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UT Austin-AISD Partnership to Support Computer Science Education

The University of Texas at Austin and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) are partnering to offer college credit to computer science students in AISD high schools.

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Google to fund efforts to expose more high school students to college curriculum in Austin 

AUSTIN, Texas  The University of Texas at Austin and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) are partnering to offer college credit to computer science students in AISD high schools.

The partnership will prepare five AISD teachers to deliver “Thriving in Our Digital World,” a computer science principles course aligned with the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards. The course was developed by the UT Austin Computer Science Department’s Project Engage through support from the National Science Foundation and UT Austin’s new dual-credit initiative, OnRamps.

AISD and UT Austin will offer the yearlong curriculum to high school students with an option to be dual enrolled in a UT Austin undergraduate course through the University Extension. To help increase the number of teachers prepared to deliver such innovative computer science education, Google will fund a cohort of AISD teachers to participate in OnRamps and Project Engage’s Professional Development Summer Institute.

“Part of the mission of OnRamps is to develop a cadre of teachers in the state of Texas who are facilitating dual-credit at the level of rigor required for students to excel in subsequent college coursework,” says Dr. Julie Schell, director of OnRamps and Strategic Initiatives in the Center for Teaching and Learning at UT Austin. “We are excited by early reports that the Project Engage curriculum is helping high school students see the beauty of computer science in their pre-college years. We could not be more thrilled that Google is interested in helping us reach our ambitious goals right here in Austin.”

“Thriving in Our Digital World” exposes students to the big ideas in computer science that exist across disciplinary boundaries. High school students who maintain a grade of 75 percent or above in the first semester of the high school course are eligible to earn college credit during the second semester for CS 302Computer Fluency, an introductory course to computer science for nonmajors at UT Austin. CS 302 covers the fundamental concepts of computing: how computers work, what they can do and how they can be used effectively. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a UT Austin transcript.

“UT Austin is enthusiastic about partnering with Austin ISD, Google and other school districts, community colleges, universities and additional partners across the state to expand access to high-quality educational opportunities that are engaging for students and their teachers and directly aligned with what students need to be competitive in other college-level courses,” says Dr. Harrison Keller, vice provost for higher education policy and executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at UT Austin.

Dr. Paul Cruz, AISD’s chief schools officer, says he appreciates the opportunity to expand the district’s offerings for students to earn college credit in high school.

Throughout the course, diverse student populations engage with computer science through a series of projects, working with content that is both rigorous and relevant to their lives.

“We are proud to be supporting innovative partnerships like the one being announced today by The University of Texas at Austin and the Austin Independent School District,” says Gerardo Interiano, Google’s public affairs and government relations manager. “It is through these relationships that we can further expose children from diverse backgrounds to computer science. Through this initiative, our community can ensure that this next generation is ready to meet the demands of our high-tech employers.”

Dr. Calvin Lin, a UT Austin computer science professor and developer of the OnRamps course, adds, “The lack of computer science courses in high schools is a serious problem, so we’re excited to address this issue. We’re going to need to do much more, but this is a great start.”

This partnership between UT Austin and AISD is representative of OnRamps’ broader mission to collaborate with innovative educators to increase the number and diversity of students who experience rigorous, high-quality dual-credit coursework that develops deep conceptual knowledge and academic skills aligned with the expectations of leading research universities. The initiative offers three additional dual-credit courses, including English, pre-calculus, and statistics, also to be implemented in AISD schools during the 2014-2015 school year.