Texas SBOE Requires Schools to Offer Two Computer Science Courses

Update on 7/26/2015: Since the blog post was written, TEA has updated the Education Code to reflect this change. You can find it:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter074/ch074a.html
 
It’s found under: 74.3 (b) I

Update on 4/17/14: Changed the title to reflect that high schools are required two computer science courses, not just a district. Students in a high school are to be given the opportunity to take two computer science courses. Also, the word “districts” was changed to “schools” in the first and last paragraph.

ORIGINAL BLOG POST: On Friday, April 11th, the Texas State Board of Education made some changes to the education code in the chapter that tells schools what courses they are required to offer.

The minutes for this meeting won’t be published until the SBOE approves them in July. However, below are the changes they approved for the courses that are required in Technology Applications.

TEA has not updated the website to reflect the changes, but the change was made in  Chapter 74. Curriculum Requirements, Subchapter A. Required Curriculum74.3, (b) (2) (I) as follows:

(I) technology applications– Computer Science I and Computer Science II or AP Computer Science, and at least two [fourcourses selected from [Computer Science I, Computer Science II,] Computer Science III, Digital Art and Animation, Digital Communications in the 21st Century, Digital Design and Media Production, Digital Forensics, Digital Video and Audio Design, Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science, Fundamentals of Computer Science, Game Programming and Design, Independent Study in Evolving/Emerging Technologies, Independent Study in Technology Applications, Mobile Application Development, Robotics Programming and Design, 3-D Modeling and Animation, Web Communications, Web Design, and Web Game Development; and

This is the portion of education code where it lists what schools are required to offer. This change requires schools to offer Computer Science I and Computer Science II OR AP Computer Science, and then choose two other Technology Application courses from the list, for a total of four courses.

 

 

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Educators Speak Out On Computer Science Policy

The recent actions by the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education has stimulated discussions among the Texas education community on how best to provide more opportunities for Texas students to take computer science and other technology related courses. In order to better understand the beliefs and attitudes on these issues, TCEA conducted a survey. The results of the survey were recently shared with the State Board of Education to assist in making sound policy regarding computer science and other technology courses. 

The survey dealt with several issues. The first was the new graduation requirement option of substituting two credits in computer programming languages for two foreign language credits. This option was included in HB 5 so the SBOE must make rules providing this option for students. Below is the legal citation from HB 5.

(b-12) In adopting rules under Subsection (b-1), the State Board of Education shall adopt criteria to allow a student to comply with the curriculum requirements for the two credits in a language other than English required under Subsection (b-1)(5) by substituting two credits in computer programming languages.

In January the board designated Computer Science I, II, and III as courses that could satisfy this new option. Two/thirds of the respondents agreed with this decision. In addition, 75% felt that AP Computer Science should also count for this option.  73% believe that Advanced Computer Programming (CTE) should also count and 69% want Computer Programming (CTE) to count.  It is not known when the board will take this issue up again. It is likely they will keep the three courses they previously designated as eligible, but add more to the list.

The second issue deals with the courses districts are required to offer from the technology applications area. Currently a district is required to offer four technology applications courses. It is up to the district to determine which courses they will offer. At the January SBOE meeting, the state board voted to require school districts to offer Computer Science I and Computer Science II and then let each district choose two additional technology applications courses for a total of four. This passed on first reading, but requires a second vote. The second vote is to be taken on April 11th.

Of those who responded to the survey, 69% believed that school districts should be required to offer CS I and CS II, however, 71% believe that school districts should be able to choose two courses from the computer science courses listed in the STEM endorsement. The SBOE voted on Wednesday, April 9th, to require districts to offer Computer Science I and Computer Science II OR AP Computer Science. In addition to these two courses, districts would be required to offer two more technology applications courses, however they could choose which ones to offer. 

Finally, the question that had the highest support was the question on whether the technology applications courses should be placed within the CTE course offerings. 75% of the respondents indicated they would support such a move.

You can find the results of the survey here.

 

 

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TEA Releases Information on 2014-2015 IMA

The individual school district amounts for the 2014-2015 Instructional Materials Allotment  have been released by the IMA_TCEATexas Education Agency. Texas schools won’t be able to access these funds until September 1, 2014. This makes purchasing textbooks for the new school year a little tricky. Districts usually start purchasing instructional materials in the spring or early summer so they will have them inventoried and distributed for the first day of school, which is in August. There isn’t enough money in a district’s 2013-2014 IMA to purchase the new math, science, and technology applications instructional materials. Districts will need to use some of the 2014-2015 IMA to purchase everything they need.

The 83rd Texas Legislature knew this would be a problem so they provided a workaround in HB 5. Districts have two options. In a TEA communication dated December 16, 2013, districts were told they could purchase the instructional materials they need and receive a reimbursement from their IMA after September 1, 2014. The second option is called the Delayed Option. This is the solution that was inserted into HB 5. The Delayed Option will allow a district to purchase their materials, receive them now, but pay for them after September 1. Publishers that are willing to accept payment in September are identified in the EMAT system.

TEA has indicated that the EMAT system will open on April 21, 2014. TEA has posted information regarding the instructional materials selection and purchase process on this site.  If you have any questions about the process TEA suggests that you email them at this address instructional.materials@tea.state.tx.us or contact them by phone at (512) 463-9601.

If you are interested in the IMA expenditures for 2013-2014, TCEA publishes a chart that is updated at least once a month. The data from this chart comes from reports that are published on TEA’s site.

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Calculators or Mobile Devices: Which are more secure?

With permission by a CC license from Konstantin Lazorkin

With permission by a CC license from Konstantin Lazorkin

On February 10, TEA issued a Letter Addressed to the Superintendent that stipulated that:

Districts will be required to have a sufficient supply of calculators available so that each student has access to a calculator, not only on the day of testing but also for routine class work. This policy is aligned with and supports the TEKS by ensuring that all students in grade 8 mathematics classes have access to calculators. This new calculator requirement is the same as the STAAR Algebra I calculator requirement.

This has caused a flurry of formal and informal communications regarding this requirement among district administrators and other interested personnel. Districts who already have or are thinking of providing mobile devices for students, are balking at the requirement to purchase a calculator when they already have the same functionality on the devices that their students possess.  TEA is concerned about ensuring that the devices can we secured so that students can’t access the Internet or take photos of the test to share with other students.

These concerns are valid, however, the technology companies have been addressing them, knowing that online testing is quickly becoming the norm. Since most of the states have adopted the Common Core standards and have decided to assess their students online, the technology companies have created a secure testing mode in which students are only able to access applications that are necessary for the test. Most of the Common Core states have joined one of two consortiums for test creation and implementation; PARCC and Smarter Balanced. The Smarter Balanced testing security guidelines are clearly articulated on their website. PARCC guidelines are outlined on page 5 and 6 of this technology readiness pdf. In addition, Google has provided instructions on how to secure Chromebooks at their website.

Interestingly, Kevin Hogan, the Editorial Director for Tech & Learning, suggested that maybe the policy makers who are concerned about the security vulnerability of mobile devices, should Google “TI-84” and “cheat.” If they did, they’d have a lot more to worry about.

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Chairman Wheeler Gives Glimpse of E-Rate 2.0

digital-learning-day-fcc-highlightTom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gave an address on Digital Learning Day, February 5, 2014 that was related to the FCC’s ongoing process to modernize the E-Rate program. In the fall, the FCC requested suggestions and comments on how the program could be improved. They received over 1400 responses. It appears that the commissioners are poised to release their plan that hopefully will help meet President Obama’s goal of connecting 99 percent of all students to high-speed broadband capacity in five years.

Chairman Wheeler mentioned three principles that should guide the FCC’s efforts. The first is to focus their priorities on providing high-speed connectivity to every school and library. One way of doing this is to restructure the program so that the funding is primarily going to increase high capacity connections and reduce the funding for legacy services, such as voice. He stated that only half of the program’s funds are spent on broadband connectivity and that well less than half go to pay for the type of bandwidth that the president is desiring. When the rules are released, look for changes that focus funding on high-speed bandwidth.

The second guiding principle will be updating how they manage the E-Rate system to make it easier and more productive for schools and libraries. As anyone who has ever filed for E-Rate funding knows, it is a complicated and cumbersome process. Not just during the application for funds, but through the entire process. The chairman has indicated that they are evaluating their processes and will recommend changes and improvements. Look for the FCC to transition to an all online process in the near future.

Last, but certainly not least, he acknowledged that the FCC must ensure that there are sufficient resources to meet the modernization goals. E-Rate is 18 years old. In all those years, I can think of only one year when there was enough money to fund almost all of the Priority 2 (internal connections) requests. In fact, it is reported that there will be little to no funds available for Priority 2 requests in the funding year 2014. To help with this, they are changing the process to ensure the applications that affect the most students, will be reviewed first. This means larger districts and large consortium’s applications will be reviewed ahead of smaller districts. This is a clear sign they want to encourage districts to work with one another to hopefully get better prices because of bulk purchasing. It is reported that this change will affect the funding year 2014. However, the chairman made it clear that they intend to fund all Priority 1 services in 2014.

The FCC has also conducted a review of the funds that are available but not currently committed, and believe they have identified $2 billion that can be added to the funding year 2015. This would be a one-time infusion of funds. These are dollars that are traditionally reserved for appeals and for funding requests that haven’t been claimed by districts. In order to ensure that some of these funds are used for internal connections, there is belief that the FCC may set aside a specific amount for internal connection requests.

In addition to these suggested changes mentioned by Chairman Wheeler, there is “talk” that the FCC may include in their new rules a “1 in 5″ rule instead of the existing “2 in 5″ rule. This rule would result in a district only being able to receive funding for Priority 2 (internal connections) once every 5 years. A concern of the education community is that there is little evidence that the “2 of 5″ rule has freed up money for internal connections for the districts that traditionally are below the 80% discount rate. Thus, there is concern that lowering it to once every five years will not have the impact that the chairman is purporting. In addition, there is still talk about changing the entire model to a per pupil funding model instead of the current model of providing discount percentages based on the poverty level of the district’s students and whether the districts are urban or rural.

What was missing in the Chairman’s comments was a commitment to raise the cap of the E-rate fund. He did imply that this was still under consideration, but first wants USAC to make some program changes to ensure it is being run as efficiently as possible before determining if it is necessary to increase funding. During the comment period in the fall, the education community spoke loud and clear that rule changes alone, without an increase in funding, would not result in achieving the president’s lofty goal of providing every student a fast connection to the Internet.

It has been rumored that the FCC will release a Public Notice next week seeking comment on a targeted set of issues. Once they release the proposed new rules, it will be necessary that the education community provide input to ensure that this very important resource is used efficiently and successfully. The president’s goal of ensuring that all schools have high-speed, affordable bandwidth is absolutely necessary in providing an engaging, relevant education for today’s students.

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Computer Science Course Options for the STEM Endorsement

The Texas State Board of Education finalized the rules that will be used to implement TEA Logomuch of HB 5. HB 5 eliminated the Minimum High School Graduation Plan and replaced it with the Foundation Graduation Plan. A student may also opt to earn one of five endorsements that were created by HB 5. The bill gave the state board of education with the responsibility for establishing the rules for each of the endorsements.  On February 12, 2014, TEA released a document that outlines the rules.

There has been a great deal of interest in what courses can be used to create a pathway for a STEM endorsement focusing on computer science. Below is what we know at this point in time.

A student may earn a STEM endorsement by completing the foundation and general endorsement requirements which include Algebra II, chemistry, and physics and choose from one of the following: 

 (A) A coherent sequence of courses for four or more credits in CTE (courses from chapters 130 and 127). This would include Computer Programming and Advanced Computer Programing. These courses must consist of at least two courses in the same career cluster including at least one advanced CTE course. The final course must be selected from the STEM career cluster.

 (B) A coherent sequence of four credits in computer science selected from the following courses:

  • Fundamentals of Computer Science
  • Computer Science I
  • Computer Science II
  • Computer Science III
  • AP Computer Science
  • IB Computer Science, Standard Level
  • IB Computer Science, Higher Level
  • Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Digital Forensics
  • Game Programming and Design
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Robotics Programming and Design
  • Independent Studies of Technology Applications

(C) A total of five credits in mathematics by successfully completing Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II and two additional mathematics courses for which Algebra II is a prerequisite

 (D) A total of five credits in science by successfully completing biology, chemistry, physics, and two additional science courses.

 (E) A coherent sequence of three additional credits from no more than two of the areas listed in (A), (B), (C), and (D).

If a district chooses to create a pathway that would include a combination of computer science and computer programming courses in the CTE and Technology Applications curriculum strands, they may do so by using the options in letter (E). 

This will provide districts with the flexibility to offer courses that best meet their needs as well as their students. The employment statistics certainly indicate that individuals with these skills will have multiple options for high-paying jobs when they graduate from high school and college.

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FCC Seeking Comments on Modernizing E-Rate

On July 23rd, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on the E-Rate program with the purpose to:

  • Ensure that schools and libraries have affordable access to 21st century broadband that supports digital learning
  • Maximize the cost effectiveness of E-Rate funds
  • Streamline the administration of E-Rate funds.

In the NPRM, the FCC has posted 616 questions covering 350 topics. The FCC is seeking comments from the public over a broad range of issues that have the potential to fundamentally change the E-Rate program. The NPRM is structured by numbering the paragraphs, which are grouped by topics. Each topic is explained in the first paragraph and then followed by a series of questions which are designed to elicit comments that potentially will become recommendations the FCC will use to rewrite the rules for the E-Rate program.

To help facilitate the process, below are some suggested topics for which you might want to provide comments to the FCC. The questions that are listed are just a sample of the questions that are found in the NPRM paragraphs. They are to help you decide if it is an area you want to explore further and possibly provide comments to the FCC.

Funding

1.  Permanent increase in E-Rate funding – paragraph 172 (page 47)

Seeking comments on different approaches to refocusing or re-prioritizing funds, or adjusting the support levels for certain services, as well as other proposals that will reduce costs while better targeting support to help schools and libraries obtain the connectivity they need.

Goals and Measurements

1.  SETDA’s broadband recommendations – paragraphs 22-26 (page 10-11)

Seeking comments on adopting the SETDA target that schools have 100 Mpbs per 1,000 users, increasing to 1 Gbps per 1,000 users. Is this appropriate for all schools? How much capacity do schools currently use? How are schools’ bandwidth needs changing, particularly in those schools that have one-to-one device initiatives? Is this realistic in remote parts of the state?

2. Wireless bandwidth targets – paragraph 27 (page 12)

Seeking comments on adopting specific bandwidth targets for wireless connectivity within schools. Should all schools have internal wireless networks capable of supporting one-to-one devices? What should these standards be?

3. Should each school/district develop its own goals instead of program goals?

4. How to monitor or measure goal achievement – paragraph 31 (page 13)

Should E-Rate applicants be required to provide specific information about the bandwidth or speed for which they seek funding? Should that information be publicly available?

5. Place equipment in schools to measure performance – paragraph 34 (page 13)

Should schools be required to measure their network performance and if so, should E-Rate funds be made available for this equipment and should this information be made public?

Equitable Access

1. Modify the discount matrix – Paragraph 60 (page 19) and paragraphs 117-124 (pages 34-36)

Should the minimum percentage of matching funds be increased? For instance, should all participants be required to pay at least 20%? By increasing the minimum (Healthcare Connect funds are set at a 35% minimum), would this give participants an incentive to control the costs of the services? If the minimum is adjusted, how long should the phase-in period be? Also, what should be the maximum and minimum limit be?

2. Eligibility list paragraphs 65-66 (page 22)

The FCC is seeking comments on possible updates to the list of services eligible for support. They specifically seek comments on how they should approach voice services.

3. High capacity equipment – paragraph 84 (page 26)

Should the FCC focus funding on newer, high-capacity wireless routers which are needed to allow multiple simultaneous high-capacity connections in a classroom environment? Are there other equipment or services that are necessary for high-capacity broadband connections that should qualify for prioritized support?

4. Budget limits (per pupil, per building) paragraphs 135-140 (pages 39-41)

Should the FCC impose a per-student or per-building budget limit? If so, what should the limit be? Should there be exceptions for locations that are expensive to serve?

5. Should funding be prioritized for those who are farther from meeting the capacity goals?

6. Collapsing Priority 1 and 2 – paragraph 146 -147 (page 42)

Should there be a fundamental shift in the way the FCC prioritizes E-Rate support by eliminating the distinction between Priority 1 and Priority 2 services? If so, how would the FCC prioritize among funding requests to the extent they exceeded the funding cap? Are there other changes they could make to the prioritization of services?

Service Eliminations – Paragraphs 90-102 (pages 27-31)

Since the FCC is focusing on high-capacity broadband connectivity, they are seeking comments on how to modify the rules to accomplish this goal. They are first proposing to phase out support for a number of servcies (related to voice and non-educational use). They are wanting recommendations on how to phase this change into the process. Some of the services they are proposing to eliminate are paging, directory assistance, and also services that are simply components of voice-service such as custom calling features, inside wiring maintenance plans, call blocking, 800 number services, and text messaging. They are also considering eliminating email services, web hosting, and basic maintenance of internal connections.

Fiber Deployment:

1.  Funding for dark fiber – paragraphs 71-74 (pages 22-23)

Should the treatment of lit and dark fiber be more consistent? If so, should the FCC allow Priority 1 funding for modulating electronics that is necessary to light leased dark fiber? Should they provide Priority 1 support for special construction charges for leased dark fiber, as they do for leased lit fiber? Should they allow construction costs to be spread over multiple years? If so, what is the right number of years?

2. Building and owning the fiber – paragraphs 79-80 (page 25)

Are there circumstances under which it will be more cost effective for schools and libraries to build or purchase their own WAN rather than to lease a WAN? If so, they want to know if they should remove section 54.518 of their rules or should they amend that section to allow schools and libraries to purchase their own WANs under certain circumstances.

Miscellaneous

Streamline Applications – paragraph 224+

Should all applications be submitted online and all USAC notifications be provided electronically? If a school couldn’t submit an application online, should the USAC charge the school a small fee?

Competitive bidding – paragraph 202

Does the current competitive bidding process typically result in multiple competitive bids? Does this process address the needs of schools and libraries? What if only one service provider submits a bid? How can they ensure that prices for services are reasonable and do not waste scarce Universal Service funds?

Transparency – paragraph 191+

Should the USAC create a website where any American could easily look up the details of how any participant in the E-Rate program used its funds in any given year? How would this information be organized? Would this website provide useful information to parents? Would it create an incentive for districts to spend the funds wisely? They also are seeking comments on how best to increase the transparency of prices for E-Rate-supported services. Should they consider making bid responses public or at least accessible to other E-Rate applicants? Or, should they require schools and libraries to disclose the actual cost of a particular service (thus not disclosing every bid response)?

Planning for broadband implementation and Use – paragraph 217

Should schools and libraries seeking support for high-capacity broadband undergo a formal review and assessment of their broadband needs — both to the premises and within the premises? Should the FCC condition receipt of E-Rate funds on certain criteria for the broadband assessments, and if so, what should those criteria be? For example, should they require schools to plan for providing a device to every student or for a device to a small group of students? What about professional development? Who is in the best position to evaluate and, if necessary, approve these assessments and help schools close any gaps?

Wireless community hotspots – paragraphs 319+

Should schools be permitted to provide wireless hotspots to surrounding communities using E-Rate-supported services? Should they permit students and the general public to receive E-Rate-funded Internet access off-site through wireless hotspots?

CIPA – paragraph 271

What are the measures that schools and libraries are taking to comply with CIPA when they allow third-party devices to connect to their E-Rate-supported networks? What steps are schools and libraries taking to ensure that they are not violating CIPA when they provide portable, Internet-enabled devices that can be used off campus? They are specifically seeking comments on what devices are covered by CIPA.

Increasing consortium purchasing – paragraphs 179+

Should the FCC increase incentives or mechanisms for consortium purchasing? They want to know if the rules prevent or discourage participation by applicants who might otherwise join a consortium. How can they remove such barriers? Are there certain types of services that lend themselves better to consortium purchasing?

Remember:

This is just a sampling of the topics and the questions that the FCC is exploring. For a more thorough review, read the Notice for RuleMaking document.

Procedures to Submit Comments

The comments are due to the FCC by September 16, 2013. After the comments are submitted, the public will have a chance to review the comments and then have until October 16, 2013 to submit replies to the submitted comments.

All filing related to this NPRM shall refer to WC Docket No. 13-184. Comments may be e-filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) or by filing paper copies.

  • Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the ECFS.
  • Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each filing.
  • Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
  • All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TWA325, Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be disposed of before entering the building.
  • Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
  • U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.
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