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Indiana named a leader in computer science education. State officials look to increase enrollment

By Kirsten Adair, IPB News | Published on in Education, Technology
Indiana ranks sixth in the nation among high schools that offer computer science, according to a new report. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

A new report identified Indiana as a leading state for K-12 computer science education. The 2023 State of Computer Science Report ranks Indiana sixth in the nation among high schools that offer computer science, but state officials want to rank higher.

Dana Calfee, a STEM and computer science specialist at the Indiana Department of Education, said the state has increased computer science courses considerably over the past five to six years.

“No matter what lens you look through, computer science is always there as a foundational component that ties things together,” she said.

According to the report, 91 percent of high schools in the state now offer foundational computer science. It also shows Indiana adopted nine new policies related to computer science in 2023 and has expanded courses to many small and rural schools.

Indiana also scores higher than the national average at enrolling students from diverse races and ethnicities in computer science courses.

Calfree referred to computer science as the technology piece of STEM, the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

She said the state encourages professional development for teachers and promotes programs that help students integrate skills like computer science into their educations and lives.

One of those programs is the Indiana STEM Cadre. The Indiana STEM Cadre provides coaches and training in fourth to eighth grade classrooms.

“Part of the focus on that coaching model is to really look at the foundational practices across math, science, technology and computer science and determine intersections of practice that really, really get kids engaged with STEM learning,” Calfree said.

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Another area of focus includes certifying teachers in computer science and other STEM topics. Calfree said I-STEM, a program that incentivizes teachers become STEM certified, has enrolled more than 800 educators since it launched in June.

Indiana schools currently choose how to implement computer science from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is normally integrated into other subjects or offered as a class of its own.

Calfree said schools are increasing enrollment in standalone computer science courses because it has become more of a priority.

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said the state should be “pleased but not satisfied” with its progress. Even though computer science courses are widely available throughout the state, she said enrollment is not high enough. She also said strong computer science skills will be critical in the job market in coming years.

“We have to really strategically continue to train our teachers as quickly as possible in this space as well as make sure our children are not just getting access, but they’re actually seeing this as a major part of their learning,” she said.

Jenner said that discussion will likely come up in this year’s legislative session.

Kirsten is our education reporter. Contact her at kadair@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @kirsten_adair.