Ohio lawmakers are pondering the question “should computer science classes replace Algebra II?” The State Senate is currently considering a proposal that would allow high school students to swap a math or science class for a computer science class.

Many students like the idea, but teachers and administrators have concerns, and doubts about the overall effect of the change.

Students who are sophisticated in computer skills currently cannot take computer science classes in Ohio until they reach college. Some of them would like to be able to get a head start on computer science, and do not see the need for algebra II or additional science courses. “I think it’s a great idea to find what you want to do in high school, help you find a career choice,” said senior Cecil Fletcher. He is concerned about waiting until college to begin studying computer science, and finding that he does not like it.  He started on an engineering track in high school and found that it was not for him, and is concerned about having the same experience in college.

Chesapeake High School Algebra II teacher Cathy Cheek says it is not so simple.  She believes that computers are “the world we live in. Everything has a computer program behind it.”  However many fields require upper level math, beyond basic algebra. These include programming and computer science.

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“Offering computer science at the high school level is a great idea, but replacing a math class with it, I still think they need Algebra 2,” she said.

Cheek says that students need more exposure to programming, but they need it sooner than high school. As with a foreign language, kids tend to do bettert the earlier they start. And then there is the question of poorer schools falling behind without proper funding.

Her worries are shared by Principal Chris Smith.

Not one person who graduated from an Ohio college last year was prepared to teach computer science, according to Code.org.   “We have such a problem finding qualified teachers anywhere,” said Smith. He favors personalized learning, and putting motivated students on a career track, as the way fot the future.  “Start gearing more classes those kids toward their major and toward their future as opposed to everybody taking reading, writing and arithmetic,” Smith said.

Algebra II is required by most colleges, so the bill requires parental signature if their child does not take the class.

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