Grant Enables School System to Expand Innovative Computer Science Program to High Schools
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JANUARY 7, 2010 – Thanks to an $80,000 grant from the state, the school system will be able to expand a valuable computer-science program for students.
This is the third year that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is receiving a grant from the state to support partnerships with local businesses to help schools develop computer science, coding and mobile app development programs for middle and high school students.
The first two grants of $28,000 and $80,000 were used to establish computer-science programs in WS/FC middle schools. The programs focused on schools where a high percentage of students are from economically disadvantaged homes, and special attention was given to ensure that the programs served girls and students from diverse backgrounds.
“The new grant is helping us move from the middle schools to the high schools,” said Shirley Bynum, the co-Executive Director for CTE (Career Technical Education) programs.
The school system will now offer two courses - Computer Science Principles 1 and 2 - through a program known as Computer Science Recast!
Bynum said she is “excited because of the opportunities it is going to afford students.”
While helping students develop their skills as critical thinkers, these computer-science courses are helping prepare students for jobs that are in demand in the community.
“We are meeting the labor market demand,” she said.
The classes for middle school students have been quite valuable.
“The coding program has not only brought excitement back to my job but it has also lit a fire in some of my students,” said Courtney Tucker, who teaches at Flat Rock Middle School.
“Many of my students are seeing how they can use the skills we are teaching them when they get out into the ‘real world’ and they are learning that they can actually create things instead of their previous belief that skills like website creation and app-development were out of their reach.”
“Even those that aren't necessarily interested in computer science are practicing problem solving daily by trying something and looking to see if it works, then trying again. These skills are invaluable.”
The money from the latest grant will be used in a number of ways.
Six high schools – Carver, East Forsyth, Walkertown, Reagan, Mount Tabor, West Forsyth – have been chosen to participate, and, this summer, 12 teachers from those high schools will participate in professional development programs organized by The Friday Institute at N.C. State University.
Throughout the 2020-21 school year, those teachers will also work with Forsyth Technical Community College.
Also this summer, business partner Goler Community Development Corp. will hold a one-week camp for 25 rising ninth-graders that will help prepare them for entering one of the high school program.
Bynum said she appreciates the support from the community in making all this possible.
“We have a lot of business partners we work with,” she said.
She said she also appreciated the support from others in the school system in developing the grant proposal. Those working on it included Marty Ward, the school system’s Chief Officer of Research and Evaluation, and Latandra Vance, the Grants Budget Specialist.
One of the bonuses that comes with the high school program, Bynum said, is that, for the first time, students taking the high-school course will be able to take an Advanced Placement exam associated with the course.
As it happens, Bynum will not be around next year to participate in this next step of Computer Science Recast! She is retiring as of March 1.
“This is my baby,” she said. “I was really torn about leaving this.”
After more than 42 years in education, though, the time has come to retire, she said.
The grant is one of 15 grants to school districts in North Carolina recently announced by State Superintendent Mark Johnson.
A total of $800,000 is being distributed under the Coding and Mobile App Development Grant Program launched in 2017 with funding from the General Assembly.
“This innovative program is providing North Carolina students the opportunity to learn computer science, coding and mobile app development to help them gain key skills in high demand in the 21st century economy,” Johnson said. “The focus is on empowering students to create and contribute – not just use and consume – in the digital economy and to actively engage as informed citizens in our complex, technology-driven world.”
The grants, which range from $7,300 to $80,000, support partnerships with local businesses to help schools develop computer science, coding and mobile app development programs for middle and high school students.
“We got the most we could get,” Bynum said.
Receiving grant awards are:
- Asheville-Buncombe-Madison Consortium: $80,000.00
• Beaufort County Schools: $79,117.96
• Caldwell County Schools: $46,040.00
• Carter G. Woodson School: $41,890.00
• Carteret County Schools: $60,875.00
• Cherokee County Schools: $42,938.00
• Cox Mill High School: $73,300.00
• Cumberland County Schools: $77,000.00
• Jones County Schools: $71,265.00
• Lenoir County Schools: $17,781.00
• Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies: $7,300.00
• Perquimans County Schools: $24,500.00
• Rowan-Salisbury Schools: $64,100.00
• Rutherford County Schools: $33,893.04
• Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools: $80,000.00
Some districts and schools are using funds to continue and expand programs started through previous years’ grant monies. Other districts and schools have begun implementing their programs this fall with these new funds.
In the first few rounds of coding and mobile app grants awarded, districts used the funds to provide professional development for teachers, develop and implement middle and high school courses in computer science and programming, and offer computer-oriented summer camp opportunities.