New law requires change to public school curriculum

Local News

Preparing keiki for the jobs of tomorrow, jobs that pay well! That’s the idea behind a new law requiring a change to the curriculum in public schools.

Lawmakers and educators want more students to learn about computer science, so they will be better equipped in the future. This also means teachers need to be trained in the field. 

Educators tell us there are various methods and programs to implement computer science courses. All public schools will be required to do this, but each of them will do it differently and it won’t be for every grade level.  

“From kindergarten to fifth grade, pretty much they will have something. Then six to eighth, we’ll have to decide, they could offer it to everyone in every grade or they may just offer it in seventh or they may just offer it in eighth,” said Momilani Elementary School Teacher Shane Asselstine. “You will likely see it offered in ninth and tenth and maybe later in the year, junior or senior year.”

We’re told computer science courses can be flexible with an already packed school schedule.

“That’s every struggle for the teacher. You have this much, but only this much to put on your plate. It’s something in some instances that can be integrated into math, so computer science can be integrated in math, into language arts or the other way around,” said Asselstine. 

The intent on making this new law was to prepare our keiki for these competitive and lucrative computer science jobs.  

“With only two years, just two years of formalized training in cyber security, those individuals are able to make six figures,” said Representative Justin Woodson, Education Committee Chairman. “So what certain states are doing is they are offering that formalized training in high school, they are not waiting until college.”

Act 51 also provides extra funding which schools could use a portion of to train educators how to teach computer science. Dozens have already gone through training.

Through a $1-million dollar grant, UH trained 14 teachers from 9 schools on four islands earlier this month. The workshop was for AP computer science courses. 

“Between the two programs that I know of this Summer, I know we taught around 30 high school teachers considering there is 56 to 60 high schools in the state. That’s a pretty good chunk of the teachers,” said Asselstine.  

UH trains Hawaii high school teachers.

We’re told schools are not necessarily losing teachers if they switch to computer science.

“They had teachers volunteer, they had teachers shift one or two periods. It’s not like we are losing a math teacher for the entire day,” said Asselstine. “We may lose them for one period and someone else would pick up that math class for them.”

We reached out to charters schools to see how they will be impacted. In a statement, Executive Director Sione Thompson says, 

“While the law, Act 51 of 2018, does not specifically mention charter schools, we look forward to discussing and working with the DOE.”

The law goes into effect July 1st. By the 2021-2022 school year, each public high school will need to offer at least one computer science course during each school year.
 

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