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City expanding computer science teacher training program

The city is continuing to expand its efforts to bring coding to the classroom, as Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today that it will be training 120 additional computer science teachers over the next two summers.

That’s a tiny fraction of the city’s 75,000 teachers, but the initiative is a first step toward developing a system to train teachers in schools across the city how to teach computer science classes.

Two small high schools now focus on computer science: the Academy for Software Engineering, which opened in 2012 near Union Square, and the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering, which opened this year. But the existence of those schools doesn’t change the fact that most middle and high schools don’t have teachers prepared to teach computer science for math or science credit.

“Our goal is we want every student to have it,” said Seth Schoenfeld, senior director for the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation. “We want enough teachers that can teach it in a rigorous way so we know students are getting high-level instruction.”

The city is spending $1 million (some of which is coming from the New York City Economic Development Corporation) to develop a curriculum that will combine in-person and online training through the Blended Learning Institute that the city’s Innovation Zone—the umbrella term for the city’s efforts to increase technology and personalization in schools—has already set up.

In the spring, the city teachers union announced its own pilot program to get teachers coding in conjunction with the organization Girls Who Code. That program was meant in part to help retain young math and science teachers who leave “because we don’t give them something engaging to do,” UFT president Michael Mulgrew said in May.

iZone officials said Monday that they’ll be marketing the new training to schools and picking among applicants. Many, but not all, will be iZone schools, according to Evan Korth, executive director of the NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education, a nonprofit working with the DOE to expand computer science offerings.

Over the long term, Korth said his group is looking at many ways to teach and learn computer science, since not all schools are prepared to replace existing classes. Technology classes (which are often “how to make PowerPoint presentations and bold in Word and keyboarding,” Korth noted) are especially ripe for new additions, he said.

“You can easily imagine taking two weeks out of the PowerPoint curriculum and putting in building games using code,” he said.