A recent report shows New Mexico has made progress in improving access to computer science education but may be struggling in some areas.
According to the 2021 State of Computer Science Education report, 44% of public high schools offered a foundational computer science course during the 2020-21 school year, compared to 32% in 2019-20 and 23% in 2018-19.
In Southeast New Mexico 17 out of the region’s 33 school districts do not offer foundational computer science classes, according to Code’s Computer Science Access Report.
Some of these districts include Jal Public Schools, Artesia Public Schools and Tularosa Municipal Schools.
In suburban areas 50% of students have access to computer science classes. That number drops to 46% in urban areas, 43% in rural areas and 38% in towns.
Schools with a high number of students on the Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL) program also have less access, per the report.
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Schools that have more than half of their students on FRL are 13% to 25% less likely to have computer science classes, according to the report.
Carlsbad Municipal Schools Superintendent Dr. Gerry Washburn said computer science and IT has become an essential part of the region’s industries like oil and gas, and there is a need for professionals in the field.
According to the report, there are an average of 2,925 job openings for computer science positions in New Mexico each month.
High schools across the region have created programs aimed at preparing students for these positions.
Carlsbad High School offers a variety of computer science classes as part of its new academy system that was implemented this year.
Under the Academy of Business Information Technology, students can take computer programming classes and even get paid to work as computer technicians for the district, according to the CHS curriculum guide.
High schools in Hobbs and Loving also offer computer science classes on topics like web design and computer graphics as an elective. Alamogordo High School and Roswell High School also have computer science classes as part of their career and technical training programs.
New policies and state-wide improvements
New Mexico is one of the states that have adopted plans to improve access to computer science education—along with Alabama, Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
“Computer science is vital for each New Mexico student’s education, empowering them to skillfully navigate life, education and career opportunities,” Public Education Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus said. “We are pleased to see continued improvement to computer science education in New Mexico. NMPED will continue to prioritize and promote computer science so all students have access to this promising career path.”
The PED’s computer science task-force released a five-year plan in June 2021, which includes the creation of new policies and teacher certifications for computer science. Under the plan, every high school in the state will have higher-level computer science and IT classes by 2026.
In February 2021 state legislators passed House Bill 188 which aims to create a license endorsement in secondary computer science. New Mexico is also the first state to create two positions that oversees computer science in the Math and Science Bureau and the College and Career Readiness Bureau.
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected]s.com, by phone at (575) 628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.