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Building CS in South Carolina

This blog is like the blogs I have seen people writing in real time during conference presentations. I am writing this in the middle of our Advanced Placement Summer Institute for Computer Science. Our consultant, Richard de Paulo, is leading this institute for fifteen teachers, all but one from South Carolina. (He is at present talking about ArrayLists.) We haven't had a summer institute in the state for at least ten years, which may explain why our enrollments in AP computer science are not very high. Time to move things forward.

I have been working in the last few years to understand the decline in university enrollments in computer science, and I have come to the conclusion that to increase the number of university students we must improve what we do for computer science in the K-12 schools. Increasing the AP enrollments will not by any means be sufficient for declaring success in the world of computer science education, but it certainly seems to be necessary, and with fifteen more teachers in the classroom here in South Carolina, we can't help but see better times in the future.

(I have other irons in the fire, to be sure. But this is a blog, and thus is supposed to be timely and "current", and right now what is most current is watching de Paulo teach about teaching Java. I happen to have spent my last two years in teaching our first two semesters' courses, so this is very familiar material for me.)

Putting on this institute took some doing. Normally in South Carolina, the AP summer institutes are funded by the state. This year, there was no such money available, and at one point I decided we weren't going to be able to run the event. We were, however, able to get a new organization, the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management, to replace the state funding and keep costs low for teachers and school districts. Finding the approved consultant was not exactly easy. There is only one consultant for computer science in the entire southeast region. After that, it was mostly a matter of getting out enough propaganda to be able to get an enrollment large enough to justify the class. Even in a bad economic year, we got a class of 15 teachers (plus one who had a family emergency this past weekend and couldn't make it).

I am hoping for good results in the long term. Tom Rogers, from Southside High School in Greenville, joined the CSTA Leadership Cohort this summer as a teacher leader for South Carolina, participating in the Leadership workshop. Together with the other teachers I have been working with, Tom will now have a sizable base from which to build a larger statewide network.

We have a good mix of teachers here this week. There are a few ringers, people relatively new to teaching who have run IT businesses or done computing in past lifetimes. And there are a few who have taught applications courses, but not programming, in the past. We won't get a uniform distribution of results from this summer, but we will have started to rebuild the interest in AP CS.

Duncan Buell
CSTA Board of Directors

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