Today CodeVA started its main week of teacher training. Courses include AP Computer Science Principles, Exploring Computer Science and Project GUTS ( CS in Science).
And new this year – the Elementary Computer Science Coaches Academy.
In 2016 Virginia was the first state in the country to pass legislation mandating that computer science be added as a core subject in all public schools beginning in kindergarten. While other states have developed computer science standards, this is the first time teachers are required to make computer science a core part of their instruction.
And unlike other elementary computer science initiatives, this is not meant to be an elective or pull out program, but a full integration of computer science into core classes.
This means that ultimately every elementary school teacher in each of the state’s 1158 public elementary schools will need some degree of support in meeting this requirement.
Enter the Coaches Academy
In order to meet the demand for elementary professional development we are piloting the Computer Science Coaches Academy. The participants are public school employees that are being trained in three areas:
- Computer Science content relevant to elementary schools
- Pedagogical strategies and best practices for teaching computer science in elementary school
- A deep understanding of the new state Standards of Learning for Computer Science
The program started with an online course that covers the basics of Scratch, non-coding computer science topics and some resources on teaching strategies.
The coaches then meet in person for five days in the summer, then four follow up sessions throughout the year.
A quick bit of background, in Virginia our DOE does not develop curriculum or implement professional development. This means that this is left up to the local school districts.
Which in most cases is fine. Districts have a wealth of experience and resources at hand when it comes to say, offering language arts professional development for first grade teachers. Current employees often go to external professional development and share what they have learned. This increases both the relevance of the professional development being delivered and the opportunities for district employees to grow professionally.
But for computer science this internal capital does not yet exist. While there may be a media specialist or classroom teacher here and there that is doing Scratch, or Hour of Code puzzles, this does not translate to the ability to do systemic professional development.
So the Coaches Academy first seeks to train district personnel to implement professional development in their schools and districts.
In addition, by training these folks the district adds capacity when it comes time to revise existing elementary curricula, scope and sequence documents.
With the pilot group we have a great representation of folks from across the state – rural suburban and urban. The hope is first to seed professional development across Virginia.
And selfishly we hope to learn from this group what is working with our plan, and what needs fixing. The first rule of teaching is nothing is ever perfect, there is always room to grow and learn, and by working with this pilot group we should gather plenty of information along the way.
By next summer the hope is to train 350-400 coaches annually for 2 – 5 years, depending on funding and need. We recently received a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to fund the training of the coaches in their service area that starts this process.
It is one of the big open questions at the moment – at what point do we reach capacity?
Each day this week we are tackling a new topic. The goal is to capture how each day goes, the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Day 1: Computer Science Content for Elementary School
- Day 2: Unpacking Standards
- Day 3: Adults as Learners
- Day 4: District Planning
- Day 5: Next Steps