Statewide coalition works to bring computer science to all Maine students

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Dozens of businesses and education organizations are coming together in the name of computer science.

The Computer Science for Maine Coalition wants to ensure computer science is a subject area offered to all Maine K-12 students. Founding organizations of the Computer Science for Maine Coalition include the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, Code.org, and Educate Maine. Additional coalition members currently include more than 40 business, non-profit, and higher education entities with more organizations joining each day.

In today's ever-increasing digital economy, computer science is a basic skill needed by all students for success in the future. In addition, computing occupations are a part of nearly every industry including healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology. According to Code.org, computing occupations are the number one source of all new wages in the U.S. and make up 58 percent of all projected new jobs in STEM fields. Maine currently has more than 1,000 open computing jobs with an average annual salary of over $79,000, significantly higher than Maine's average salary of $45,300. Salaries from these job openings total $85,377,720 each year.

Despite the high number of open computing jobs in Maine and that computing jobs are a part of nearly every industry, fewer than 30 percent of Maine's K-12 schools offer computer science education. Maine also does not count computer science courses toward high school graduation requirements. Only 23 Maine high schools offered an AP Computer Science course in the 2016-17 school year. In 2017, 246 Maine students took an AP Computer Science exam, fewer than any other STEM subject area. Maine also has low levels of participation in computer science education among traditionally under-represented students, such as females and minorities.

CS4Maine's five key objectives to ensure computer science is a subject area offered to all Maine K-12 students are:

1) Fund computer science professional development for Maine teachers.
2) Offer computer science in all Maine high schools by 2022.
3) Offer computer science learning opportunities in all grade levels by 2025.
4) Allow computer science courses to count toward high school graduation requirements in schools across Maine.
5) Determine and implement appropriate K-12 computer science standards.

Organizations interested in joining the growing CS4Maine coalition and individuals interested in volunteering are encouraged to sign up at www.CS4Maine.org.