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    Computer Science Journey through High School Space

    School Year 2019-20  (Planning Grant Funds Received and Utilized)

    As mentioned in the middle school section, one of the overarching initiatives for K-12 Computer Science is for all students to have a coding experience every year throughout their schooling.  This is particularly challenging as students get into secondary schools, especially in high school.  Students do not always take the same classes and the number of required courses varies from year to year.  Moreover, there are more options for those “required” courses – meaning more than one math course can fill the 10th grade math requirement.  As part of our planning grant time, we met with high school teachers and discussed how to extend the elementary and middle school plan – to have every student having a coding experience – in the high schools.  In the end, we determined that it was not feasible in our high schools for every student to have a coding experience.  Instead, we chose to focus on building teaching capacity for Computer Science as well as increasing the coding abilities of our existing teachers.

    Students at the high school level will self-select whether they continue with the coding pathway in high school.  However, it is important to realize that the gap between students’ expertise and experience in coding increases when they get to high school.  Some students enter high school with two semesters of Intro to Python programming and some have only had the three weeks in College and Career Awareness and Digital Literacy.  Often these students are in a high school Programming 1 course together.  Having curriculum that meets the needs of all of the students is paramount.

    As we reviewed curriculum packages, it was evident that TechSmart’s Python course provided a profound option for differentiated learning within its platform.  Teachers are able to choose how many “comments” each student begins with as they prepare to solve the coding exercises.  The “comments” give hints on what should be coded below.  At the highest level, students would receive no comments and start with a blank area where they enter their code.  At the lowest level, there would be a comment for each line of code that should be written.  There was also an option to revert a student to block coding, when needed.  This capability was a key factor in the high school teachers wanting to use TechSmart’s curriculum. 

    In addition to providing curriculum, we wanted to provide a way for our high school teachers to be able to earn their Programming and Software Development Endorsement.  Through our established partnership with USU, several of our high school coding teachers started taking classes and working on their endorsement.  As mentioned in the middle school section, in our grant proposal we planned to use funds to reimburse teachers the $350 in continuing education tuition costs if they successfully complete courses towards their endorsement.  Of course, that included high school teachers as well. However, we wanted to increase our capacity and multiple teachers able to teach Computer Science in the high school, so we opened up the endorsement reimbursement program to any teacher who wanted to potentially teach Computer Science. 

    We would have to wait for grant funding to be received before we could fully execute the plan, but we knew what we needed to do for our grant.   TechSmart shared our passion for wanting the high schools to be able to use their curriculum.  They entered into an agreement with us stating that they would cover the costs for the training and one year of the curriculum for the high school teachers.  If our grant was funded, we would reimburse them for those costs.  If we were not funded, then TechSmart would cover those costs.  Thus, we were able to train the high school teachers over the summer of 2020, which they did on their own time without reimbursement, and start using TechSmart’s Python curriculum in the 2020-21 school year.

    We had all of the above planned and scheduled before COVID closed schools and we only had to have a few virtual meetings afterward to solidify our plan for the high schools.  No planning grant funds were used to purchase high school curriculum during this phase, but we were moving forward with faith in future funding.


    School Year 2020-21  (Partial Year 1 Funds Received and Utilized)

    We were lucky enough to be one of the nine districts chosen to receive partial funding for the first year of the grant.  Because we were able to develop a good plan and had agreement with TechSmart in place stating that they would cover the costs for the training and the curriculum, we were able to establish the Computer Science pathway in the high schools this first year.  Because our grant was funded (albeit partially), we reimbursed TechSmart for those costs and started using TechSmart’s Python curriculum in the 2020-21 school year.  It is quite an accomplishment to be able to start teaching the first year funded, making it evident that our planning grant time was well utilized.

    The high school teachers were immediately ready to take their Python courses to the next level.  They wanted to implement TechSmart in their Programming 2 courses this year, which would require additional training by TechSmart.   Grant funds were used to pay for this training and to pay teachers for their time or to cover their substitutes so they could attend this training.  Three of our four teachers were trained quickly enough and used TechSmart for their third trimester courses.  (They are amazing people and having this first year of partial funding allowed that to be accomplished!!!)

    Our high school teachers had invested a lot of time and effort in getting trained and implementing the curriculum.  They wanted to be able to use it for more than just one year.  Thus, we used 2020-21 grant funds to secure the TechSmart curriculum costs through 2023.  After that time, our teachers will re-evaluate whether they want to continue with TechSmart or to use something else.

    In addition, we had several high school teachers capitalize on the opportunity to take Computer Science courses through USU’s continuing education program and be reimbursed for those courses.  This allowed them to see if they had what it took to be a Computer Science teacher.  Many of them are continuing to take classes and earn their Programming and Software Development endorsement.  Of course, it will take them at least six semesters to accomplish this and they are not always able to take classes while teaching.  We are doing all that we can to support and help them along the way.

    Based on the write-up above, one would not realize this was a COVID year.  Although school was a bit chaotic, the teachers taught using this new platform and curriculum and did a fantastic job.  We were able to prepare our teachers and secure curriculum and began teaching this school year.


    School Year 2021-22  (Remaining Year 1 Funds Received and Utilized)

    This year was a banner year for high schools.  We have all four high schools using TechSmart in their Programming 1 and Programming 2 courses.  They are teaching with a unified approach and communicating with each other along the way.   Computer Science grant funds made this materialize.

    As mentioned in the 2021-22 section, we had one school unable to have enough students enroll in Programming 2 during the 2020-21 school year and that teacher was not trained with the other teachers to teach Programming 2.  However, for the 2021-22 school year he was able to offer Programming 2 and to have enough students enroll.  He was trained by TechSmart over the summer and grant funds allocated for this year were used to cover those costs and his time.  All of our high schools have equally trained teachers in Programming 1 and 2.

    We continued to reimburse teachers who are taking USU’s Computer Science Courses through continuing education.  We should have two teachers finish their endorsements after this summer, and we will use 2022-23 grant money to cover those costs.


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