Computer Science Now Mandatory for All Students at Rural Texas School District

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 29, 2016 11:14 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

There’s a school district in Texas that’s doing something no district has before. Aliyya Swaby who covers education for the Texas Tribune has the story:

“Beeville Independent School District, which is a small, almost rural district in South Texas…became the first in the state to make computer science mandatory for all of its 3,500 students at six campuses,” Swaby says. “And it did that by forming a one-year partnership with an education tech company called Globaloria.”

She explains that before the start of this school year – all 250 teachers in Beeville ISD were trained to bring computer science into class. And second-grade teacher Jarrod Howard told Swaby he’s helping his students learn the basics of computer science by creating a game about what else?! Dinosaurs!

“Twice a week his students are now at the first stage where they just build a 3D set and there’s a group of students that are building a set for a world they call ‘New Earth’ which is an earth where dinosaurs and humans co-exist,” Swaby says. “So they’re using toys to just build an actual set for their game and then the next step is to sketch that three-dimensional set onto grid paper. And after that, they’re going to use a computer program called Pixlr to transform that drawing into colored pixels. So it just seems like a fun game but it ends up being a lesson in geometry where students are diving squares and building shapes to create a picture and learning in that way.”

The Beeville initiative is an effort to fix a broader problem: that kids aren’t well-versed in computer science because teachers aren’t either.

“You have to start with the teachers first and make sure that they have the knowledge they need, the training, and the schools, so you actually have students able to take these classes and get high-paid jobs after they graduate,” she says. 

The state of Texas does require all high schools to offer computer science classes.

Organizations that provide therapy services to young children with disabilities are bracing for massive cuts – the state announced that on December 15, $350,000,000 in cuts will take effect.

They were supposed to happen last October but were held up in court, until now. Lawmakers cited Texas A&M research that rationalized the cuts by saying Texas overpays its therapists.

Tod Marvin is with the Easter Seals of Central Texas which provides early childhood intervention services to about 500 kids. He told KUT in Austin the claim that therapists are overpaid is highly questionable.

“Let’s take a thorough, thoughtful approach to this before we just slash and burn 60,000 kids in the state of Texas for the sake of a balanced budget,” he said. 

Republican State Sen. Jane Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has said every child who qualifies for services will receive them.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Texas has seen a big drop over the last 10 years or so. That’s according to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Between 2007 and 2016, the state’s homeless population decreased by 42 percent.