In the months since Amazon announced it planned to set up a new office in New York City, the company has been tight-lipped about how it will contribute to city schools aside from a vague promise of “career exploration activities” and internship opportunities.
But on Tuesday, the online retail giant announced it will invest in providing online computer science classes at roughly 100 high schools around the city and an additional 30 private or religious schools that all applied for the new curriculum. The move is part of a broader effort to support computer science education nationally.
Although Amazon’s press release says the schools will “start providing computer science courses” about 75 percent of the participating city public schools have at least received training through the mayor’s Computer Science for All program, department officials said.
Each school in the Amazon program will offer introductory or Advanced Placement computer science classes through Edhesive, a company that will provide “fully sequenced and paced digital curriculum for students,” along with teacher training, according to a press release. Edhesive was spun out from Amplify, a separate digital education company that was once owned by News Corporation and run by former schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
None of the Edhesive courses listed on its website require teachers to have any previous computer science training, and much of the instruction is conducted digitally.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has made computer science education a pillar of his education agenda, promising to provide instruction in every city school by 2025. City officials said Amazon’s computer science effort is separate from the city’s Computer Science for All program and that the company is not a direct funder or partner for that program. An Amazon official said their efforts are “complementary” with the mayor’s initiative and could exist in schools that already have some computer science coursework.
Amazon’s announcement comes a day before the City Council is scheduled to hold an oversight hearing about the decision to court the company to locate another major hub in New York, a deal that has created political blowback against de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Some observers have raised concerns about millions in tax breaks offered in exchange for the new Amazon site, and how the decision to invite thousands of new workers to Long Island City, Queens, could affect school crowding and student demographics, among other issues.
An Amazon spokeswoman, Allison Flicker, could not say how much the company is spending on this specific initiative in New York, but said it is part of a broader $50 million commitment to computer science education across the country.
She added that the decision to launch the program in New York City was not related to its new headquarters but noted it was in keeping with the spirit of the agreement with the city and that there will be other unspecified collaborations with public schools.