- Associated Press - Sunday, March 22, 2015

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (AP) - When Woodstock North High School tried to roll out a computer programming class in Sidney Smith’s senior year, he and his friends immediately signed up.

The 2013 graduate always had a fascination with computers, dating back to middle school when his father, a software development manager, would bring home all sorts of new devices to test programs on, and he knew that he wanted to go into that field.

But the class never got off the ground. Not enough kids signed up.

Some schools are pushing forward, however, capitalizing on a growing interest in computer science, which the U.S. Bureau of Statistics predicts will be the fastest-growing industry in the country.

Of the 102 schools across Illinois that offer Advanced Placement Computer Science, six are in McHenry County.

The program nationwide has grown by about 25 percent since 2013, said Zach Goldberg, the spokesman for the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the AP program and the SAT college entrance exam. A new course in this area - one specifically aimed at increasing student engagement, including among girls and minorities who are underrepresented in the field - was announced this past December.

All four of Crystal Lake-based District 155’s high schools have offered the course since the 1999-2000 school year, spokesman Jeff Puma said, adding that the district also offers an Introduction to Computer Science course and Project Lead the Way, a course designed to introduce students to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects.

District 158’s Huntley High School has had it since at least the 2007-08 school year, the first year for which is the College Board has data. Jacobs High School in Algonquin added the class for the 2013-14 school year.

And while District 200 hasn’t picked up the course, it has delved into the field, offering for the first time this year, a dual-credit course through McHenry County College in Web design fundamentals, district spokeswoman Carol Smith said.

The district also plans to roll out three to five sections of dual-credit computer literacy classes, a prerequisite for many of MCC’s business programs, along with all four of District 155’s high schools, Johnsburg High School and tentatively Richmond-Burton Community High School, said Tony Capalbo, McHenry County College’s associate dean of college and career readiness.

“The skills that they learn transcend beyond computer science,” said George Oslovich, District 200’s assistant superintendent for middle and high school education.

The courses help the district meet its goal of providing as well rounded of a program as possible, giving students access to technology and the opportunity to explore interests that may turn into careers someday, he said.

That was what the classes provided Bo DellaMaria.

The Crystal Lake Central High School graduate is in his senior year at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, but it was his classes in high school - first Project Lead the Way, then Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science - that gave him an idea of what he wanted to do.

“It was such a new field, something I had never learned in school,” DellaMaria said. “It was different from anything I had taken in school before. You’d be making these things with chips, and they’d be blinking. It seemed like magic to me.”

The classes made his first semester of college a lot easier, and that small step up snowballed, he said.

DellaMaria feels really fortunate to have gone through the program, but said he hopes District 155 doesn’t settle. He hopes it continues to evolve to meet the changing demands of the industry.

And Prairie Ridge High School teacher Brian Burger is trying.

He still teaches the same two courses he did when he joined the district in 2001, but now he has a section where students learn how to develop apps for mobile devices. He also has applied for an in-district grant to buy tablets, so that students can test their apps in class.

Michelle Zietlow is wrapping up her first year at Huntley High School - she transitioned from a career as a software engineer to teaching - but she’s also thinking about ways to grow the program, perhaps in a year or so.

Now in his first semester at McHenry County College, Smith is finally getting to explore computer science in an academic setting and he hopes school districts are paying attention to the trends in computer science education.

“If you want to be up to date, there’s no way you can’t have computer science curriculum,” he said.

That was what the classes provided Bo DellaMaria.

The Crystal Lake Central High School graduate is in his senior year at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, but it was his classes in high school - first Project Lead the Way, then Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science - that gave him an idea of what he wanted to do.

“It was such a new field, something I had never learned in school,” DellaMaria said. “It was different from anything I had taken in school before. You’d be making these things with chips, and they’d be blinking. It seemed like magic to me.”

The classes made his first semester of college a lot easier, and that small step up snowballed, he said.

DellaMaria feels really fortunate to have gone through the program, but said he hopes District 155 doesn’t settle. He hopes it continues to evolve to meet the changing demands of the industry.

And Prairie Ridge High School teacher Brian Burger is trying.

He still teaches the same two courses he did when he joined the district in 2001, but now he has a section where students learn how to develop apps for mobile devices. He also has applied for an in-district grant to buy tablets, so that students can test their apps in class.

Michelle Zietlow is wrapping up her first year at Huntley High School - she transitioned from a career as a software engineer to teaching - but she’s also thinking about ways to grow the program, perhaps in a year or so.

Now in his first semester at McHenry County College, Smith is finally getting to explore computer science in an academic setting and he hopes school districts are paying attention to the trends in computer science education.

“If you want to be up to date, there’s no way you can’t have computer science curriculum,” he said.

___

Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/17CKTUD

___

Information from: The Northwest Herald, https://www.nwherald.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide