State board weighs computer science as graduation requirement alternative

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Computer science isn’t listed as an option to fulfill a core graduation requirement in Kansas. The state board of education is considering changing that.

The state requires 21 specific courses: four English, three history, three science, three math, one physical education, one fine art, and six electives. Computer science can only be counted as an elective.

Local districts can set additional requirements.

New recommendations presented to the board on Tuesday would let districts allow specific computer science classes to count as a science or math requirement.

Computer science advocates are pushing for leaders to embrace teaching technology.

“The world is changing and we need to prepare students for not just the world that we live in today, but in the future,” said Ryan Weber, CEO of the KC Tech Council.

“Right now the most in demand jobs in the Kansas City area, it’s going to be computer software development and cybersecurity jobs are the most in demand and the highest paying jobs,” he said.

Many schools offer some type of computer science class. Topeka Public Schools has been updating curriculum to offer more classes to students.

“I think all students should be interested and should experience this,” said Gail Ramirez, the curriculum technology specialist for Topeka Public Schools.

“I think computer science takes some of the best parts of mathematics and science because it does more than just one, and it makes it very applicable on why you have to learn things.”

Gail Ramirez

Ramirez said learning about computers can help students that might struggle to understand things in other areas.

“Kids that maybe have trouble with math, once they actually get into coding, and robotics, and programming pieces, they learn that there’s a real reason to know it,” she said.

But there are some people that are hesitant when it comes to the proposal because students would lose a year of a vital subject.

“As a former science teacher, I don’t think computer science is either math or science, but it is very much needed and we need to find a place in our high schools for it,” said board member Ann Mah.

The state board of education plans to vote on the proposal next month.

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