Surrounded by students and teachers from Rainier Beach High School, along with representatives from the high-tech industry, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill today allowing Advanced Placement Computer Science course to count toward the state’s high school math and science graduation requirements.
AP Computer Science has, since its inception, been an elective, said State Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge. Having it count toward graduation requirements is one step toward getting and training more students in the field — one that industry leaders says is facing a shortage of qualified workers.
“We live in a state that is a national leader when it comes to information technology,” said Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft, who spoke at the event. “Yet we have jobs that have been open for months…. We are not producing people with the skills needed to fill them.”
Pushing for changes in education and education funding for math, science and technology jobs is one part of a push Microsoft is making in contending with what it and other high-tech leaders say is a sizeable gap between supply and demand for high-tech workers. The other part is pushing to raise the limits on H-1B visas for foreign qualified high-tech workers.
Of the 771 high schools in Washington State, Smith said, only 35 offer the AP Computer Science course. Of the 542 students in the state who took the course, only 113 of them were girls, only 13 were Latino, only 10 were African American and only 1 was Native American.
“Today that starts to change,” he said. “The signing of this bill will help us reach more students, help us attract more people to this field.”
One of those students who’s already excited about the field is Ifrah Abshir, 15, a Rainier Beach freshman who spoke at the event. She’s been taking the Intro to Computer Science course since the beginning of the school year and has already had a geometry game she developed — called Bouncing Geometry — published in the Windows Store.
She didn’t love computer science, she admitted, until about two months into the course. After she got her game published, “that’s when I realized: This is really fun,” she said. “You can really go somewhere with this. I became addicted. … The love just blossomed.”
Rainier Beach High School is part of a program in which Microsoft employees volunteer at schools teaching computer science. Microsoft also donated smartphones to Rainier Beach’s Introduction to Computer Science course.