116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Computer science is becoming a bigger priority than ever in our schools. Fortunately, the state of Iowa is stepping in to help fund it.
A state law passed in 2020 requires all Iowa high schools to offer computer science instruction beginning July of next year. All grade schools and middle schools must follow suit by July 2023.
It’s a tall order, but $3.7 million in grant funding has been made available to help train teachers as they put that curriculum in place.
I strongly encourage districts to apply for this funding as soon as they have identified their needs and which programs support them.
The $3.7 million isn’t coming from taxpayers. Instead, it comes from the 2007 settlement of a class-action antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp.
In addition to the $3.7 million, up to $300,000 more will be spent to help districts and non-public schools develop local K-12 computer science plans, as required by the 2020 state law.
For us at NewBoCo, this is incredible news. As the designated provider of Code.org professional learning programs in Iowa, our team’s primary goal is to bring computer science into as many classrooms as we can.
NewBoCo has worked with more than 1,000 educators across the state since 2016 as a result.
Our Code.org was among the training programs that Iowa selected for its $3.7 million funding. As a result, we’re now standing by to help any district who applies.
It is the simplest application I've ever seen from the state.
Applicants just have to log in to iowagrants.gov and answer a few yes or no questions, as well as tell how the school is going to sustain the curriculum once the grant is fulfilled. For all our programs, this is simple — there are no ongoing costs.
School districts and accredited non-public schools can apply to receive grants in each of the grade bands (K-5, 6-8 and 9-12), up to a total of $30,000.
That’s a fantastic investment in a school’s faculty and students — and thanks to those grants, it won’t cost them a thing.
Applications are being accepted from now or until the funding runs out on August of 2022, whichever comes first.
It’s easy to explain why computer science has become such a priority in our schools. The role of computers continues to grow in the business community each year, meaning that understanding them is vital for our future workforce.
Yet even if students are not interested in becoming software developers, they still benefit from the problem-solving skills that are practiced in computer science classes. Odds are, those skills can be applied to a number of situations in a student’s life.
That said, this new push for computer science is a lot to ask of Iowa’s school districts. Many of them are already at capacity of what they can manage.
Trying to get buy-in from teachers to participate in additional professional development is challenging.
Often the biggest concern educators have ism, “Do I have to have a background in computer science or coding to do this successfully?” The answer is a resounding no.
Most of the educators we have worked with do not have a computer science background.
We've worked with math and science teachers, but also English teachers, French teachers, Spanish teachers, PE teachers, family and consumer science teachers, business teachers and more.
They just have to be willing to learn, engage with the program, and ask questions. The curriculum is set up to support both teachers and students with no previous experience.
Also, our training gathers teachers together in a cohort, so that they are working with colleagues who are in the exact same situation.
So they can vent, cheer each other on and ask questions of one another.
I encourage parents to reach out to administrators in your school district, and ask what their plan is to meet the new state requirements.
If the district already has a plan, great! But if they’re still figuring out what they are going to do, let them know that this funding is available.
I am happy to answer any questions that parents or educators have about how to apply, and what to expect, as well as connect them to other resources such as our Area Education Agency partners in their region.
It’s a tall mountain we are all climbing. But we can get there together.
Samantha Dahlby is the director of K-12 education at NewBoCo in Cedar Rapids; firstname.lastname@example.org.