What’ Not to Love About NYC Pilot Program

In February, I had the pleasure of attending Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement of the new Software Engineering Pilot Program for New York City schools. This program will begin in September, 2013, in 20 middle and high schools. It is a very interesting program in many ways, designed for students in grades 6 through 12. In the first year alone the curriculum topics include programming, embedded electronics, web design, e-textiles, robotics, and mobile programming. There are plans for elective courses in digital fabrication, 3-D printing, and animation.
What’s not to love about this new program? Well, a few things.
First, the professional development does not yet exist for the teachers who will deliver the new curriculum. But somehow things are supposed to be in place by this summer.
Second, participating schools will have to apply for NY State Education Department approval, they don’t start out with that approval. If they get approval, then graduating students will get a Career and Technical Education endorsement. While that endorsement can be very important for students, my reading of this is that the program is not considered an academic computer science track.
Third, this program does nothing to address two key issues that face the vast majority of states. Like many states, New York does not allow Computer Science to count as a math or science requirement for high school graduation. In addition, New York does not have any endorsement or certification for Computer Science teachers.
To be clear, I think it is wonderful that New York City is launching this new program, and I look forward to seeing how it works out. But I hope New York City will take advantage of the opportunity to provide significant leadership for the rest of the state, potentially pressuring the state Department of Education to make changes in how CS “counts”. I’d love to see elements of this program count toward students’ math or science requirements, and align with either the Exploring Computer Science or CS Principles curricula. For now I’ll just have to wait and see.
Valerie Barr
Candidate for College Faculty Representative

One thought on “What’ Not to Love About NYC Pilot Program

  1. Actually, NY does allow for CS to count as a Math credit for graduation if it is being taught by a math certified teacher. As a CTE program SEP would give the students an extra designation on their transcript, but even more importantly give the school extra funding to support the program in the long term. A decision was made to trade off between the funding benefit and the academic designation.
    Also, with regards to the professional development, funding is already in place to pay the teachers for the hours over the summer, and they have already had their first one-day training with an introduction to Scratch. We are working with a NYC university to develop an eventual masters degree in CS education which will lead to a dual certification in Software Engineering CTE and Mathematics for the teachers who complete the courses. We are also working with the state to redefine what the SE certification looks like (its easier to redefine an existing cert than to create a new one – hence software engineering and not computer science).
    I acknowledge your concerns and just wanted to let you know that because some of us in NY share them we are working on solutions that are not public because they are still in the works. (hence the unnamed university)

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