Public policy is made at many levels. The Texas State Board of Education reviews and adopts curriculum standards and graduation requirements which places them in a prime position to open up opportunities for students to take computer science related courses. The SBOE met on April 11-13, 2018 and made several decisions that will have this affect.
Computer Programming as Substitute for LOTE
In 2013, the Texas Legislature enacted HB 5 which provided a new graduation requirement option of substituting two credits in computer programming languages for two language other than English credits. In January 2014, the SBOE designated Computer Science I, II, and III as the courses that could satisfy for this new option. At the April board meeting, the SBOE broadened this list to include AP Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A, IB Computer Science Standard Level, and IB Computer Science Higher Level. (19 TAC, Subchapter 74.12, b, 5, ii.) In addition, the board approved a provision that allows a student who successfully completes AP Computer Science A or IB Computer Science Higher Level to satisfy both one advanced mathematics requirement AND a LOTE requirement for graduation. (19 TAC, Subchapter 74.11, k) The student would not earn two credits, but could use one of these two computer science courses to satisfy two graduation requirements.
These changes will give more options for districts as they decide which courses they can staff. Many districts offer Computer Science I, Computer Science II, and AP Computer Science A. However, because many districts only have one teacher who is certified to teach computer science courses, some districts must choose whether to offer Computer Science II or AP Computer Science. Since AP CS was not on the list of courses that a student could take to satisfy the LOTE graduation requirements, students at these schools were precluded from substituting a computer programming course for a LOTE graduation requirement. This change will eliminate that barrier.
Recommended Prerequisites for AP CS
In addition to these changes, the SBOE changed the recommended prerequisites for AP Computer Science A from Computer Science I and Algebra II, to only recommending Algebra I. The board enacted these changes upon the advice of the College Board. (19 TAC, Subchapter 126.62, a)
We are grateful to Donna Bahorich, the chair of the State Board of Education, for her leadership in opening up these options for Texas students. She has worked to educate others about these issues as well as helped move them through the process. In addition, Hal Speed, a passionate advocate for computer science and founding leader of CS4TX, has been advocating for these changes for several years. His hard work has resulted in additional options for students. This is an excellent example of the difference an individual can have make in changing policy. It takes time to make small changes to legislation and administrative code but these changes are well worth the time and effort to get them enacted.
Special thanks to Jennifer Bergland, Director of Government Relations for TCEA, who submitted this post to the WeTeach_CS blog.