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A window of opportunity for enhanced computer science education

John Hajdu is president of the Computer Science Teachers Association of Central New Jersey.
John Hajdu is president of the Computer Science Teachers Association of Central New Jersey. - ()

There is a window of opportunity to provide New Jersey students with increased access and incentives to learn computer science, and with it, a path to tech careers once thought out of reach for many. But to seize this opportunity, Gov. Chris Christie must follow the Legislature's lead and act now.

Currently, for high school students across New Jersey, computer science only counts as an elective credit, giving them less incentive to take computer science courses, and giving schools less incentive to offer them.

There are two proposed bills that passed the Legislature during its final day of session that would change the status quo and pave the way for more students to acquire critical computing skills.

  • SB 2161/AB 2597 – Would allow school districts to count qualifying computer science courses toward mathematics graduation requirements.
  • SB 2032/AB 3440 – Would require the New Jersey Department of Education to review Core Curriculum Content Standards to ensure that they incorporate modern computer science approaches.

Without Christie’s signature by January 19, the legislation will be vetoed and won’t become state law for at least another year. To have these bills so close to becoming law and not cross the finish line would be a great disservice to the students of New Jersey.

Cameron Wilson of Code.org.
Cameron Wilson of Code.org.

Computing is a foundational skill for all K-12 students in today’s world. It develops technical and critical thinking skills and teaches students how to create—not just use—new technologies. Computer science is driving job growth and innovation in New Jersey and throughout the United States. More than half of projected jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields are in computing occupations, and computer science is one of the most desirable degrees for new college graduates. The state of New Jersey currently has about 24,000 open computing jobs, and demand for computing jobs is 4.4 times the state average.

The proposed changes to high school graduation requirements and core curriculum will better prepare New Jersey’s students for high paying, in-demand careers and position New Jersey as a national leader in K-12 computer science education. New Jersey must increase its talent pipeline and can’t risk falling behind neighboring states in the competitive technology sector.

Matt Mincieli of TechNet.
Matt Mincieli of TechNet.

We commend the Legislature, in particular the Education Committee Chairs Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), for its efforts to give young people in New Jersey the education they need to be successful when they leave high school. These two bills will go a long way toward providing all of New Jersey’s students access to the best opportunities out there, no matter what career path they pursue.

Christie must not let the opportunity languish for another year or more. Now is the time to finish the job and send a message to New Jersey students and the technology sector.

John Hajdu is president of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSNJ) of Central New Jersey. CSNJ believes that all students should take computer science classes to help develop logical thinking, problem solving and computational thinking skills necessary for the jobs of tomorrow.

Matt Mincieli is the Northeast region executive director for TechNet, a national advocacy organization for the technology and innovation sector. 

Cameron Wilson is the vice president of government affairs for Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color.

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