ALLENDALE — Grand Valley State University will lead coordination of K-12 computer science education in the state under an agreement reached with a key curriculum provider.
The partnership with Code.org, a nonprofit computer science organization that provides K-12 curriculum and training resources, will allow Grand Valley experts to coordinate annual professional development for up to 1,000 teachers in that discipline, said Kris Pachla, director of the Regional Math and Science Center. Code.org curriculum is prominently used in Michigan schools.
Grand Valley will partner with West Shore Educational Service District, which originally developed the statewide program in 2016, during the transition period until becoming the sole partner with Code.org in May, Pachla said. Grand Valley’s greater capacity and history of running large-scale professional development led to West Shore’s decision to pass the mantle, he said, allowing the Code.org program to develop to the next level.
The new role for Grand Valley continues an effort to help carry out the mission of the MiSTEM Network, the state initiative to strengthen STEM education. This past summer, Grand Valley collaborated with the MiSTEM Network on a conference that trained nearly 200 middle school and high school teachers on computer science and coding. In total, more than 900 educators have gone through the professional development since 2017.
According to Code.org data, 60 percent of K-12 districts in the state do not have a computer science curriculum. Pachla said outreach and growth are crucial to prepare students for digital literacy needs.
“This partnership showcases the expertise that Grand Valley has in computer science education and really showcases the dedication that our K-12 partners across the state have the access and tools our students need for 21st century learning,” Pachla said.
Pachla noted that Code.org is focused on providing access to computer science education for underserved populations demographically and geographically; for instance, a teacher on Beaver Island has received training.
The MiSTEM network is an integral partner in this work, Pachla said. In addition to his role at the Regional Math and Science Center, Pachla is a regional director for the network. Larry Wyn, who is based with the Regional Math and Science Center and is the statewide program manager for the Code.org work, also works as a MiSTEM program manager.