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Grants in the Garden State: New Jersey’s CS State Plan Sets Aside $2 Million

With Governor Phil Murphy’s recent announcement of the Computer Science State Plan, New Jersey became the thirteenth state to outline a concrete plan for computer science education implementation. Developed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) with guidance from the Computer Science Advisory Board, the plan’s goal is to provide equitable access to high-quality, standards-based computer science education for all New Jersey K–12 students. 

In support of Computer Science for All, a 2018 initiative that preceded the new plan, the state allocated $2 million in 2019 to increase the number of statewide public high schools that offer advanced CS courses. Now, Governor Murphy announced an additional $2 million that will be allocated in 2020 to create professional development opportunities and model curricula for teachers. 

Below, we’ll look at the mission and vision of the Garden State’s new grants, then break down how they’ll be allocated. 

Foundational Skills for the Future of Work

When it comes to the challenges of preparing students with 21st century skills, New Jersey is a microcosm of the larger United States. According to Code.org, there are an estimated 481,427

open jobs in computing nationwide, yet only about 62,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year. Looking at New Jersey alone the gap is even wider, with 15,237 open computing jobs in the state and only 1,642 computer science students graduating in 2017. 

Across the US, issues of equity and inclusion abound in both computer science education and representation in the tech workforce and leadership roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 only 27.2% of those with computing jobs were women, 7% were black or African American, and 6.6% were Hispanic. In New Jersey, this problem can be traced back to secondary education, where College Board statistics show that 25% of 2017-2018 AP Computer Science A exam takers were female, 3% were black, and 9% were Hispanic. Meanwhile, the average salary for computing jobs is over $50,000 higher than the average. 

The Computer Science State Plan’s mission recognizes that coding and computer science are foundational for all students, regardless of their future career. “Expanding and improving computer science programs in our public schools will help provide our students with the critical thinking skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy,” said Governor Murphy. “Computers and technology are integral to our society and workforce, and students must be given the opportunity to learn and master these foundational skills.” 

Three Grant Categories

According to THE Journal writer Sara Friedman, the $2 million grant funds for fiscal year 2020 will be available in three categories:

  1. Professional Learning Computer Science Grants: Three higher education institutions in each region of the state will receive up to $265,000 to partner with school districts with at least one Title I school to create a network of computer science hubs that can provide educators with high-quality CS training. The CS hubs will offer in-person, digital, or blended professional development opportunities for teachers. 
  2. Developing Curricula to Support CTE Pathways: One higher education institution will receive up to $205,000 to create model curricula for programming and networking and cybersecurity. These programs of study will help secondary school districts and postsecondary career and technical education programs in the implementation of the Information Technology Career Cluster
  3. High School Courses: In an expansion of one of New Jersey’s 2019 grants, 15 or more awards of up to $66,500 each will be awarded to high schools to develop or adopt standards-aligned computer science curricula and expand access to CS to a larger and more diverse pool of students. 

New Jersey’s plan reflects a growing awareness at the state level that computer science is no longer a niche skill set and professional pursuit, but a foundational aspect of every student’s education and future readiness.

If you’re a Garden State-based district administrator looking for engaging and measurable ways to meet the state’s push toward CS for all, Ozobot can help. Our Educator and Classroom Kits come with teacher training and, beginning this fall, free access to our STEAM learning management system. Click here to schedule a free demo with Anthony, an Account Executive for the New Jersey region.