Summarized Accomplishments and Challenges
Overall Accomplishments and Outcomes
We were one of the nine districts who received partial funding the first year. Our grant plan served as one of the model grant proposals for the state. We are very pleased with what we set out to do and excited to have our proposal be accepted and exemplified in this manner.
Although receiving partial funding earlier than most was a great accomplishment, it also proved to be quite a challenge. We receive part of our first-year funding early with the caveat that there may not be any additional funding in the future. We had to treat this funding as one time money. Then we received our remaining first year funding the next year, again with the caveat that there may not be any additional funding. This means we received first year of funding, but it was spread over two years. We wrote a four-year grant with a great four-year plan. With the changes in how the funding was received and the unsure future, we had to readjust our entire grant plan and reestablish our priorities and spend the allocated funds accordingly.
It is challenging to implement long term plans when funding is not secure from year to year. We want to have a sustainable Computer Science program in our district. We are planning for longevity as we make decisions on how to best utilize our grant funds and that means many of our original plans had to change. This has definitely been an obstacle and we overcame it nicely. We have a great plan and have implemented many positive changes in our district’s approach to Computer Science.
Accomplishments and Outcomes at the Elementary Level
- We have an established, coordinated, and unified Computer Science program in all 17 of our elementary schools.
- All 20 of our paraprofessional Computer Science Specialists have been trained on how to code and how to teach coding to elementary students.
- This is a noteworthy accomplishment due to the fact that these specialists were not trained in teaching, let alone coding! They have REALLY overcome many challenges and are amazing people!
- An additional 50 minutes were added to the school week and 30 of those minutes were allocated to teaching Computer Science.
- We partnered with CodeHS to develop 36 weekly coding lessons in grades K-6 and to pilot this curriculum.
- CodeHS will be our new elementary curriculum for the 2022-23 school year.
- The mantra “Each elementary student should have a positive coding experience each week” continues to be our focus.
Challenges at the Elementary Level
- There has been a very high turnover in our Computer Science Specialists. We have to bring 6-11 new staff members up-to-speed in coding and teaching each year.
- Using paraprofessionals to teach coding has been a challenge since they have not been trained as teachers or coders. As mentioned above, they have overcome this challenge and are amazing people! We are thrilled to have them involved in our Computer Science journey.
- Using code.org instead of having a viable curriculum was the best decision for us given the circumstances. But it was still a challenge since their curriculum had to be modified and supplemented.
- Not having the funds to partner with TechSmart as planned was definitely a challenge. However, it may turn out for the best as we begin our relationship with CodeHS.
Accomplishments and Outcomes at the Middle School Level
- Middle schools have a unified three-week coding unit in College and Career Awareness and Digital Literacy so that every middle school student has a coding experience in 7th and 8th
- We have a unified Computer Science program in all three of our middle schools.
- We tend to repeat the term “unified” as we list our accomplishments. It is a pretty powerful thing to have all of our schools teaching the exact same topics at relatively the same time. Teachers can share ideas and communicate with each other what is going well and what they are struggling with. They truly help each other out.
- Four middle school teachers learned to code in Python and gained the skills necessary to teach Intro to Python I and II.
- Transitioned from teaching Creative Coding in middle schools to teaching Intro to Python I and II.
- One teacher earned her Intro to Computer Science Endorsement.
Challenges at the Middle School Level
- We had two of our three coding teachers choose to teach other subjects in middle school. We have had to hire and train new teachers to teach coding at those schools.
- Changing from teaching Creative Coding and teaching Python was hard for teachers. They lost some of the liberty and gamification approach they were able to do in Creative Coding. However, they all saw the benefit of teaching Python instead and embraced it willingly.
Accomplishments and Outcomes at the High School Level
- We were able to immediately implement a unified coding curriculum for Programming 1 in all four of our high schools the first year of our grant funding.
- In the second year of our grant funding, all four high school teachers had added at least one class of Programming 2 to their teaching schedule.
- Four teachers were trained to teach Programming 1 and Programming 2 using TechSmart’s Python coding platform.
- Teachers attended 20 days of training to make this happen! They are amazing to work with and have a passion for making Computer Science great in our district.
- Teachers were able to be reimbursed for taking classes to use towards their Programming and Software Development endorsement.
- Our high school teachers are teaching with a unified approach and communicating with each other frequently in extended PLCs.
Challenges at the High School Level
- There is a lot to Computer Science in the high school setting. Using the grant to focus solely on the coding pathway was a narrow scope and possibly connoted other Computer Science classes such as Web Development, Gaming, etc., to be less valuable. This was not the case at all. We knew we could not do everything with the grant funding, but we could do something and we concentrated on coding.
- Although all students had a coding experience in elementary school and middle school, it is interesting and challenging that those students who self-select to take coding in the high school still fit the stereotype. Most of our coding classes prior to high school are taught by females. Half of our high school coding classes are taught by females. Our female population in Computer Science is increasing, but it continues to be challenging to have the demographics in our Computer Science classes match the demographics of our schools.