Gov. Deal Unveils New Plan for High School Computer Classes

Gov. Nathan Deal Monday said he wants high school students to be able to take more computer programming classes as part of their core requirements.
Credit Martha Dalton/WABE News
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Reading, writing, and arithmetic are still taught in schools these days. But if Gov. Nathan Deal has his way, Georgia schools could change the way they approach arithmetic.

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Speaking at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center Monday, Gov. Deal said Georgia has jobs to fill.

“We must continue to meet the workforce needs if we want to further attract businesses and to maintain jobs we currently have,” he said.

The governor said businesses need computer programmers and software developers, and they’re not finding qualified candidates in Georgia. So, he wants schools to help.

“I’m asking the state board of education to allow computer programming courses to satisfy core requirements in math, science, or foreign language,” he said. “In addition, we’re requesting the Board of Regents to accept these courses for admission into colleges and universities.”

Currently, students can take an AP computer science class in place of one science course. Other computer courses count as electives.

Chris Klaus, with Georgia Tech’s college of computing, admitted ensuring schools have equal access could be challenging.

“A lot of schools are already embarking on this initiative; they’re already doing it,” Klaus said. “Now, there’s a big carrot to do it. And I think that’s going to be something that we’re going to have to work on over the next 6, 12, 18 months is, ‘How do we get all the schools to be offering this and What are their challenges?’”

They may take some guidance from schools that offer computer classes as part of the core curriculum. Kevin Glass is the headmaster at the Atlanta International School. The Buckhead private school requires students in grades 6-10 to take a design engineering class.

“It gets the same amount of curricular content time as math, as science, as language, or as humanities,” Glass said. “So, they’re able to put those skills to use solving real-world problems using the design cycle, the language of design, and of course, coding.”

Learning to code, experts say, allows students to go from using existing technology to creating new technology.

The governor is proposing the switch at a time when more schools are adopting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curricula. Deal said that’s where the jobs and the money are. 

Soon after he made the announcement, Deal’s Democratic opponent Jason Carter’s campaign manager issued the following statement about the initiative:

“It’s not a bad idea, but after years of shortchanging our schools by billions of dollars, Gov. Deal will need more than small-bore election-year promises to show he’s interested in helping students. This will do little to help the students in rural schools who don’t have adequate computers or Internet connections.”