Local Teachers, STEM Advocates Weigh in on New CS Standards In MA Schools

Sep 27, 2016   |   Aimee Sprung

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The state of Massachusetts, along with STEM education group MassCAN, an alliance of organizations advocating for computer science in schools, has recently developed voluntary Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards for MA high schools. Microsoft was proud to participate on the diverse review panel that was assembled to head the project, which involved reviewing existing CS standards and the current Technology Literacy Standards.

We spoke with local, MA high school CS teachers and STEM education advocates about why these new digital literacy standards are important for our kids:

Why are digital literacy standards important? What impact will they have on MA?

“I think these standards show that digital literacy and Computer Science are important parts of the K-12 education. It will take time for schools to ramp up, but a lot is already being done to provide interested teachers with professional development. I would like to see this expand over the years to the point that every student in Massachusetts gets a chance to learn some basic computer programming.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

“Young people are not pursuing STEM fields as often as they did in the past. Less than 25 percent of students are choosing STEM majors in college, and of that, 38 percent do not graduate with a STEM degree. Meanwhile, demand for STEM workers has grown three times faster than non-STEM employment over the past 10 years. For Massachusetts to be globally competitive and to expand its economy, we must have digital literacy standards to prepare young people for the ever changing work force.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

“It also shows that Massachusetts finds value in the topics of computer science and digital literacy. As a teacher, this is very important to me, because I have faced issues as a computer science teacher in MA, such as no licensure currently existing to teach CS in MA. Now that the standards are outlined, licensure tests can be created and masters programs specifically around teaching HS CS will be developed.”

— Meg Bednarcik, Computer Science teacher at Burlington High School (@msbednarcik)

“The standards are a historic step forward. They are important because they validate computer science as a foundational skill, and provide a consistent framework for all schools, so all students can have the same educational experiences, regardless of  zip code, race or gender.  They are a step toward giving all students the code they need to unlock the door to future opportunity.”

— Shereen Tyrrell, Mass TLC (@masstlcef)

How does STEM education improve our communities?

Engineers, innovators, and other STEM professionals are building the world we want to live in. They are tackling issues and coming up with solutions that are transforming how we live and work – making our communities smarter, more productive and successful. Without STEM, we will not innovate and build our economy. We will not be able to compete globally.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

“Science, technology, engineering, and math are the tools we are using to solve problems, create products and improve our quality of life.  STEM education is the the key, preparing today’s students to solve tomorrow’s problems.  STEM education teaches kids to think, problem-solve, work in groups and risk failure – all skills they need in life as much as they need in work.”

— Shereen Tyrrell, Mass TLC (@masstlcef)

How has computer science education impacted MA so far?

Our education system is being transformed already. Many schools have or are moving toward “1:1” — the standards are just setting a baseline of what we should be teaching, although many schools are already teaching these standards, if not more. These standards should be a wake up call for the schools that have been slow in teaching these skills to their students.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

“We have one of the largest tech and innovation communities in the world here in Massachusetts. Computer science education is preparing more people for jobs in this growing industry. Also tech crosses over ever sector – education, government, healthcare, finance – to name a few. We also know STEM jobs pay more than twice the state’s average salary. It’s a field that can lift people out of poverty and into the middle class and beyond.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

How will digital literacy transform our education system?

“We must provide students with more opportunities to explore coding and app development as well as design thinking, collaboration and entrepreneurship. To do this, we need standards and educators who are prepared to teach in a digital world. We also need to provide more support to educators so they can hone their skills and understanding in digital literacy across the curriculum. Organizations such as the Verizon Foundation are focused on improving digital literacy and student achievement in STEM.”

— Donna Cupelo (@techcup) + Stephanie Lee (@bacilee) – Verizon New England

What is the best way youth and parents can support computer science education?

“The best way is for students and parents to advocate for more CS classes or lessons in their school system. If your school already has these courses, make sure you take them — the higher the demand is, the more courses will be offered. I feel that a basic course in computer science should be a high school graduation requirement for every student in Mass., and that we should be moving in that direction.”

— Hans Batra, Needham High School (@hansbatra)

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Aimee Sprung
Aimee Sprung

To keep up with Aimee you need to be up early. Like 5 AM early. Then you have to squeeze in Crossfit, grow STEM education programs, collaborate with community leaders and still keep up with her family - 2 boys require high energy. Or you can hit the snooze and sleep soundly knowing Aimee has that all covered.