Computer science education efforts are getting another boost. President Obama has officially signed the STEM Education Act of 2015 into law, expanding the STEM definition to include computer science.
“We must prepare our students for degrees in STEM subjects to ensure that they have the ability to thrive in today’s technology-based economy,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, who introduced the bill. “This means motivating more American students to study STEM subjects, including computer science.
“Unfortunately, America lags behind many other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math. The STEM Education Act expands the definition of STEM, encourages students to study these subjects, and trains more teachers.”
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. While computer science has never been a part of the actual acronym, it was thought to fall under the technology category. Officially including it in the definition signals the importance of a computer science education, according to Washington Partners’ vice president for legislative and public affairs Della Cronin, who handles federal affairs for Code.org.
“Computer science advocates have long felt that STEM programs have ignored computer science,” she said. “They felt there needed to be a signal from Capitol Hill and a statute that governs some of these programs and says computer science is important, you as an agency should be supporting the teaching and learning of it, and investing public dollars in it.”
The STEM Education Act doesn’t bring any additional funding for computer science, but it does bring the option for schools that are running programs backed by a STEM fund to include computer science programs as part of that funding, according to Kelly Calhoun, research director of education at Gartner.
“The thought here was looping this in as part of STEM funding gave the maximum amount of flexibility for individual school districts to tailor programs to meet the needs of their local communications,” she said.