Computer science students at work

KC STEM Alliance: Computer Science Education

Missouri special session elevates ongoing work to improve and expand K-12 computer science education

KANSAS CITY, MO—As Missouri lawmakers resume work on computer science education legislation in a special session called by Governor Mike Parson,  KC STEM Alliance Executive Director Martha McCabe noted the renewed effort will advance the work championed in the Kansas City region over the past five years.

Leading tech companies like Cerner play an active role in developing the computer science curriculum offered by Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a national nonprofit known for its computer science, engineering and biomedical sciences learning pathways.

With input from Cerner, PLTW pilot tested its Computer Science & Software Engineering course nationally in 2013-14. The pilot test included 15 high schools in the KC metro whose implementation was funded by Cerner. This work ultimately led to an entire learning pathway that culminates in a cybersecurity course offered nationally for the first time this school year. Cerner hosted much of the teacher training for the new cybersecurity course at its facilities this summer.

By 2017-18, nearly 1,700 metro students from four middle schools and 39 high schools were enrolled in PLTW computer science courses.

“The pending legislation underscores the importance of this coursework,” McCabe said. “We anticipate enrollment to continue to climb, but perhaps even more importantly, more and more students in the KC region will see computer science integrated into all kinds of subjects as schools adopt Launch, PLTW’s elementary school curriculum.”

Starting Young

The number of schools introducing Launch, which uses project-based learning to integrate STEM in grades K-5, has increased exponentially in Kansas City since its introduction as a pilot in 2013-14, with enrollment reaching close to 44,000 last year.  This year, Kansas City Missouri Public Schools added the curriculum to all of its elementary schools.

“Developing STEM skills ideally should be part of a student’s entire school career,” McCabe said. “We believe students need early access and exposure to computer science and are enthused to see Project Lead The Way looking at ways to start even earlier.”

This year, students in the Shawnee Mission and Blue Springs school districts are part of a pilot test to bring Launch into PreK classrooms.

As opportunities in tech-related careers continue to skyrocket, McCabe said industry and educators need to work together to find the best practices for preparing students.

“The breadth and scope of this field is tremendous,” she said. “You have not only traditional software development but also networking, hardware repair and smart technologies now offered by many of our metro high schools.”

Join the Conversation

Share your thoughts on Computer Science Education during Project Lead The Way’s virtual panel on Thursday, Sept. 13. The discussion will include industry, policy and education experts, including Anna Hennes (Cerner Corporation), Dr. Caitlin McMunn Dooley and Bryan Cox (Georgia Department of Education) and Nimmi Arunachalam (PLTW Computer Science Teacher of the Year).

Register here.