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Computer Science Moves Past 'Elective' Status in Washington State

Students who successfully complete an Advanced Placement computer science class in Washington state will get a math or science credit toward graduation, rather than having it count as an elective, under legislation Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week.

"If we can encourage more of our students to try their hand at computer science in high school, we can open their world to so many amazing careers," the governor, who took office in January, said in a press release.

The action makes Washington the 10th state to count computer science as a core math or science credit, according to a press release from Washington STEM, a broad-based advocacy group for improved science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Currently, the group says, only 35 out of Washington's 622 high schools offer the course.

"This is a step forward to making Washington state a national STEM leader," said Brad Smith, an executive vice president at Microsoft and a founding board member of Washington STEM. "Every young person in our state should have the chance to learn how to code; it's the new language of opportunity." You can hear more from Smith on the issue in this blog post.

Microsoft last September issued what it called a National Talent Strategy that features a push for expanding access to computer science education, as well as improving STEM education more broadly. (It also calls for a short-term strategy to allow more foreign workers with STEM skills into the United States.)

Participation in AP computer science has grown by more than 60 percent over the past five years. About 19,000 AP computer science tests were taken by the graduating class of 2012, up from roughly 12,000 in the class of 2007.

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