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Schools receive $99K grant for computer science

Governor Ralph S. Northam recently announced more than $1.3 million in state grants to support the implementation of Virginia’s Computer Science Standards of Learning (SOLs), including a $99,800 grant to Cumberland County Public Schools.

According to a release from the Office of the Governor, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2016 requiring that SOLs include computer science and coding. The standards, adopted by the state Board of Education in 2017, are the nation’s first mandatory K-12 computer science standards.

Northam was quoted in the release as saying knowing the basics of computer science can open doors to nearly any career in today’s economy.

“We are working to expand career-connected learning and integrate computer science into the curriculum at every grade level. With these grants, we have a tremendous opportunity to put today’s students on a path to developing the key computer science and coding skills they need to compete for the jobs of tomorrow,” Northam said.

The release said that the 2019 General Assembly authorized up to $1.35 million in grants in order to provide professional development for teachers, create computer science curriculum, instructional resources and assessments, support summer and after-school programs and provide career exposure and work-based learning opportunities for high school students.

Legislation directed that underserved students and schools performing below state standards receive priority in the awarding of the grants.

Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni hoped that the grants would plant a love of computer science within the minds of students across the commonwealth.

“We are excited about being awarded the computer science grant that will assist in providing professional development to Region 8 divisions to incorporate the new computer science standards within the four core content areas,” Cumberland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin said in a statement to The Herald.

Griffin added that Cumberland’s grant was written by the school’s Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator Sheri Almond and Dr. Paula Leach, director of the Institute for Teaching through Technology and Innovative Practices at Longwood University.

Griffin said Leach and her team will work to provide the foundation courses for Cumberland’s teachers.

“The grant will also provide funding to purchase equipment that can be used in the classroom and begin the development of curriculum to explore robotics and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles,” Griffin said.

The release said that there is currently no applicable SOL test associated with computer science instruction. These new academic standards have been developed to provide students with a thorough and detailed understanding of the study of computers, their hardware and software designs, their applications and their impact on society.