In a voice vote with no nays heard, the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday approved providing computer science courses that public high school students can take to satisfy math and science graduation requirements.
The standards revision creating those classes also establishes one middle school computer science course, Discovering Computer Science. It’s optional for schools to offer and, if offered, is optional for students to take.
Schools can opt to spread that course out over sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The revision also establishes three high school computer science courses that are also optional for schools to offer and for students to take.
One is called Computer Science and Mathematics, which can provide the math credit, and the other is Computer Science — Introduction to Geographic Information Systems, which can provide the science credit. Students can take both to get both credits.
Geographic Information Systems, often abbreviated as GIS, generally deals with using computers to create maps.
Clayton Burch, chief academic officer for the state Department of Education, said students can already count Advanced Placement Computer Science A as a math credit, so Computer Science and Mathematics will be the first non-AP computer science course to count as a math credit. AP classes are generally more difficult than normal high school classes, but students also can earn college credits through them.
The third new high school computer science course, Computer Science in the Modern World, doesn’t offer a math or science credit.
The standards revision, which takes effect next school year, is an update to standards set in 2008.
Burch said computer science courses already exist in many public schools, and a separate policy revision that took effect this year required all public high schools to offer a computer science course.
“A lot of ’em have their own computer science series of courses that they’ll keep,” Burch said.
He said county public school systems can ask the state school board to approve allowing their custom computer science courses to count for science or math credits. He said that for such approval, school systems are supposed to show their courses align with the state standards for a particular math or science course.
Depending on whether the school uses the “traditional” or “integrated” math pathway, a high school student must take Math I, II and III and one other math course or Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II and one other math course. Students may now choose Computer Science and Mathematics among the options for that other math course, which have included classes like Calculus.
Students must take Earth and Space Science, Biology and one other science course to graduate high school. Students may now choose Computer Science — Introduction to GIS among the other options for that science course, which have included classes like Chemistry and Physics.
Burch said that for computer science classes to count for math credits, the teachers teaching them must be certified to teach math, and teachers of courses counting for science credit must likewise be certified in science.
He said there’s no separate or extra certification or endorsement specifically for computer science, though he said computer science training will be offered by at least the department, if not other entities. Burch said that to create a new computer science certification or endorsement, the department would have to work with colleges to help establish the college courses appropriate for teaching students to specifically learn to teach the subject.
“I think right now part of the problem is computer science is such a broad category,” Burch said, “and we have it being taught in a lot of different settings, from programming to robotics, down to even middle school in the introduction to computer science.”
Also Thursday, the board approved what education department General Counsel Heather Hutchens said was a net elimination of seven positions at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, in Romney.
Those cuts were part of a set of employee layoffs and transfers. The vote came after the board spent about an hour and forty-five minutes in closed session.
Board attorney Mary Catherine Tuckwiller said the cuts were partly in anticipation of a cut to the schools’ operating budget for the upcoming school year. Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that he’d veto lawmakers’ budget bill, House Bill 2018, so the budget for next school year isn’t yet fully clear.
She said more hires could later be made to fit unanticipated student enrollment and needs.
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