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Virginia Could Be First State to Require All K-12 Students to Learn Computer Science

Earlier this month, the Virginia legislature passed a bill that would require computer science to be added to the state's K-12 learning standards. 

If the governor signs the bill, as he is expected to do, Virginia would become the first state to integrate computer science into its core academic requirements for elementary, middle, and high school, according to Code.org, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The call to increase K-12 computer science education has come down from up high recently. President Obama announced a budget proposal earlier this year that, if passed, would include $4 billion for states and $100 million for districts to expand access to K-12 computer science. In that speech, he called computer science "a basic skill, right along with the three Rs."

Arkansas has been held up as a leader in the K-12 computer science movement, and the state now requires that all high schools offer courses on the topic. However, that doesn't mean that all high school students in that state take the courses. Starting in 2017-18, though, all elementary and middle school students in Arkansas will learn computer science, said Katie Hendrickson, advocacy and policy manager for Code.org.

And several states, including Rhode Island, have launched efforts to expand K-12 computer science. Some large individual school districts, such as ChicagoNew York, and San Francisco, have committed to making computer science courses available to all students in the coming years as well.

But so far, no states have gone as far as Virginia is likely to go, and made computer science a statewide school requirement. The bill, which would add "computer science and computational thinking, including computer coding" to Virginia's Standards of Learning, passed both the House and Senate with unanimous votes and is expected to be signed in July. As Chris Dovi, a co-founder of the nonprofit CodeVA, an affiliate partner of Code.org, wrote in a blog post, "It's time to train a whole lot of teachers!"

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