By Laura Katauskas
As the Valley View School District continues to review its curriculum, new advanced placement courses in computer science are being added as high school courses.
Looking to trends that show computer and mathematical occupations as the fifth fastest growing job sector, the district believes such courses will better prepare its students for this expected job growth opportunity.
Assistant Superintendent Rachel Kinder said, “We are responsive to students long-term planning and post secondary offerings. We are preparing them to do well and sit for the college board exams, directly linking them to earn college credit, offering them a well-rounded curriculum. Our AP students are seeking that challenge and this will prepare them.”
Using the existing computer science class as a starting point, AP Computer Science A, offered to grades 10, 11, and 12 will provide an additional step in the computer science class sequence and further develop computer science skills II. The AP Computer Science course is designed as a first level college course focusing on the fundamentals of computing, including problem solving, working with data, understanding the Internet, cybersecurity, and programming. The AP Computer Science A course is intended to serve both as an introductory course for computer science majors and as a course for people who will major in other disciplines and want to be informed citizens in today’s technological society.
A second course, AP Computer Science Principles, will also be offered. With the rationale, that
Computer science is everywhere, from smartphones and video games to music, medicine, and more, the district believes that the course will support students in understanding how computing and technology influences the world around them. Offered to all grade levels, students will learn how to creatively address real-world issues while using the same tools and processes that artists, writers, computer scientists, and engineers use to bring ideas to life. Students will develop computational tools to analyze and study data and work with large data sets to analyze, visualize, and draw conclusions from trends.They will learn to design and implement computer programs that solve problems relevant to today’s society, including art, media, and engineering.
The programs were approved, 5-1, with Board Member Sally Guilbo casting the dissenting vote, questioning adding such courses while cutting other vocational courses, referring to such classes as fashion design, culinary arts and driver’s education which was done several years ago.
“Though I think computer science is an awesome idea,” said Guilbo, “I know throughout the community that there are those who are concerned about cuts in other programs …the vocational programs. They would like to see some of the programs that can be used by the majority, to be brought back, before starting additions of other classes.”
Kinder said the district took into account many factors when determining its courses, explaining that low student interest warranted the end of certain classes like FACS. However, she noted that students still have several considerations for a robust career in tech and vocational studies through its partnership with Wilco.
“Those opportunities certainly remain for our students and can be taken as electives that interest them,” said Kinder.
At the introduction of another potential course offering Chinese 1, Board Member Diane Parro did share the same concern as Guilbo, asking for data from four years ago that prompted the removal of classes like fashion design and the culinary arts.
“To member Guilbo’s point, there are children who may want to be a chef or take another vocation; we need to go back and investigate. We have to have offerings for others; not all may be going to college.”
Kinder reported data could be researched and pulled from four years ago but confirmed that the decision was based purely on the numbers; noting the district couldn’t justify the staff for those courses, along with others such as German, that had such a low enrollment.
The district also brought forth an information report, to be approved at the next meeting, to offer Chinese I. The course is intended to provide students with a rigorous and relevant experience to learn Chinese. The adoption of Chinese as a language choice to replace German is expected to positively impact the students and our community. In order to select another language, approximately 2,000 students in grades eight through eleven were surveyed with Chinese as the overwhelming top choice, which supports current global trends.
The district states that students China’s huge market poses opportunities for economic growth and therefore career opportunities for Chinese linguists can be found in almost any field. Providing an opportunity to learn this language coincides with the district’s strategic plan goal to recruit, develop, and retain a high impact workforce.
“There are huge career opportunities for individuals with command of this language and it is well known that higher academic achievement is achieved when studying a language,” said Kinder.
Offering Chinese also means that VVSD is eligible to apply for a government-sponsored STARTALK grant, which could earn the district the fiscal support to offer summer programming dedicated to students and teachers for Chinese.