Teach For America announced today that it will expand its Computer Science (CS) initiative, bringing high-quality opportunities to teachers and students in the Bay Area with support from AT&T. Through its signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire, the technology company will contribute $200,000 to Teach For America–Bay Area toward providing Udacity Nanodegree credential scholarships to help students learn the skills needed for entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and also to provide quality professional development and resources for teachers reaching 2,570 students across the Bay Area. The funds are part of a $900,000 donation from AT&T over the next two years to reach CS educators and the 2,500 students they’re teaching across the Bay Area, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, New York City, Rio Grande Valley, South Carolina, and Washington D.C.
As members of the national CS for All consortium, AT&T and Teach For America are committed to expanding access to CS education in low-income communities by connecting teachers and students to opportunities that develop career skills in technology.
This spring, in collaboration with Udacity, AT&T will award scholarships to up to 50 students of Teach For America teachers to complete Udacity’s “Intro to Programming” Nanodegree credential, which will provide students with foundational skills for a career in programming. Additionally, AT&T’s support will help connect teachers to CS curriculum and professional development. AT&T is also continuing its support of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) program, which aims to increase the number of highly skilled CS educators and advocates in underserved communities specifically focused on encouraging participation of students of color and female students in CS.
“Young people need computer science education to compete in the innovation economy,” said Theadora Vriheas, Regional Vice President, External Affairs, AT&T California. “We are proud to support Teach For America to help ignite potential in even more students and set them on a track to succeed in 21st century careers.”
With the support of AT&T and the National Science Foundation, Teach For America formally launched its CS initiative in 2015 to increase access to high-quality CS education and experiences in underserved communities. “This opportunity from AT&T and Udacity to really focus on CS and programming for our kids and teachers will be not only a catalyst for their life and teaching trajectory, but also for our entire science program across the Bay. We are so excited about and grateful for the opportunity to drive this change forward,” said Amanda Oberski, who oversees Teach For America – Bay Area science programming.
“I’m excited to teach Computer Science because of the problem solving skills it teaches,” said Autumn Grassel, Teach For America-Bay Area 2016 corps member and high school math teacher in San Jose. “While some students see math problems as puzzles to solve, others are frustrated by not knowing how to tell if their solution really works. When students are coding solutions to problems, they get to run their code right away and see if it worked. The instant feedback is incredibly gratifying for them when they've solved the problem and it gives them the determination to keep working and trying new things when they haven’t found a solution yet!”
"We know real and enduring change comes from empowering our students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in today’s world, especially in a place like the Bay Area that thrives on technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. We’re incredibly excited to be in continued partnership with AT&T where our students can drive their own learning and discover their potential," said Paul Keys, Executive Director of Teach For America – Bay Area.
Only 1 in 4 schools nationwide offer CS classes, leaving many students—particularly students of color and those from low-income communities—without the foundational skills, exposure to teachers with CS backgrounds, and hands-on learning experiences to pursue CS in college and career. With over 500,000 jobs in computing available in the United States, but only 43,000 CS students entering the workforce, the lack of early CS experiences prevents many promising students from taking advantage of the benefits computing has to offer. Five of the fastest-growing occupations in the country are computing occupations, and computing-related jobs provide among the highest entry-level salaries available to those holding a bachelor’s degree. Efforts to reverse this disparity must begin with bolstering Pre-K-12 CS education and expanding access to all students.