Computer Science Grants 2015-17
The Washington State Legislature made $2 million in state funding available for computer science and education grants through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in 2015. These competitive grants allowed districts, schools, and nonprofits to train teachers; provide and upgrade technology; and expand access to girls, underrepresented students, and underserved communities. State grant funds had to be matched equally by private sources, which effectively expanded the total grant amount to $4 million.
Several of the grant participants focused on training staff and faculty to offer a specific program. Most have focused on integrating computer science into current courses, e.g., algebra, math, STEM, and others. Some have made an effort to reach out through multiple disciplines. Most grant participants have had some success implementing their project goals. Descriptions of four school districts, Nespelem, Auburn, Tumwater, and Bellevue, are representative of what is taking place across the project including their successes, challenges, and progress in implementation.
Nespelem School District
Students in Nespelem School District, PreK–8 grades (see Table 1 for the number of students and percent of student populations served in Nespelem School District), and their teachers are integrating computer science skills so all students can create, connect, communicate, collaborate, research and demonstrate creative thinking and construction of knowledge with innovative artifacts. Computer science standards are being integrated into math and science curriculum creating real-world project-based learning activities. Students have created storytelling in their ELA classes that creatively solved problems using 3D printers and 3D designing software that helps with understanding math and ELA concepts.
|Native American||99 |
|Hispanic/Latino of any race(s)||1|
|Free or Reduced-Price Meals||100|
The purchased technology allows for more research activities and enhanced responses to interventions. The district is currently developing a replacement hardware cycle and will utilize other grants and savings from general education to sustain current growth.
Auburn School District
Curriculum using Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals were implemented in four Auburn School District elementary schools; Arthur Jacobsen Elementary, Chinook Elementary, Dick Scobee Elementary, Mount Baker Middle School, and Olympic Middle School (see Table 2 for the number of students and percent of student populations served in Auburn School District) after creating draft curriculum pacing guides and supplemental technology development charts. The district purchased introductory robot kits for each elementary school.
|School Data (2015-2016)||Arthur Jacobsen Elementary||Chinook Elementary||Dick Scobee Elementary||Mount Baker Elementary||Olympic Elementary|
|Free or Reduced-Price Meals||47||69||75||49||71|
At the middle schools, instruction in Code.org IT Fundamentals courses is well underway. Two teachers attended the nationwide Code.org training last summer and continue to meet once a month virtually during professional learning community (PLC) time and quarterly after school. Afterschool opportunities in computer science are being offered through Latinos Unidos Club.
Teachers and students in Auburn enjoy and find relevance in computer science education. Offline work is as important as online work. Students with disabilities have multiple onramps to participation in computer science both offline and online, depending on the student. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity are developed through computer science education. They reported that the pace and level of implementation vary greatly by school based on competing priorities and instructor preference.
The Auburn School District is creating an advocacy plan to allow staff across all schools to build on and sustain this work. Career and Technical Education and the Technology Department will share costs of supporting teachers in ongoing training. They are currently building support for ongoing programs through school board meetings, winter presentations, principal meetings, and parent meetings, as well as developing a support plan for the implementation of Computer Science Discoveries in the future.
Tumwater School District
The Tumwater School District is developing programs that have access points for all kids (see Table 3 for the number of students and percent of student populations served in Tumwater School District). By strategically pairing students with disabilities with advanced placement or honors students, they have found that the students become more resilient and can persist through learning activities. Additional connections with YWCA and Girls who Code have helped to increase equity access and develop relationships with alumni who continue to advocate for girls in STEM fields.
|School Data (2015–2016)||George Washington MS||Tumwater MS||Tumwater HS|
|Free or Reduced-Price Meals||30||30||23|
As learning takes place in the context of real life, learning becomes more meaningful, and students feel empowered. Some Tumwater elementary students are spending additional time during recess and after school working with Bots (Teach Wonder’s Dash & Dot robots and Lego’s Milo the Science Rover), coding, and storytelling. A few of them, with great pride and excitement, presented their month-long coding projects to the Tumwater School Board. Tumwater also observed secondary-level students who had been struggling to connect school and purpose, are now finding meaning and 21st-century skills in school.
A shift is occurring in Tumwater as teachers become facilitators and guides rather than “holders of knowledge.” Tumwater is using their grant funds to train staff in Introductory Computer Science and Computer Science Principles curriculums, as well as expanding the technology to VEX Robotics and increasing robotics opportunities for the middle and elementary school. Additional grant opportunities to expand programs will be needed. With buy-in from teachers and administrators, building and district contributions will remain a key source. Working with ELA, science, and CTE/STEM, they are creating a K–12 program that will produce work-ready students.
The Bellevue School District, in partnership with Seattle Schools (see Table 4 for the number of students and percent of student populations served in the Bellevue-Seattle Partnership), has developed an online and in-person delivery of teacher professional development for integrating Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) K–12 Computer Science Standards. They have also developed K-8 computer science integrated curricular resources in math, science, visual arts, and social studies that were developed and published on an open-source online platform. Through their partnership, they have created a community of practice to support equitable access to computer science education.
|School Data (2015–2016)||Bellevue||Seattle|
|Hispanic/Latino of any race(s)||30||12|
|Free or Reduced-Price Meals||29||36|
Several quality open-source computer science materials are being developed, and participating teachers reported a high level of engagement and satisfaction with their involvement and the quality of resources in the pilot. This Bellevue-Seattle partnership represents a significant step towards closing the opportunity gap that has existed in computer science education. The open-source nature of resources created with the grant funds will allow for scaling of the project within the partnership as well as to other districts. Teachers in Bellevue and Seattle have developed a community of practice through this work, shifting the culture towards one of equity-based computer science instruction, which will support sustainability. The Bellevue-Seattle partnership is actively pursuing additional grant funds that will complement and build upon the work begun under the existing OSPI grant.
The strengths and challenges are from grant participant experiences. Strengths
are places to start, and challenges are to inform project design. The
recommendations are to improve upon the next grant application process.
The outcome of any grant working with schools is about the students and
making decisions based on what is best for student learning through a positive
learning environment that is supportive and respectful.