State Board Allows Kansas High Schools to Count Computer Science Classes for Math or Science Credits

TOPEKA – The Kansas State Board of Education voted on Tuesday to allow school districts to count computer science as credit in math or science toward high school graduation requirements.

Many Kansas schools already offer an elective computer course. Now, if approved by the local school board, students can trade in a computer science unit for a science or math class.

Supporters of the change say it will open doors to the importance of computer science and related fields, while engaging students who may have difficulty with math and science classes.

“I think this is long overdue and I am delighted that we are embarking on this path,” said Melanie Hass, Overland Park board member. “Is it perfect? No, I don’t think it’s perfect, but as we speak this morning we’re going to have opportunities to make things a little more perfect.

The board of directors voted 8-2 to approve a recommendation from Stephen King, a computer curriculum consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education. King presented the recommendation to the board in May.

Randy Watson, the KSDE commissioner, also announced the creation of a task force to review graduation requirements statewide.

King said 49 other states already allow computer science to count as a credit in math, science or other subjects. He argued that the benefits would extend beyond the classroom.

“It’s a benefit for the students, it’s a benefit for advisors and administrators, and it’s a benefit for our business where they can now show that, OK, Kansas is one of those. States who think IT is important enough, ”King said. .

Katie Hendrickson, a representative of Change.org, a national non-profit organization working to expand access to computers in schools, testified before the board. She argued that Kansas schools were not prioritizing computer classes.

Computer science would provide students with important skills to learn and succeed, Hendrickson said.

“What we are talking about is not a specific programming language,” said Hendrickson. “We’re talking about these building blocks, the foundations of problem thinking, identifying problems that can be solved by calculation. These skills are so important to students.

Jim Porter, chairman of the board, reluctantly voted in favor of the action. While 49 states have approved this, many have done so through their legislatures, not the board of education, he said.

The Fredonia board member said he believes the state is at a crossroads when it comes to education.

“First of all, we have to do something to meet the need for IT,” Porter said. “Second, we need to meet global graduation requirements that include the 21st century, not the turn of the 20th century. Third, we need to make sure that we are making the decisions regarding the educational requirements of the state, as opposed to the legislature. “

Ann Mah was one of two board members who voted against the proposal. More than 2,000 computer courses were offered in 177 of Kansas’ 286 districts, she said.

The Topeka board member added that most states that allow computer science to substitute for a basic math or science course also require more math and science than Kansas currently.

Mah also asked why they would change anything besides graduation with the possibility that the task force that Watson introduced would have recommendations for further changes.

“This recommendation makes no sense because I don’t think it will produce the desired results and is premature,” Mah said. “Finally, we need to consider the impact of this change on the consideration of future teacher educators when we tell them, ‘Math and science isn’t as important in Kansas as it used to be. “

Review the conditions for obtaining the diploma

No school district in Kansas uses the graduation requirements set by the Kansas Board of Education, Watson said to begin his announcement of the new graduation requirements review task force.

Watson said all of them added or exceeded the board’s recommendations. Some had temporarily lowered their requirements amid the pandemic or for foster children, but all other districts had adopted something beyond state requirements.

Currently, a high school graduate must have a minimum of 21 credits to graduate, although, as Watson noted, every school district in Kansas requires more than the minimum number. The minimum of 21 credits must consist of four units of English, three units of history and government, three units of mathematics, three units of science, one unit of physical education, one unit of fine arts and six units of coursework a choice.

The task force, Watson said, would be tasked with considering whether the course requirements should be added or removed.

“It’s going to be a huge amount of work, and we’ll see what comes out of it,” Watson said. “Every 20 or 30 years we should be looking at them. “

The task force will begin its work within a month, he said, and deliver a final report in May 2022. It will be chaired by Jim McNiece, a member of the Wichita board of directors.

He said any changes to the graduation requirements for high school students required four years’ notice, so the first change would likely be in 2026.

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