LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas has become a national leader in computer science education, and the increase in this year’s enrollment numbers suggest we’ll remain at the front of the pack.
Eight-thousand-and-forty-four (8,044) students are enrolled in computer science classes for the 2018-2019 school year. That is an increase of 1,860 students over last year, which is a 30 percent jump. That is an increase of 620 percent since 2014. Another measure of how well we are faring is those 8,044 students are enrolled in over 9,000 classes, which means many of our students are taking more than one class.
We already are ahead of our own schedule. In 2015, the Department of Education set a goal of enrolling 7,500 students in a computer science class within five years. We achieved that within four years.
This is an amazing improvement in the numbers since I became governor in 2015, and this report confirms my confidence that Arkansans are ready to have technology as part of our future – both in terms of our economy and education.
The year before I took office, the number of students enrolled in a computer science class was about 1,100. I took office in January 2015, and the first law I signed as governor required all high schools in Arkansas to offer at least one course in computer science.
In addition, we have built coding into the curriculum of our K-8 grades.
In the fall of 2015, the number of students enrolled rose from 1,100 to almost 4,000, which is an increase of 260 percent. Enrollment has grown every year.
Another one of our goals was to increase the number of young women who were taking computer science classes, and we have achieved that in spectacular fashion. The number of girls has increased from 220 in 2014 to over 2,400 in this school year. That is an increase of over 1,000 percent over four years.
We have achieved this growth through the leadership of Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Anthony Owen, director of computer science education. But as important as their leadership is, we couldn’t have done this without the enthusiasm of our principals and teachers, many of whom had to attend a summer term to learn how to teach coding.
Under this initiative, the number of teachers who are teaching computer science courses has grown from 20 to over 370. This includes 184 fully certified and 188 alternatively credentialed computer science teachers.
This is a great start, but we have more to do.