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Ohio’s learning standards for computer science

Legislative update
In May, we shared the testimony of Kelly Gaier Evans to the Ohio Senate in favor of changes to Ohio’s licensure for computer science teachers.

These changes were approved by the Ohio Senate and signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on July 18. They provide a short-term computer science licensure solution as Ohio works on alignment of programs to the new standards.The amendment:

  1. Permits schools to allow licensed 7-12 teachers to teach Computer Science if that teacher completes a professional development program approved by the district
  2. Requires schools to approve professional learning endorsed by the College Board
  3. Specifies that the teacher must teach at the district that employed the individual at time of professional development

Additionally, $1.5M of funding was approved for ODE and the Department of Higher Education to “provide awards to support coursework and content testing fees for currently licensed teachers to receive credentialing to teach Computer Science.”

We’ll be providing additional advice to educators interested in the changes soon. Today, read about the new computer science education standards that will guide these educators.

In 2017, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law Substitute House Bill 170 requiring the development of learning standards and model curriculum for computer science for the state’s K-12 students.

Creating those standards was the task of a writing team led by Kelli Shrewsberry, executive director of the Teaching & Learning Collaborative in Worthington, Ohio, which provides professional development and resources in mathematics, science and technology for educators in pK-12. We contacted Shrewsberry to find out more about the new standards and the process that led to their creation:

Q: Tell us about your background in education, the Teaching & Learning Collaborative and your position there. 

A: I began my teaching career in central Ohio’s South-Western City Schools in 1994, however, it was about 1998 that I participated in a professional learning experience facilitated by the Science & Math Network. My passion for science was fueled by the innovative ideas that were part of the learning experiences and partnerships with scientists from Battelle. I simply asked one day, “How did you get to do this?” and the rest just fell into place.

In 1999, I became a Teacher on Loan at the Science & Math Network and began to expand programs and my own leadership skills while on staff.

I returned to the classroom for a few years, and, in 2006, the Science & Math Network changed its name, but not its focus. The Teaching & Learning Collaborative (TLC), directed by Pat Barron, continued to create and scale professional development programs in mathematics, science and technology through partnerships with universities, corporate foundations, ESCs and districts.

Nonprofit organizations are passionate about the work they do, and we are no exception. However, our passion extends beyond professional development in mathematics, science and computer science to our partnerships. I am always amazed at what you can do with a passionate group of people focused on a common goal.

When the director position opened, applying was an easy decision. I knew firsthand the impact TLC programs had on teachers, and I felt strongly that all teachers should have access to the innovative programs developed and coordinated by TLC.

Q: How did you become involved with writing the state standards for computer science? 

A: TLCTECH CORPS (Lisa Chambers) and Cleveland State University (Nigamanth Sridhar) had just completed a three-year Mathematics and Science Partnerships research grant focused on the integration of mathematics and computer science for teachers of grades 3-4. The partnership believed strongly that computer science should not be “one more thing” for the elementary classroom teacher, but rather an opportunity to thoughtfully integrate computational thinking into the classroom, while also deepening content knowledge of teachers in mathematics.

While E4Tech (from TECH CORPS and TLC) consists of professional development and curriculum modules focused on integrating computer science and computational thinking into mathematics for grades 3-4, it was the quality work from the partnership that provided an opportunity to continue the conversation around computer science at the state level.

When TLC was asked to lead the writing team and advisory group for computer science standards, I knew it was exciting and important work that we wanted to be a part of.

Q: Can you tell us, in general, what the standards call for in elementary, middle and high school? 

A: Computer science is defined in Ohio legislation as logical reasoning, computing systems, networks and the internet, data and analysis, algorithms and programming, impacts of computing, and structured problem-solving skills applicable in many contexts from science and engineering to the humanities and business.

The writing team looked at the language that was legislated and at multiple states that had adopted computer science standards in a variety of ways. Ultimately, this helped craft a vision for computer science in Ohio for all K-12 students.

More specifically, the common strands across K-12 provide an opportunity in the elementary grades to focus on computational thinking and integration into content areas, with a transition into middle school where bridging concepts could naturally occur in content areas or as a stand-alone course. For high school, there is flexibility for districts to use both foundational and advanced content for courses.

The writing team members should be commended for connecting the strands and ideas across K-12. Their consistent conversations across grade bands will be valuable as districts begin to create innovative experiences for K-12 students in computer science.

Q: What is the goal of the standards, as computer science is not a required course in Ohio?   

A: With the legislative requirement to have computer science standards as well as guidance to school districts through the model curriculum, the writing team worked hard to think about experiences that would be provided for all Ohio students as well as those who might want to pursue a career in computer science.

The standards provide a foundation in computer science and problem solving that can benefit all K-12 students, as well as opportunities for students to explore advanced coursework that might lead to a career in computer science.

Q: How should teachers use the standards when writing curriculum for computer science? 

A: At the forefront of Ohio’s computer science standards is the idea that the standards are for all students. The computer science standards and model curriculum provide guidance on what students should know and be able to do while also taking into account that many important concepts in computer science can be taught with no computer at all.

Examples from the field will begin to help put a vision for using the standards, and, as educators, we need to look at the resources being disseminated and review them critically.

Having conversations about what the standards look like in practice and how levels of complexity and rigor play an important role in student understanding will be essential. Teachers must try lessons together and talk about successes and challenges, and then try them again and again.

Professional development, conversations about the standards and exemplar resources will be key in helping teachers see how to effectively integrate standards as they craft new lessons and curriculum over time.

Q: What is the timeline for implementation of the standards? 

A: On March 23, 2018, Substitute House Bill 170 went into effect requiring the development of learning standards and model curriculum for computer science. These standards and model curriculum were adopted by the State Board of Education in December 2018.

To provide time for front matter and additional supporting materials to be created, the computer science standards and supporting materials were scheduled to be released to the public in spring 2019. The expectation is for Ohio’s learning standards and model curriculum for computer science to be operational in 2019-2020.

Q: How can educators find out more about the standards? 

A: Information will be shared about the computer science standards on the Ohio Department of Education’s Learning in Ohio page. As TLC and partners continue to build out programs and resources, we will post upcoming professional development sessions on our website as well. (Editor’s update: The standards are now live on the Ohio Department of Education’s website.)

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Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the standards? 

A: I’m very excited about the standards and model curriculum work that was done by the writing team. The excitement and passion of each writing team member, the conversations about student learning and the development of a vision for computer science in Ohio was exciting to see unfold in a short amount of time.

When I think about what the standards writing team was able to accomplish in a few months, I want to set a challenge to those reading this:

The standards are just the starting point. In just a few short months, a group of dedicated educators came together to create Ohio’s computer science standards.

While I know they plan to continue to refine and add to their work, we need to come together to support the work they have done so far. I hope in just a few short years, we can look back and see how we supported professional development for K-12 educators in computer science, how we helped advance the field of computer science through research and conversation, and how we reached all of Ohio’s teachers and students through a statewide focused effort for computer science.

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