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Obama wants to spend $4B on coding. What do your students think?

By now, you’ve heard about President Obama’s three-year, $4 billion plan to increase computer science education in America’s K12 classrooms. The plan, Computer Science for All, marks the first action item to emerge from his State of the Union promise to teach more students to code and, if all goes well, “make them job-ready on day one.

If approved by Congress, the plan would enable states to apply for a portion of the $4 billion to train teachers, create new instructional materials, and purchase the technology necessary to the new curriculum. States would have five years to use the money.

Make the smart play
This isn’t the first time the White House has earmarked big money to prep students for a changing workforce. While Congress weighs the proposal and decides whether to pony up the cash, it’s tempting to daydream about all the ways your schools might spend their share.

Our advice: don’t get ahead of yourself. Curriculum changes are exciting. They inject new life into the classroom, and point students confidently in the direction of their future. But schools also run the risk of acting too fast, too soon.

If you’re going to revamp your computer science program, for example, take a step back (perhaps while you’re waiting for Congress to do its thing) and ask your students and parents what changes they’d like to see. What types of instructional options are out there? How can you configure your curriculum to better meet the needs of your community?

President Obama would love us to take at face value his claim that 9 out of 10 parents want computer science taught in their children’s schools. And that might be true, depending which study you cite. But is it true for your district? Do you know how much coding parents think is appropriate? Have you given any thought about how to marry these new points of emphasis with other areas, such as history and English, for example?

Inviting feedback from students and parents before you make critical decisions about teaching and learning ensures that your community and your schools stay on the same page.

Getting there from here
While we await Congress’ decision on Obama’s coding proposal, here’s some practical steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

  • Survey your community to understand its perception of computer science.
  • Begin a dialogue with students and parents to understand what they want out of a computer science curriculum.
  • Talk with your teachers to see who may already have computer science backgrounds and who may want to be trained.
  • Reach out to state officials, too. Begin thinking about how these funds, if approved, might be distributed and used in your district.

Looking to engage your community on these and other important changes? Start by having an open and honest conversation about change—and what it means to them.