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NSF Awards $1M for Computer Science Education

SDSU will partner with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD to expand local secondary and higher ed curriculum.
The ComPASS program will expand computer science curriculum throughout San Diego.
The ComPASS program will expand computer science curriculum throughout San Diego.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University, has received National Science Foundation grants to jointly expand the computer sciences curriculum among San Diego’s high schools, community colleges and universities.

Providing a ComPASS to understanding computers

The three-year grants, worth a total of almost $1 million, are for a project called ‘Computing Principles for All Students’ Success’ or ComPASS. The overall goal of project is to improve Southern California’s educational capacity for preparing all high school and college students to contribute to and participate in what has become a computationally-driven economic future.

ComPASS contributes to a nationwide goal of training approximately 10,000 high school teachers to teach advanced placement computer science principles courses by the year 2015. This larger national program, the CS10K, was launched in response to national studies and task force reports identifying a crisis in U.S. workforce preparedness.

A solid conceptual understanding of the ideas, logic and principles that underlie computing will benefit all of our students.

The reports specifically cite a serious shortage of workers to fill workplace demands for trained, innovative computing experts and computational problem-solvers in every field. A brief presentation on the ComPASS project is on the agenda for the San Diego County Board of Education’s Sept. 14 meeting.

“UCSD and SDSU are committed to addressing national challenges in computing education,” said Diane Baxter, director of education at the San Diego Supercomputing Center and UCSD principal investigator for the ComPASS project.

“This project strategically targets the critical elements necessary for offering stimulating and engaging college-preparatory computer science courses to all students in high school, when they are exploring directions and possibilities for their own futures.”

Excellent background for teachers

“A solid conceptual understanding of the ideas, logic and principles that underlie computing will benefit all of our students, not just the computer science majors,” said Leland Beck, chair of the SDSU Department of Computer Science and SDSU principal investigator for the ComPASS project. “It will also provide an excellent background for soon-to-be teachers in all fields.”

The ComPASS project seeks to rigorously evaluate a broadly applicable and sustainable model for introducing computer science principles into general education at the high school level. The project will evaluate strategies and methods designed to prepare teachers to teach computer science while developing support for the value of this course among college-bound students, and their parents and school administrators.

SDSU’s role in ComPASS

As part of the ComPASS program, SDSU will offer pre-service teacher training through a senior-year extended course covering both content and methods of computer science principles, with an embedded practicum of teaching experience. This course will be specifically promoted to all single-subject credential majors, not just math and science.

At least six community colleges in the region will also offer computer science principles courses, and computer sciences departments at UCSD and SDSU will accept these classes for transfer credit, provided students pass the exams and complete the required project. In addition, about 15 high schools will teach comparable courses, with a similar agreement regarding transfer credit as that agreed upon for community colleges.

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