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This year for the first time, enrollment in computer science courses topped 10,000, the sixth straight year enrollment has increased, and today I’d like to talk about what’s happening and what’s down the road.
To be exact, the number of Arkansas high school students taking at least one computer science course is 10,450. That is an increase of six-and-a-half percent over the last school year and nearly 850 percent increase over the 1,100 students who were enrolled six years ago.
We showed improvement in other areas as well. For the first time in Arkansas, the percentage of African American students who are taking a computer science class exceeds the percentage of all African American students enrolled in Arkansas high schools. Also for the first time, the percentage of all minority students taking a high school computer science course exceeds the percentage of all minority students enrolled in our high schools.
In addition, we continue to show tremendous growth in the number of girls who are taking computer science. When we started this initiative, 223 girls were enrolled in a computer science class. This year, the Arkansas Department of Education reports that the number has jumped to 3,135. That is a 1,300 percent increase over 2014.
Many publications and tech organizations, such as Code.org, have recognized Arkansas as a leader in computer science education. But we can’t rest on our success, which is why I’m working with the Arkansas General Assembly to open up more opportunities for our young people. Last year, I created the Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force, and one of its recommendations is to require a computer science course to be taken for graduation. I am grateful to Senator Jane English for sponsoring this legislation and recognizing its importance. And, by the school year 2022-2023, every high school in the state must employ at least one teacher who is certified to teach computer science.
When we became the first state in the nation to require all high schools to teach computer science, our goal was to increase enrollment to 7,500 by the 2019-2020 school year. We surpassed that goal a year early. This year, even with COVID-19, we topped over 10,000. We have done that because educators and students embraced the initiative. We have enhanced our education system, strengthened our workforce, and we are continuing to set the pace.