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Washington State Passes Bill to Boost K-12 Computer Science Education

CORRECTED

A bill that would establish computer science standards and create a computer science teaching endorsement in Washington state is now headed to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. 

House Bill 1813, a bipartisan proposalpassed overwhelmingly in both the Washington state House and Senate on May 28. 

It requires the office of the superintendent to adopt "computer science learning standards developed by a nationally recognized computer science education organization" for the 2015-16 school year. The bill also says the professional educator standards board must develop standards for a K-12 computer science teaching endorsement by early 2016. 

An original draft of the bill also created a grant program aimed at getting computer science in more schools that serve disadvantaged populations. There were three grants: one for schools, districts, and nonprofits that have supported historically underrepresented students with computer science; another for educators who need professional development in the subject; and a third for purchasing and upgrading technology for computer science courses. 

The final version of the bill did not include the grant programs; however, a source familiar with the Washington legislature said the state's budget has not been finalized and that there's still a chance the grants could come into being.

Dozens of education leaders in Washington and executives from companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Starbucks signed a letter supporting the bill. "There are currently 20,000 open computing jobs across all industries in Washington, and these jobs are growing at three times the state average," they wrote. "Besides the jobs, computer science is foundational for all students. Every student learns about photosynthesis and electricity, without pursuing careers as botanists or electricians. For today's students, it's equally relevant to know what an algorithm is or how the Internet works."

The state passed another bill in 2013 that allowed Advanced Placement computer science count as a math or science credit toward high school graduation. In 2014, about 1,100 Washington students took the AP exam—just a quarter of whom were female. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated what appeared in the final bill that was sent to the governor. The bill did not include the proposed grant programs.

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