Chicago Public Schools Mandates Computer Science Graduation Requirement for Class of 2020

Categorized under: computer science education for kids

On February 24th, 2016, the board of education for Chicago Public Schools unanimously mandated computer science as a graduation requirement for the Class of 2020. The context behind the decision is based on data that estimates a gap of 1 million job openings by 2024 versus colleges/universities that graduated approximately 40,000 students annually (2015). Structurally, the way the graduation requirement will be implemented is that computer science education will count for 50% of the two-credit career education requirements. Within the press release, CPS highlighted 3 key reasons for developing a solution to this growing problem.

Exposure
"Making sure that our students are exposed to STEM and computer science opportunities early on is critical in building a pipeline to both college to career," said Mayor Emanuel. "Requiring computer science as a core requirement will ensure that our graduates are proficient in the language of the 21st century so that they can compete for the jobs of the future." While Mayor Emanuel is connecting the dots to create a tangible link between exposure and future job opportunities, we think it is equally helpful for those who may not ultimately pursue careers in computer science. Similar to how kids are exposed to many different activities (sports, arts, etc…) before they gain a good understanding of what not only they enjoy but also what they are good at, this introduction in high school will enable students to go through the valuable self-evaluation process to see if they want to pursue additional computer science coursework in college. In addition, as we highlighted in a previous blog post, we believe that technology will continue to play an out-sized impact in companies of the future. Whether you are a developer or not, understanding the mechanics of computer programming will still be important.

Skill Development 
"No matter what field our students pursue, having exposure to STEM will provide critical skills and training for success in their careers and in life," said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. The opportunity to develop skills that are critical for success in careers and in life could not be more accurate. Fundamentally, computer programming is about developing a set of instructions to a machine for a machine to execute a specific task. Putting aside artificial intelligence for a moment, computers don’t have the ability to interpret the meaning and context, great programmers excel at breaking down problems into smaller components and developing efficient solutions that machines can understand.

STEM Leadership
"Once again, Chicago is setting a national standard for STEM education in urban schools," said CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson. "By ensuring that all CPS students graduate with computer science skills, we will give them a leg up and an opportunity to succeed in what is sure to be one of the most in-demand sectors of tomorrow's economy." Illinois has always had one of the best higher education systems in the nation. By better preparing the pipeline of students entering these rigorous environments, Chicago Public Schools is going to increase the readiness of students that not only attend colleges in the State of Illinois but also around the country. By the year 2050, it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Chicago is clearly placing its bet that increased investment in STEM education will not only help accelerate future innovation but also ensure that the city is a fertile environment for future investment and job creation.

Conversation Starter: What are your thoughts on the new Chicago Public Schools mandatory graduation requirement? Would you like to see similar investment and mandatory initiatives in not only suburban schools in Illinois but also urban environments across the country? Let us know in the comments section below!

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