The computer science workforce today does not represent the diversity in schools. Hoping to shift that narrative, Moreno Valley USD developed a CS/Cyber Academic Pathway for their students.
Moreno Valley USD, a highly diverse district, knows that the computer science workforce today does not represent the diversity in their schools. Hoping to shift that narrative, they took initiative and developed an engaging and accessible CS/Cyber Academic Pathway for their students.
Through the strategies and practices they implemented, the district has seen a 43% increase in enrollment in Computer Science, STEAM and Computer Operations Systems (COS)/Cyber Security classes at Landmark Middle School in the last year.
The problem we face is serious, but simple to explain. The computer science workforce lacks diversity. One study shows that only 24% of the CS workforce today is female, 8% is Black, and 7% is LatinX. The question remains, how can we make positive changes and increase diversity in this industry?
Moreno Valley USD is leading by example, engaging their students in computer science, STEAM and Cyber learning at a young age.
Before implementing their computer science education plan district wide, they began by expanding computer science and cybersecurity into five middle schools to track the effectiveness of their strategy. One of these schools was Landmark Middle School.
Knowing that their student population was among one of the more diverse in the state of California, they knew there was potential not only to increase the confidence of their students in STEAM education, but also to improve future diversity in the CS and technology workforce.
Donna Woods, CTE Cyber Pathway Instructor at Moreno Valley USD, introduced many tools and partners to increase engagement and enrollment in their Computer Science, STEAM, and Cyber Security pathways. After researching many possible options, she chose to work with Skill Struck, the tech education partner for K-12 schools.
Taking a well rounded approach in order to make a difference in these young students lives, the middle school worked on the following initiatives:
First and foremost, Landmark Middle School needed to add Computer Science, STEAM and Cyber Security classes to their electives. That meant they needed to find a teacher willing to develop curriculum and own teaching the classes. The Landmark team brought on Becky Baez, whose prior focus had been English and History.
Because the CS curriculum was already written with teachers in mind, she was able to customize her lessons to what worked best for not only her teaching style, but more importantly what worked best for her students.
Landmark Middle School saw an increase in enrollment and engagement in these classes added, and decided to double down their efforts by increasing the amount of CS and Cyber security classes available from two to six. That meant they needed more teachers to support these classes.
Landmark Middle School decided to have two teachers dedicated to teaching their CS and Cyber classes to give students more available class times. Baez and Renee Bajor agreed to be those teachers.
“With Skill Struck’s pre-made curriculum, any teacher can teach computer science classes. They just have to be willing. It might be uncomfortable at first, but any teacher can do it,” Mrs. Baez said.
Skill Struck’s platform Voyage also includes an autograder, which allows for teachers to spend less time grading code by hand and spend more time helping their students individually.
"[The autograder is] really effective because going back to read and grade multiple lines of code can take an extensive amount of time. It is also helpful for the students to be able to auto-grade their own code because we want them to be self-guided learners," Donna Woods said.
The built in Educator Portal also allows teachers and administrators to track each of their students’ progress. This makes it so teachers can identify which of their students are excelling, struggling, and which students need an extra push. Teachers can then work with the students directly and address their needs, reteach lessons or review skills.
Because not all learners learn alike, Landmark Middle School has also made an effort to address education and learning on an individual basis.
Landmark implemented Skill Struck’s Voyage grades 6-12 platform to ensure that each student’s learning experience was accessible and engaging, no matter where they were on their computer science education journey.
Voyage’s pre-made video lessons and code editor allow students to learn the material at their own pace and practice coding on their own.
Every lesson includes an activity to drive home coding theories and concepts, as well as help students stay engaged and interested in computer science.
In addition to using Skill Struck’s platform, the Landmark Middle School team also made an effort to ensure that their lessons taught included interesting topics and cultural diversity to keep all of their students engaged. For example, a student will be given an assignment to create a website using a theme of their choice.
Being one of the more diverse schools in California, many of their students are also learning English as a second language. Historically in education, students who have been reclassified, or are held back due to English learning proficiency exam scores, are not allowed enrollment in higher academic courses such as STEAM or computer science classes.
Landmark instead decided to allow enrollment for reclassified students in their CS classes, allowing them to advance in applicable technology skills. By doing this, they are changing the trajectory of these reclassified students.
All of Skill Struck’s platforms are now available in Spanish and English to help advance technology skills for all ELL learners.
Now that the middle school had the teachers, tools and curriculum in place for their students, they knew their next big initiative needed to involve increasing overall student engagement and interest.
Landmark Middle School wanted to start working with the community, because they know that change starts at a student’s home. They wanted to find ways to involve the community in helping students follow a computer science pathway. They decided to do a Bilingual Community Coding Workshop.
The majority of students’ parents at Landmark didn’t understand coding, computer science, or the opportunities that are available in tech. In an effort to excite parents about their childrens’ CS growth, Landmark hosted “A Knight of Coding.” The goal was to show parents what coding is, and explain why it’s an excellent career path to follow.
Leaning on their new partner, Skill Struck, they coordinated a bilingual code night to accommodate both Spanish and English speakers. Skill Struck provided engaging instruction and a hands-on coding
environment so both students and parents who attended the event could walk away with a functioning website.
Baez—Landmark Middle School’s lead computer science teacher—assigned her students the task of creating videos to explain why learning to code is important. In that assignment, Julian, age 12, shared why he loves to code and that he wants a career in coding because you can make “big time money.”
These videos were widely shared in the school and community. Baez wanted every parent, student, and educator to understand the impact that increased access to CS education had.
The first bilingual community coding workshop was a success, and the school plans to continue doing them in effort to keep the community involved in their students’ CS education.
Landmark Middle School has made a lot of thoughtful additions and changes to introduce CS, STEAM and Cyber security pathways into their school. Skill Struck is just one of the many initiatives they have implemented to serve their students and teachers.
In a one year span, Moreno Valley USD has seen a significant increase in enrollment and engagement in her classes.
Moreno Valley USD is aware of the success that Landmark Middle School and other middle schools in their district have seen.
Moreno Valley USD’s Academic Pathway team is currently working on a structured curriculum plan that includes Skill Struck. Once this has been developed, it can easily be implemented into more school sites.
The district as a whole is very focused on implementing and optimizing computer science and technology focused classes. As a nationally recognized STEAM district, they are making waves and plan to share their CTE programs and strategies with other districts once they have expanded district wide.
The implementation and partnership with Skill Struck was just a piece of Landmark Middle School’s plan. But, through the partnership, they have felt supported and plan to continue with Skill Struck in the future.
See what Luz, another Landmark Middle School student, has to say about her experience learning to code with Skill Struck:
See what Mrs. Baez has to say about their partnership with the Skill Struck team:
"We truly value our partnership with Skill Struck in our Computer Science and Cyber Academic Pathway courses.
There is exemplary service, quality, and professionalism in working with the entire Skill Struck team.
All of the content is fun and engaging for our students! Regarding the support and partnership, they are always on top of everything."
Moreno Valley USD is a prime example of the impact that dedicated computer science instruction can have on students. Incorporating coding classes can seem daunting, but with specific goals and support from computer science education experts, schools can not only succeed, but excel in providing quality CS education and supporting all students.
*Data sourced from Becky Baez's 2020 NICEK12 presentation.