UA to Help Bring Computer Sciences to Alabama High Schools

  • June 19th, 2020
Several teachers sit in a lecture hall to learn.
Educators from across the state learn about computer science education at a past workshop.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A collaborative project between The University of Alabama and several statewide partners was awarded a nearly $4 million grant to bring computer science education to Alabama K-12 schools.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help the Pathways for Alabama Computer Science Initiative expand computer science education in Alabama, with a focus on high school students and those in rural and underrepresented communities.

“This project will impact about 60,000 high school students over four years,” said Dr. Jeff Gray, principal investigator on the project, UA computer science professor and co-chair of Gov. Kay Ivey’s Advisory Council for Computer Science Education.

As part of legislation that passed in May 2019, every high school in the state is required to offer a computer science course beginning this fall. The computer science project will train teachers to implement the legislative requirement.

“This grant project will help us move Alabama students forward and better prepare them for better futures,” said Dr. Rebecca Odom-Bartel, a UA computer science instructor who is part of the project. “We hope the students can learn about all the opportunities they never knew existed.”

The Pathways for Alabama Computer Science Initiative will host a Computer Science Professional Development Week over the next four summers, training 440 high school teachers, counselors and administrators around the state to introduce computer science to their students in the classroom. Although originally scheduled to be on the UA campus, this summer’s program moved to a virtual training amid COVID-19.

Educators will learn strategies to encourage students to participate in computer science-related careers as well as training to teach rigorous computer science classes, such as an algebra course integrated with computer science information and an Advanced Placement computer science course.

“What we’re basically asking teachers to do is the equivalent of taking an English teacher and training them to teach calculus AB,” Gray said. “We want to instill confidence in them that they can do this through yearlong support that the project offers.”

UA’s College of Engineering, with help from the UA College of Education and off-campus partners such as the Alabama State Department of Education, Tuskegee University, A+ College Ready Dr. Kathy Haynie of Haynie Research and Evaluation and others, will coordinate summer training.

“The partnership between computer science and secondary mathematics education has placed The University of Alabama in a space to lead nationally on the importance of STEM collaboration that ultimately impacts the future of Alabama K-12 students,” said Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski, UA associate professor of education in secondary mathematics who is also part of the project.

A total of five online workshops will be held this summer, with the first June 22-23. For more information, contact Gray at jggray@ua.edu.

Contact

Melissa Parker, UA communications, melissa.parker@ua.edu

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.