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Partnership expands computer science instruction

As the need for digital skills surges, CMSD, the Cleveland Foundation and Cleveland State University are trying to ensure that District students keep up.

The foundation has awarded a grant of $124,235 to launch the CS4All initiative, designed to make computer science classes available in all CMSD high schools within three years and eventually expand those into lower grades. CS4All is patterned after initiatives in Chicago and New York.

The grant went to the Cleveland State University Foundation and paid for training an initial corps of 25 to 30 teachers this summer. CSU’s colleges of engineering and education and human services led the training.

"Cleveland is winning right now, and to stay competitive we must be at the forefront of the digital economy,” Ronn Richard, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Foundation, said. “By connecting students with the latest technology, we are connecting them with jobs that are available right now and in the future."

Last year, a brand-new John Marshall School of Information Technology was the only CMSD high school to offer computer science. John Marshall IT will be joined this year by Max S. Hayes, Lincoln-West School of Science and Health, Cleveland High School for Digital Arts and MC²STEM.

Max Hayes, a career-technical school, will offer computer science as an elective but seek to ensure that all students take the class, said Karen Thompson, the District’s deputy director of curriculum and instruction.

“It just fits whether a student is in the transportation pathway, IT, construction, manufacturing,” she said. “It complements it.”

Computer science was among the subjects covered this summer in training that the National Math and Science Initiative conducted for about 130 District teachers in the third grade and up.
NMSI's Laying the Foundation training, which will continue for three more years, will help teachers prepare students for high school honors and Advanced Placement courses. Increasing academic rigor and better preparing students for college and career are among the objectives of The Cleveland Plan, a sweeping blueprint for education reform in the city.

The foundation grant paid tuition for several CMSD teachers who recently took a course that qualifies them to teach an Advanced Placement class, Computer Science Principles.

They were among 26 teachers from across the state who studied at Cleveland State for a week in June, worked 1½ months online and then reconvened at the university for 3½ days in late July.

High schools across the country have dramatically increased computer science offerings in the last five years, but the number of teachers qualified to conduct the classes remains low, said Nigamanth Sridhara, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at CSU.

Three years ago, Ohio agreed to count computer science as credit in math, providing an incentive for students to sign up, Sridhara. He said students would be wise to seize the opportunity.

“This is largely a digital world – almost any discipline you touch has something to do with computer science,” he said. “All graduates from CMSD would have to have some sort of computer science experience.”

Briana Guevara, a second-year teacher, has been working as a math intervention specialist at the John Marshall School of Information Technology. Guevara, who took the CSU course, agreed that studying computer science will help CMSD students compete.

“If a student wants to go into that field, they will have that experience,” she said. “Even if they don’t want to go into that field, it’s a valuable skill set for them.”