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Portland Business Journal: PSU lands $1M to spread computer science education
Author: Malia Spencer, Portland Business Journal
Posted: December 14, 2017

Read the original story in the Portland Business Journal.

Portland State University’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science has landed a $1 million National Science Foundation grant.

The school will use it to boost the reach of computer science education across the state for students of all backgrounds. PSU plans to develop a program to train high school teachers in computer science curriculum.

PSU is working with University of Oregon and the Tigard-Tualatin School District on the project, called Computer Science for Oregon, to coach high school teachers on entry level computer science curriculum. The curriculum is based on the work of Joanna Goode, a University of Oregon education studies associate professor.

“Today’s world is one in which there are many hidden kinds of privilege,” said James Hook, PSU engineering associate dean, in a written statement. “In some schools, only certain kids are tracked into computer science classes. Most computing work is presented in the context of the dominant culture which leaves out many students. With Computer Science for Oregon, we’ll focus on negating the effects of these kinds of privilege and placing computer science thinking in the context of students’ own cultures.”

Specifically the project will:

  • Help new computer science teachers develop coursework to develop high-level problem solving skills and computational thinking instead of just focusing on straight coding.
  • Offer workshops to counselors and administrators on strategies to steer students of underrepresented minorities to try computer science classes.
  • Add computer science topics to the technology courses that new teachers take.
  • Examine computer science programs to better understand what works for different students in different districts across the state.
  • The curriculum developed by Goode is also being used in the Los Angeles, Chicago and New York school districts. It is also already being used in Tigard-Tualatin.

“Prior to using the Exploring Computer Science curriculum, our introductory high school computer science course was geared toward students who already identified as future engineers or software developers,” said Jill Hubbard, a computer science teacher and lead practitioner for the program at Tualatin High School. “ECS provides our students with a rigorous, inclusive computer science curriculum covering a wide variety of computer science concepts and encouraging all students to develop the critical and computational thinking skills necessary for their future careers and lives.”

This is the latest effort to prepare Oregon’s future workforce the growing number of technology jobs within the state. It also dovetails with an effort by many in the region’s tech community to diversify the ranks of the tech workforce. Earlier this year, the Technology Association of Oregon along with several of the region’s workforce development boards, roughly 40 tech companies and the organization Prosper Portland unveiled a Talent Strategy Plan designed to tackle the challenges companies have in hiring tech talent.

Portland-based online code school Treehouse launched a partnership this spring with the Boys & Girls Club of Portland to connect minority students with not only training but a connection to an internship with a local company.