Computer science classes getting more focus in Kansas schools

Education

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — High school and computers: They’re two things going together more than ever after a year of virtual learning.

In Kansas, computer science will soon have more weight. On Wednesday, the state Board of Education voted to add the subject option for students searching for credits to meet graduation requirements.

Simply put, there are standard math and science classes that meet graduation requirements. Those classes include algebra, chemistry and physics, among others.

But starting with next year’s freshmen, school districts will have the choice to elevate computer science classes, allowing those classes to fill those graduation requirements.

Darius Reasco is a computer technician at Direct Computer Outlet in Mission, Kansas. He has a good grip on most items in the store, an interest in computers that followed him through his time at Shawnee Mission North High School where he took an intro class.

“However, at the time from personal interest I had pretty much gotten everything already down that that class taught,” Reasco said.

“So it was really big going onto the advanced one and that’s where we really started learning stuff like how to create an application that would have an actual interface – stuff that you would actually want to mess around with,” Reasco said.

“The classes got smaller as you went on for sure,” Reasco said.

That might be because of the challenge offered by the classes. But it also might be because of how the classes are categorized – as electives.

Melanie Haas is a member of the Kansas State Board of Education representing District 2.

“We’ve been talking about computer science at the state board for a couple of months now,” Haas said.

Computer science courses will not be a requirement. Instead they will be an option, allowing coding and other computational thinking classes to fill math and science graduation requirements, Haas said.

“The average student will find that it’s a lot easier to basically set up their high school plan. As a high school student you want to take a bunch of electives and maybe you’re taking advanced courses and your electives get squeezed out,” Haas said.

“What we’ve said on the ‘teaching kids how to code side’ — kids can start to code as soon as their old enough to learn how to read,” Haas said.

“We get a lot of kids that are like moving on to something where they need that new computer,” Reasco said, referencing his job.

Reasco said the move is encouraging and may have made his time in high school slightly more straight-forward.

“I mean, the biggest thing is having that interest yourself. You kind of need it because when you’re programming one of the most important things is just having patience. You need to have an interest or else it’s easy to just get up and try something else,” Reasco said.

This shift is happening as the Kansas state Board of Education focuses more on IPSs, the Individual Plans of Study – for students. ‘Individual’ means more customized.

A committee report is expected in about a month that could lead to even more adjustments to graduation requirements.

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