The Los Angeles Unified School District has big plans to boost computer science education in its schools, but it’s got a long way to go before all students have access to tech classes.
The district’s efforts to introduce students to computer programming can be summed up with one statistic: fewer than 4 percent of LAUSD's 650,000 students took computer science classes as of May 2013, according to Ramon Mella, the district's coordinator for organizational change management. Many schools don’t offer tech classes.
Students at North Hollywood High School are among the lucky ones: they have access to an introductory data and science class that teaches them computer programming — and some like 12th-grader TaNisha Tucker are thriving in it.
"This isn’t hard. It’s a matter of understanding and just observing the data," she said.
Tucker said she didn't do well in two math classes she took before she started coding. But so far, she is acing her programming class.
"I’ve never understood math in my entire life but I understand this," she said.
Her school on Monday participated in the second annual "Hour of Code" event, a global effort to encourage students to pick up computer science skills that can set them on a solid path to future employment.
School officials and tech industry representatives encouraged the North Hollywood High students to pursue careers in computer science, emphasizing the need to increase diversity in the tech workforce.
"I want you guys to bring your revolutionary ideas, be the revolutionary, question these guys in the suits," said Sam Stokes, a Microsoft official speaking at the event.
Females and those of color are particularly underrepresented among students pursuing science-related careers, so LAUSD said in a statement that its "larger focus on computer science will promote more opportunities for growth in mathematics, engineering and critical thinking."
The district plans to add 30 additional computer science classes to schools next year, according to Mella. The hope is to chip away at the large number of students yet to learn skills needed in the digital age.