GO Virginia Grants $2.4 Million for Computer Science Pipeline Initiative

GO Virginia Grants $2.4 Million for Computer Science Pipeline Initiative in Loudoun County and Chesapeake Public Schools

ASHBURN and CHESAPEAKE, VA – Growth and Opportunity in Virginia (GO Virginia) has awarded a $2.4 million grant to the Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF) for the creation of the Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline program in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS).

The two-year project will focus on designing an educational model that integrates computer science and computational thinking skills across the curriculum in grades K-12, building a sustainable pipeline of graduates with a strong foundation in the competencies needed to fill Virginia computer-science jobs. The grant funds the grades 6-12 portion of this initiative.

During the 2018-19 school year, only 2 percent of CPS students and 15 percent of LCPS students, or a total of 900 students, were enrolled in advanced high school computer science courses. This initiative will see that all students are exposed to elements of computer science in each grade level, growing the supply of potential employees in those fields.

“This generous grant strengthens our ability to fulfill our mission of empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world. The challenges we face locally, nationally, and globally require graduates who can analyze and solve complex problems, with and without coding. This grant addresses that need by building on the work LCPS is already doing in computational thinking through project-based learning (PBL),” said LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams. “We are very appreciative of GO Virginia and the Loudoun Education Foundation for their support in this effort and look forward to sharing computer science and computational thinking resources with school divisions across the Commonwealth.”

CPS Superintendent Jared Cotton stated, “I am excited about the experiences this grant will provide for our students. As you are aware, there is a growing need for a well-developed workforce skilled in computer science and technological applications.  The Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline model would not only provide a direct benefit to our students, but to our city, its citizens, and our community as well.”

“The Loudoun Education Foundation is committed to educating students with skill sets that will prepare them for current and future jobs in our digital world,” said Scott Miller, LEF president and chairman. “In the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have a technology workforce crisis. The Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline initiative will help address this problem. Computer science education will prepare students to work in technology jobs like cybersecurity, computer services, and data analytics; not to mention the tech jobs of the future that these students will be creating as future industry leaders. The program creates a long-term systemic solution for today’s technology workforce crisis and develops a pipeline for our future industry leaders.”

Grant funds will be used to provide professional development for teachers, create a database of curriculum and procedures for the integration of computer science activities and  computational thinking into core subject areas and develop guidelines for building partnerships with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related companies to foster experiential learning opportunities. Computational thinking involves complex problem-solving, with and without coding.

“It can be challenging to find engaging activities and experiences for students that allow them to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for their future endeavors,” said CPS Chief Academic Officer Anita James.  “I am thrilled about the opportunities this grant will provide for students in Chesapeake using a best-practice model for the implementation of computer science and computational thinking skills for students of all ages.”

In both school divisions, students will participate in open-ended problem-solving activities such as designing, building, programming and testing robots to do a variety of tasks. In the lower grades, students will begin with “unplugged” activities and block-based coding and progress toward text-based languages such as Python and JavaScript.

At the high school level, students will engage in experiential learning opportunities with a real-world industry mentor during an internship.  Each school division will host at least three STEM internship fairs to support these placements.

The grant will support the hiring of a Supervisor of Computer Science and an Experiential Learning Specialist for LCPS.  CPS, a smaller school division, will hire a Computer Science Coordinator to fill both roles. Computer Science Facilitators will be hired in both school divisions to work directly with teaching staff on the integration of computer science standards.

The successful grant application was accompanied by letters of support from the Chesapeake Economic Development Authority, Loudoun County Economic Development and the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.  Technology firms including Google, ManTech, Telos and Unanet also endorsed the project, along with Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Phyllis Randall and Chesapeake Mayor Rick West.

The award was announced at a meeting in Richmond on Monday, December 9.

LCPS, Virginia’s third-largest school division, serves more than 83,000 students in 59 elementary schools, 17 middle and intermediate schools, 16 high schools and two educational centers. It employs more than 11,000 school-based staff and in 2018 opened the Academies of Loudoun to support advanced STEM education.

The Commonwealth’s seventh-largest school division, CPS serves more than 39,000 students with almost 5,700 teachers, administrators and support personnel. It has seven high schools, 10 middle schools, 28 elementary schools and two centers, along with other special facilities such as the Chesapeake Planetarium, a radio station (WFOS FM), and a TV station (CPS-TV).

The Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that engages businesses and community partners to fund critical and exceptional programs that foster the academic success and well-being of students and teachers in Loudoun County Public Schools. Founded in 1991, the LEF has given $9,198,000 to support Loudoun’s students and teachers.