Governor Hutchinson releases Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force Report

Arkansas News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- Governor Asa Hutchinson released Arkansas Computer Science and Cybersecurity Task Force Report Thursday morning.

Governor Hutchinson said across the country, education is in a holding pattern right now, and is just trying to get through the school year due to the pandemic.

Hutchinson said the state wants to get in the fast lane because the future is moving in our direction.

According to the governor, Arkansas is a leader in technical education and he wants to maintain that status.

The Computer Science Cybersecurity Task Force had 35 members and was led by Bill Gossage.

The Governor established the panel in December 2019 to review the Arkansas Computer Science Initiative and to recommend ways to build on the initiative and maintain Arkansas’s national leadership on computer science education. 

The report has five broad recommendation categories, 21 general recommendations and over 100 specific recommendations and actionable items.

Hutchinson said some of the recommendations will take two to three years to complete.

The governor also said some of the recommendations are aspirational.

Governor Hutchinson announced the Phase 1 priorities on Thursday.

The first priority is to require one computer science credit to graduate. According to Hutchinson, the requirement for credits will have to be phased in, but can be put into effect immediately for students coming through the pipeline.

The next priority is to require every public high school to have an endorsed or certified computer science teacher. The governor said the timeframe for implementing this recommendation depends on the ability to incentivize teachers to become certified.

The third priority is to provide incentives for training and teaching computer science.

Another priority is to increase internships and partnerships with private technology companies.

The fifth priority is to increase higher education computer science courses and student enrollment, which includes internships and course credit for computer science, expanding computer science certifications, standardizing the transfer of credits and expanding ARFutures to allow high school students who take college courses.

Governor Hutchinson said he has tasked Johnny Key, Secretary of the Department of Education, to develop a plan to implement the first five Phase 1 priorities.

The sixth priority is to attract new tech companies to Arkansas and incentivize the companies to expand in the state, which includes the creation of a Computer Science Infrastructure Fund. Hutchinson said the Department of Commerce will take the lead on attracting new tech companies to Arkansas.

The seventh priority is to develop policies to attract tech workers to Arkansas, including expanding support for the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences and a database of tech workers with blockchain technology.

The governor said he wants to create Arkansas’ own talent pool through education as well as bring Arkansas native tech workers back.

“From the day in 2015 when I signed Act 187 and Arkansas became the first state to require every high school to offer computer science, we have led the way nationally,” Governor Hutchinson said Thursday. “But we can’t rest on our success. We owe it to our students to provide access to cutting-edge computer science education, and the task force’s recommendations will achieve that. As more students study computer science, we will strengthen our workforce and attract even more businesses that will bring high-paying, satisfying jobs. The members of the task force have produced a far-reaching blueprint that will assure Arkansas’s place as a national leader in computer-science education.”  

Anna Beth Gorman is a member of the task force. Gorman said Arkansas is a leader in the country in promoting computer science and cybersecurity education. Gorman said they want to see Arkansas lead the country and bring more industry in the state, which starts with students. According to Gorman, the state is also a leader in acknowledging where there is still work to do, which is diversity equality and inclusion.

“If Arkansas is going to be competitive, then we’ve got work to do and we’re going to do it,” Gorman said.

According to state officials, there has been a 789% increase in Arkansas high school computer science enrollment between 2014 and 2020. State officials say 1,104 students were enrolled in computer science courses in the 2014-2015 school year. In the 2019-2020 school year, there were 9,813 students enrolled in a computer science course.

Governor Hutchinson said the state won’t have the results for the 2020-2021 school year for another 30 days or so.

State officials also noted the number of certified high school computer science teachers has increased between the 2014-2015 school year and 2019-2020 school year. In the 2014-2015 academic year, there were six Full S2B certified teachers. In the 2019-2020 school year, there were 274 Full S2B certified teachers, 213 teachers will a 5016 Approval Code and five teachers with a 5014 technical permit.

According to Hutchinson, there has been an increase each year in the diversity of courses with different languages taught. The governor said cybersecurity and AP computer science classes have been added.

Secretary Key said there is a much wider availability now for computer science. Key also noted there are now concepts of programming created for Kindergarten.

Governor Hutchinson said there are some inequities in some schools due to resource limitations.

According to state officials, there has not been the same level of growth in higher education. According to Hutchinson, student enrollment has increased, just not at the same level. The governor said part of the reason is natural that some students may go out of state to continue their education, or some students don’t follow through with the program. Governor Hutchinson said there is a goal to enhance the computer science degree programs in higher education.

To read the full report, click here.

To see a list of all school districts and their current broadband speeds, click here.

You can watch the full news conference above.


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