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Illinois Boosts Computer Science - and Students' Competitive Edge

College & Career Readiness | 08/20/2014

Brian Herman
Marketing and Communications Director

Brian helps to promote Stand’s work, build our base of support, and move us closer to achieving our mission.

Stand for Children Illinois has been advocating enactment of HB 3695, legislation that allows an AP Computer Science course to count as one of the three math courses required for high school graduation. The General Assembly passed HB 3695 earlier this year, and on Friday Governor Quinn signed the bill into law. This important change encourages greater interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers while also helping prepare students for a changing global economy. At the same time, the legislation does not mandate that school districts offer AP computer science or otherwise change their practice. It simply provides schools and students the opportunity to count computer science toward graduation requirements. In states where computer science counts as a core class, 50% more students enroll than in states where it is treated as an elective.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-05) and Senator Terry Link (D-30), promoted by Stand for Children Illinois and endorsed by Code.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding participation in computer science. “Illinois has taken an important step toward ensuring that all of our students are college and career ready,” said Mimi Rodman, Executive Director for Stand for Children Illinois. “Computer science is central to our state’s economy, and expanding computer science education helps keep Illinois competitive while enhancing economic opportunity for the next generation. I applaud Code.org for tackling this challenge throughout the United States and for supporting our efforts to pass this important legislation in Illinois.”

"I'm thrilled to congratulate Illinois today for removing one barrier that keeps computer science out of schools,” said Hadi Partovi, Co-Founder and CEO of Code.org. “At a time when 90% of American schools don't even offer the course, and some of the best careers in the world remain available only to a privileged few, the state is taking an important first step in teaching every student foundational skills that will open up doors to any 21st-century career."

Computer science is driving innovation and economic growth in Illinois and across the country. By the end of the decade, careers in computing will comprise over half of all the nation’s STEM-related jobs. Furthermore, computer science skills prepare students for careers in a variety of sectors beyond information technology, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and defense. Currently, only a small fraction of Illinois students are taking computer science courses at the K-12 level. In Illinois, there are currently 25,691 open computing jobs but only 2,691 computer science graduates. Computing jobs are growing at 5.1 times the state average, according to The Conference Board, National Science Foundation, and Code.org. Making computer science count as a high school math or science credit is an essential incentive for more students to gain the computing skills that can prepare them for success in the global economy.

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