d65_new_logo

The Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will soon be striving to convert those students who mindlessly play computer games into creative persons who understand how to design their own computer programs.  And they want to start the process in kindergarten.

A technicality in the contract negotiations with the teachers recently created an opening for two new courses for students in the elementary school years.

After teachers and administrators looked at various alternatives, they settled on two courses. Students would experience the class one day a week and would have equal exposure to the two courses over the kindergarten-through-5th-grade continuum.

One course would deal with social emotional learning and equity, designed to strengthen adult and student relationships, increased self-regulation, and a greater sense of belonging and success at school.

[block:block=168]

But the second course, Computational Science– would try to harness the students’ love—some might call it an addiction—with computers to perhaps steer some of them into those higher-paying computer-related jobs of the future that their parents mostly scratch their heads and wonder about.

Stacy Beardsley, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, tried to explain the concept to board members at a meeting Monday night, augmented by a memo in the board’s agenda packet.

She explained it this way:

“The goal of the Introduction to Computational Science (CS) is to expose all students to the concepts of computational thinking and algorithmic processes. In this class, students will have the opportunity to apply computer science concepts to designing and building (coding) solutions to problems using technology. Students will be able to experience being active creators of technology.”

While attempting to minimize the use of such computer science buzzwords as code, symbol , sequence, algorithm, and loops, Beardsley focused on the economic aspects of the students’ futures, particularly noting how it could change the lives of females and students of color, who might otherwise eschew such advantages.

For example, she quoted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that in 2013, African Americans and Latinos comprised only 14 percent of all computer programmers, while women comprised only 23 percent.

She quoted other resources that predicted that so-called STEM jobs—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—comprise the fastest growing job sector and that two-thirds of these jobs involve computing.

But regardless of a student’s ultimate occupation, she said that an understanding of computational science will be critical.

“Since our students will live in a world that is even more heavily influenced by computing,” she said, “we must introduce them to structured problem solving and computational thinking prior to entering college or the workforce.”

This is not a new concept, she said, as it is being actively pursued in the tech-rich areas near San Francisco, and the district is utilizing the results of the experiences of those districts that have already practiced it.

The goal at District 65, she said, is to expose all students to the concepts of computational thinking and algorithmic processes that will enable them to be active creators of technology and not just passive users as they do currently.

Adding these courses, Beardsley said, will require adding six persons to the instructional staff and a total annual expenditure of nearly $500,000, including $10,000 in training costs.

After presenting the concept to the board Monday night, she is looking forward to getting a goahead decision at the April 24 board meeting.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. More soft bigotry of low expectations

    When I read the headlines to this story I thought this sounds good. Then the I read the rest of the story and was sorely disappointed. Why does education at D65 and D202 always seem to be centered around the buzzwords equality, minority students, fill the gap, etc? One of these computational courses deals with “social emotional learning and equity.” How would dealing with social emotional learning and equity “convert those students who mindlessly play computer games into creative persons who understand how to design their own computer programs.” The second course –Computational Science– would try to “harness the students’ love—some might call it an addiction—with computers to perhaps steer some of them into those higher-paying computer-related jobs of the future.” Sounds great but then Stacy Beardsley, the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, pitched this course as one that ” could change the lives of females and students of color.” There are a lot of white students at D65. What about them? Do they ever matter? Could these courses change THEIR lives? Must they check their white privilege at the presumptive door? Are there any Evanston “minority” parents offended by all of the school district PC stuff? How does it affect elementary students when they hear constant messages of “equity” “fill the gap” or the annual school district report that African-American students score lower than Hispanics who score lower than whites who score lower than Asians. What we have here is the constant subtle message from school bureaucrats that certain students are disadvantaged based on race and gender. It is the soft bigotry of low expectations. Evanston property owners were just hit with a $116 million tax hike cuz D65 superintendent Paul Goren and D65 admins said the district is broke (just after giving the Teacher’s Union a pay raise). Now all of the sudden these admins want to spend a half million dollars with 6 new instructors on these two new programs apparently aimed at a specific student population based on race and gender? I sure hope President Trump hurries up with a national voucher system so that some of these public dollars can go back to parents who can CHOOSE which school they want to send their kids in order for them to get an academic education not an education in self-victimization.

    1. Don’t worry Al, the reddest

      Don’t worry Al, the reddest red congressional district in Kansas had a special election & the Republican barely won. The midterm elections will soon be here & the Dems will control the house. Those mythical vouchers won’t appear anytime soon. Still waiting on your revolt. Man up & start it. No worries if you don’t. Crank away here if it makes you feel better.

    2. Vouchers are just coupons for

      Vouchers are just coupons for private schools, just like Health Insurance is a coupon for a doctor visit. No thanks. No one should be clipping coupons for their child’s education.

      1. Re: Vouchers are just coupons for

        We would not have to “clip the coupons” if it were not for this monstrosity sitting on our property tax bill. My children go to a private school that spends way less per student than District 65. Gotta strangle the beast…

      2. Low income parents should have school choice

        Okbut,

        So you would deny low income parents a CHOICE they otherwise could not make because you say we shouldn’t “be clipping coupons” for education.

        How open minded and tolerant of you.

        Bitter, bitter, bitter,

        Don’t put the cart before the horse. The 2018 midterm elections is a long way off. Republicans as of now are favored to keep the House and gain more in the Senate.

        There’s plenty of time to enact a national voucher system. And elected Evanston officials will soon have to deal with the feds regarding its sanctuary city policy.

        It’s gonna be a fun two years!

        1. Yeah like Health Insurance

          Yeah like Health Insurance gave us a “choice” of doctors we still can’t afford.

          You don’t get it. 

    3. What next for students who want to learn ?

      Evanston schools have some good teachers and at ETHS students who really want to learn ‘can’ get a very good education IF they are allowed to pick the good teachers and have good classes available. They can also get higher level course from NU and even Oakton. But it is becoming more clear each year that with all the PC and ‘dippy’ courses, seminars, workshops that it is becoming harder and harder. Parents who can afford it, and even some who can’t but value education highly, may increase the number of students sent to private schools or have them home schooled–that is becoming easier. The schools are bringing the flight on themselves.

  2. Surprise! A contract technicality and new teachers will be hired

    “A technicality in the contract negotiations with the teachers recently created an opening for two new courses for students in the elementary school years.”

    A technicality leads to new teacher positions in every D65 school?  That’s 15 schools by my count.  So how many new teachers will that be for two classes both held in every school once a week?

    And how about the resources needed?  For a computer-related course, I assume that each school will need some type of computer available to each child in the class.

    I wonder how many more of these “technicalities” in the teachers’ contract will be revealed now that we have decided that, as a community, we will pony up lots more cash for pretty much anything that D65 administration has already planned without telling us.

    Sounds like the start of a lot of new information to be released from D65.  Why didn’t the public know about this particular “technicality” and the resulting costs before the vote earlier this month? 

    And who at D65 administration was not minding the negotiations that these two courses were added, by contract, to our schools’ curriculum?

  3. Should have mentioned–the D65 cost estimate doesn’t add up

    I see the D65 Administration’s stated $500,000 annual expenditure for six new instructional staff members. 

    But those numbers don’t add up for two new classes in 15 schools, taught every week, plus the costs of computers available in every school.  That is assuming three new teachers for each of these two new classes.  There is no chance that three teachers can teach a course in 15 schools in a week.  With some schools with attendance of 300-400 students, it is folly to think that one teacher can teach that many students in one day.  As I understand it, teachers are contractually required to have lunch and planning period time.

    It is highly likely that the actual cost of this contract “technicality” will be closer to $1 million per year given the academic staff, resources, tech staff time (computers will break and otherwise malfunction) and administrative oversight that will be needed.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.