The Georgia Department of Education has provided $500,000 in grant funding to help middle schools implement computer coding programs. COURTESY OF COMPUTER SCIENCE FOR GEORGIA

State grants pay for middle school computer coding classes

Just about every list of U.S. metro areas that are high-tech centers lists Atlanta in the top 20, but Georgia leaders have visions of moving the entire state even further. They want students to be equipped to move into those kinds of jobs, with training beginning before high school.

The Georgia Department of Education has provided $500,000 in grant funding to help middle schools implement computer coding programs. This is part of a statewide effort to ensure students are career-ready in high-demand fields.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of cybersecurity jobs will increase by 26% by 2026 and computer software development jobs will increase by 24%, both well above the average 8% growth for most jobs.

The grants, awarded to 20 schools in 19 school districts, specifically target middle schools in rural, underserved, or high-poverty areas. The funding is intended to help middle schools with computer coding curriculum, computer science-related professional development and training, equipment purchases, and establishing courses leading to computer science certification.

In Gwinnett County, the state’s largest school district, this grant will give Jordan Middle School $25,000 to further coding classes that were begun last year for students as young as the sixth grade.

“We want these students to have a leg up and a creative advantage in their career choices,” said Clay Hunter, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

The grant, which was first offered in 2018, is part of CS4GA – an initiative focused on making Georgia a national leader in computer science by developing high-quality courses, resources and professional learning; increasing the number of educators with computer science endorsements; and expanding computer science throughout the K-12 curriculum.

By the time students enter high school, they should have an idea where they’d like their career to focus, said Hunter. This exposes them to more options.

“If they’ve never been exposed to robotics or drone teams or creating web-based games, they won’t know if they have the desire or the aptitude for that field.”

Gwinnett isn’t the only school district focused on expanding computer science options.

“Providing high-quality computer science opportunities is essential as we prepare Georgia’s students for their futures,” Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Computer science is now an essential academic discipline, one that provides foundational knowledge and skills that benefit every child. We will continue to work to expand computer science learning throughout the K-12 system.”

Others in state government echo that goal.

“Georgia is the Silicon Valley of the South,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “Our state is home to a world-class tech industry which could realistically become the Technology Capital of the entire East Coast. However, the growth of the tech sector – which will create more high-paying job opportunities for Georgians – is contingent upon our educating students to a 21st-century standard. This program, which allows students to get hands-on coding experience in middle school, will put our students on a pathway to success and allow our state’s booming tech industry to continue expanding.”

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