LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is one of two school districts in the country selected to participate in a $2 million Computer Science for All grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant aims to recruit and retain top computer science teachers, and prepare minority students to pursue computer science careers.
Washington, D.C.-based foundation Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) Network selected JCPS for the grant because of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and diverse student population.
Under the grant, high school computer science teachers selected for the program will receive intensive professional development through Kentucky State University. The goal is to build a network of teachers with the training and credentials necessary to prepare students to pass rigorous computer science AP exams.
The premise is that minority students will be more inclined to try – and excel in – computer science classes if the teacher is highly qualified, and looks like them, according to Dr. John Marshall, JCPS chief equity officer.
“The strength of this opportunity is mammoth,” Marshall said. “This is the type of work that strengthens racial equity – all the while increasing the chances of having teachers that better reflect the population of students we serve in the district.”
While Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent only 7 percent of the computing workforce – and the majority of that 7 percent are “computer support specialists.”
Since the educational outcomes for underrepresented students in college often depend on the instruction they receive in high school, Marshall said, the time to cultivate their interest in a computer science profession and hone their skills is while they are at JCPS.
“To be connected with these researchers is a personal, professional and district highlight,” Marshall said. “These are real ‘heavy hitting’ researchers and real contributors to the field of cultural competence and racial equity.”
Broward County (Florida) Public Schools was also selected to take part in the grant program.