 will likely require somewhere in the neighborhood of $85 million in extra money in Inslee’s overall budget request that is expected to be unveiled next week. Inslee’s office declined to release any budget figures Thursday.

Gov. Jay Inslee gets a robotics demonstration today at Tumwater (Wash.) High School. (John Stang Photo)
Gov. Jay Inslee gets a robotics demonstration today at Tumwater (Wash.) High School. (John Stang Photo)

The state will spend the next six to nine months evaluating computer science programs in school districts on how close they meet the new computer science education standards, while also getting feedback by Washington businesses on what else is needed. Code.org also helped develop Washington’s new standards. Examples of the new standards include:

  • Kindergartners through second graders knowing the difference between a tablet and a desktop computer.
  • Middle schoolers knowing different technology formats, including the tradeoffs on quality versus file size.
  • Juniors and seniors learning about issues that affect the speeds of computer networks.

Tumwater High School hosted Thursday’s announcement partly because it added two new computer science courses this year. Prior to this year, the high school had a robotics class and a college-prep computer sciences class. This fall, year, it add an introduction-to-computer-sciences course and a computer-sciences-principles course.

To teach the two new courses, the school district sent biology teacher Josiah Price to the “Lead The Way” program at California State Polytechnic Institute at Pomona last summer where he spent eight to 12 hours a day learning how to teach his new classes. Roughly 100 out of Tumwater High’s 1,200 ninth-through-12th graders are taking the four tech courses, with Price expecting that number to grow.

It costs roughly $40,000 to train a single teacher to handle these courses and supply him or her with all the equipment and software, Dorn said.

Tumwater senior Kyle Gassin has been a computer gamer with an interest in the hardware aspects of engineering since before enrolling in one of Price’s classes. Now he has an extra interest in the software side. In his course, Gassin learned how to use the MIT App Inventor to design and set up a type of whack-a-mole game. “You’re learning how to create the things that let you create things,” he explained.

Meanwhile, freshman Jason Aguero is learning how to build a basic locomotive on a screen. To him, the pieces with straight edges have been easy to master, but the circulars items are tougher to design and create “It was pretty hard at first. But after I took some time to learn it, it’s pretty easy,” he said.

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