NYC mayor's program to offer public school kids computer science education

New York's "Computer Science for All" program aims to make sure that public school children in the city will be well-prepared for computer science jobs.
New York's "Computer Science for All" program aims to make sure that public school children in the city will be well-prepared for computer science jobs.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, partner foundations and members of the private sector and universities are training their attention and resources on making sure that public school children in the city will be well-prepared for the “hundreds of thousands of good jobs that will be accessible to those with coding and other essential skills,” the mayor said Wednesday at Bronx Latin high school.

That should come as good news to the IT security industry, which has been bemoaning the shortage of trained workers at a time when cyber attacks are on the rise. The State of Cybersecurity: Implications for 2015 study, which surveyed 649 cybersecurity and IT practitioners worldwide, found that 82 percent expect attacks against their organizations in 2015, but 35 percent can't fill open positions with qualified, capable security talent skilled in handling complex threats as well as understanding a company's business. Those tasked with filling the positions repeatedly have said that training must start young, catching children at the elementary school level or even lower.

Saying that “fewer than 5 percent of all public school students have an opportunity to learn computer science,” the mayor unveiled a Computer Science for All initiative to make sure within 10 years every public school student in the city will get a computer science education.

In a decade, “we will be the largest school district in the nation to provide computer science to every elementary, middle, and high school student,” de Blasio said, calling the program “a historic $81 million public-private partnership” and giving the nod to entrepreneur Fred Wilson, head of the CSNYC Charitable Foundation, and program partners the Robin Hood Foundation and the AOL Charitable Foundation. Every dollar that the city puts into the initiative will be matched by the private sector, the mayor explained.

Calling de Blasio's plan a “bold and ambitious effort to reimagine what education can do in the digital age,” Wilson, a founding supporter of the initiative, said in a prepared statement that “it is critical that every student in NYC gets exposure to the concepts and fundamentals of computer science –‎ the defining skill of the 21st century – in elementary, middle, and high school.”

To date the small percentage of New York public school students who have had the benefit of computer science courses have “been clustered in just a few high-performing schools,” de Blasio noted. And computer classes have centered around teaching word processing when “what they should be learning is how to code.”

The mayor pointed out that the tech jobs that will be open to students later down the line “also demand the subtler qualities that are cultivated by computer science learning, like teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.”

Additional investments funneled to schools in underserved areas will provide “the resources they need to integrate technology into the classrooms.” The Department of Education will work in concert with the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College so that “schools in underserved areas the resources they need to integrate technology into classrooms.”

“If computer science isn't as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic, it's real close,” David Saltzman, executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, said in a statement, noting that his organization's partnership with New York and tech world leaders :will ensure that New York City's public school students will succeed in the jobs of the future.”

As part of the Computer Science for All program, businesses in New York are “stepping up” to help 100,000 children get “internships, mentorships, and summer jobs annually by 2020.” That effort will extend to what de Blasio called “our most vulnerable children in foster homes and homeless shelters.”

“Historically, New York City and the rest of the United States have seen the cultural, economic and social benefits from investing in next-generation technologies and education,” Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO and chairman, said in a statement. The partnership program “will allow children of all backgrounds to share equally in the future of a software-driven economy and continue to bolster New York's position as one of the leading technology cities in the world.” 

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