Have you ever wondered how we can create a clear pathway in computer science for our students?
This is the question our Computer Science/NW Washington STEM Network Director and Career Connected Learning/NW LASER Alliance Director are tackling, they started by asking local educational leaders for input last year.
“Computer science involves computational thinking, which is an essential problem-solving life skill. It is also a high-demand career offering family wages,” said Jenny Veltri, Computer Science/NW Washington STEM Network Director. “We have an incredible variety of computer science programs within our NW region at our local community and technical colleges and 4-year institutions and an amazing group of high school partners and programs. How can we assist in connecting the dots to create seamless computer science pathways for students?”
Sinead Fitzpatick Plagge, Career Connected Learning/NW LASER Alliance Director, said, “The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Directors in our region are eager to connect with our local post-secondary partners to collaboratively align programming to maximize opportunities and access for our students. There is a strong desire to create options to earn college credit in high school that will lead to high wage, high demand employment opportunities. Computer science fits both of these interests!”
Developing connections and pathways for students in computer science is a multi-year project. But helping to create a clear career pathway for students in computer science (which can also be leveraged for other career pathways in the future) is worth it! Strategy is being co-developed with high school CTE directors and college instructional deans, faculty, and staff. For this computer science project, additional key partners have included Catherine Wyman, Computer Science Department Chair at Skagit Valley College; Alyssa Jackson, Snohomish STEM Director; and Jill Thornton, Project Coordinator at Sno-Isle Skills Center.
So far conversations have been facilitated throughout Skagit, Island, San Juan, Whatcom, and Snohomish counties between CTE Directors, local community and technical colleges, STEM Networks, and the NWESD, discussions have been held around ways to expand dual credit opportunities in computer science. It has been key to identify tangible steps to take to be able to move forward.
- Within the 5 county region, high school computer science course offerings were mapped into program categories.
- Collaborated with local community college faculty to review and identify the high school computer science courses that align with the various computer science programs offered at regional colleges.
- Opportunities are being explored to allow students to earn college credit for successful completion of these high school courses through dual credit. Dual credit courses are taught by high school instructors and allow students to earn college credit that can be applied to corresponding community and technical college degree programs.
Once high school courses were aligned to potential college programs, additional needs like professional development, curriculum sharing, and teacher credentials were identified. There is a shared interest in developing a regional community of practice for Computer Science faculty and teachers as means of strengthening relationships and collaboration among teachers across high school and college programs.
You may wonder, what’s next? As a next step towards implementing this approach, a survey for computer science teachers has been developed that will collect additional information and feedback regarding professional development needs, interests, and credentials. This feedback will inform the details of professional development offered and opportunities for closer program alignment.
For more information about this project, connect with the following NWESD contacts:
Career Connected Learning/NW LASER Alliance Director:
Sinead Fitzpatrick Plagge,
Computer Science/NW Washington STEM Network Director: