February 15, 2018
Contact: Carl Smith
The Mississippi Department of Education’s Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) pilot program is expected to benefit from a recent C Spire commitment to improving computer science teachers’ skills and professional development.
Officials with the Mississippi company and Microsoft Philanthropies’ Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program signed a letter of intent this week to fund a TEALS program manager for the state. A pilot program is also expected to launch in five schools later this year, and 2019 expansion efforts will help bring new schools and volunteers into the program.
C Spire hopes to expand the program across the state through grassroots fundraising efforts.
“With the shortage of qualified information technology professionals growing every day, we need to move decisively and quickly to equip teachers and inspire students to pursue computer science education and career paths that will help us meet the needs of our new digital economy,” said C Spire Chief Information Officer Carla Lewis. “Computer science concepts and programming skills are relevant in every academic discipline from math and science to music and the arts. Computational and critical thinking skills used in computer science make students more effective in whatever career they choose.”
The CS4MS pilot program, administered by Mississippi State University’s Research and Curriculum Unit, is in its third year. It aims to have a continuous K-12 computer science pipeline, in terms of curriculum standards and teacher development, by 2024. A three-year, $700,000 National Science Foundation grant will help the RCU and MSU College of Education provide professional development, training and licensure to computer science educators.
Approximately 52 of the state’s 148 school districts have participated in the initiative, which also helped train about 400 teachers and reached more than 15,000 students.
“We need to reach students at a young age and help them understand the benefits of computer science education and the opportunities for a varied career path in the information technology industry,” said Shelly Hollis, who is one of the RCU’s lead project managers for the CS4MS initiative.
Workers with a background in computer science are in high demand and short supply in Mississippi. Employers currently have more than 1,200 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers, Lewis said. The average salary for qualified IT workers is nearly $69,000 a year, almost double the statewide average.
Nationwide, new research estimates the current shortage of 607,708 IT workers will balloon to more than 1 million software developers in the U.S. by 2020.
“The inventor of the next big thing, the latest app or cutting-edge software may be sitting in a classroom waiting to be inspired and encouraged to become a leader in the digital economy,” Lewis said.
In December, Gov. Phil Bryant signed a proclamation declaring the month Computer Science Education Month in Mississippi and noted the ongoing CS4MS partnership between the MDE and RCU.