New curriculum changes emphasize computer science education

By Tamoor Hamid

Changes are coming to Arundel starting next year with the option to replace Foundations of Technology with a computer science class. The change is being spurred, at least in part, by Governor Larry Hogan, who has pushed for making computer science a priority in Maryland.

For years, Foundations of Technology has been a requirement for graduation at Arundel High School. This is changing starting next year, when Arundel students will be able to choose classes like AP Computer Science Principles or AP Computer Science A, to meet the tech credit needed for graduation.

A few years ago, the only computer science classes offered at Arundel were Honors Java and AP Computer Science A, with  Java serving as a sort of prerequisite for Comp Sci A. Then, last year, schools began offering AP Computer Science Principles around the U.S. In 2017, the number of students taking a computer science class increased by 84%, with a majority coming from Principles alone. Female and minority participation also increased. Mr. Brad Wray and Mr. Steve Tidd, who both teach Comp Sci teachers at Arundel, have noticed this change. In recent interviews, Tidd and Wray talked with The Pulse about the diversity both have seen so far from teaching the class.

Other changes are coming to the Maryland Computer Science curriculum as a whole. Late last year, Governor Larry Hogan joined Governors for Computer Science, GovsForCS, which is an initiative dedicated to “Strengthening computer science education across states for all students,” and has bipartisan support. The most notable change coming from this is the push to have children start programming in elementary school, through programs like Scratch or the use of a “turtle.” Both of these allow kids to move characters on screen rather than just see numbers and words representing them.

When asked what the future for Arundel graduates would look like with these changes in place, both Mr. Wray and Mr. Tidd replied with similar answers envisioning a brighter future. They believe that with these policies in place, students would be better suited for college, with some even prepared go directly into the workforce. Most importantly, they hope this allows students to be as exposed to Computer Science as they are to subjects like math or history. Computer Science related fields like Software or Web Developers have been growing by 24% and 15% respectively.

The reaction has been very positive at Arundel, with Principal Mrs. Davenport showing support for the changes. Patrick Gerakines, a senior, said, “ I liked Foundations of Tech., but I feel like it’s a waste of a class, because I feel like I’m not going to use it that much anymore. But Computer Science, I’m definitely going to be using for the rest of my life.” Almost all of the students interviewed said that they would have chosen to switch to Comp Sci rather than take Foundations of Tech if given the option. B

Bec Crow, a senior planning to become a teacher, said that regarding introducing elementary schools to programming, “We are becoming such a computer based society where every job is based on coding and engineering. If we start them early and get them at least introduced to it, it will help them know how to do more things.” The reaction to introducing it in elementary school was positive, with even students not going into a Computer Science related field saying they support the change. There was, however, opposition to the change with one student saying that having students code to get a grade would turn them away from pursuing the skill themselves.