CHICAGO
12/10/2013 01:33 pm ET

Chicago Public Schools Adding Computer Science To Core Curriculum

The Chicago Public School district is elevating computer science from an elective to part of its K-12 core curriculum while simultaneously laying groundwork to become the first urban school district in the nation to add the subject to its elementary core.

Components of the five-year plan include adding a survey course in computer science to every CPS high school (at least half of which will ultimately offer AP Computer Science); creating a computer science pathway for elementary students (K-8) and allowing computer science to count as a graduation requirement, potentially for subjects like math, science or foreign language.

CPS is getting the new computer science curriculum as well as professional development for staff free of charge thanks to a partnership with the non-profit group, code.org, the Tribune reports.

Citing the "tech-driven economy," Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett announced the plan at Von Steuben High School in the city's Albany Park neighborhood on Monday. Emanuel touted the plan as CPS' way to "help support the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer."

“This plan will help us compete with countries like China and the UK, where children take coding classes in elementary school,” Emanuel said in a statement.

Officials applauded Von Steuben's strong S.T.E.M. programs -- emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math -- particularly its nationally-recognized all-girls tech club that aims to bridge the gender gap in S.T.E.M. subjects. According to the Sun-Times, President Barack Obama offered congratulations via video message.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, the president previously challenged districts “to redesign America’s high schools” by boosting tech and science education.

The Chicago Teachers Union, meanwhile, was more measured in its praise of the new plan.

“It’s a nice bubble gum and popsicles announcement, but is it going to be done fairly? Which schools are going to get adequate computer equipment?” CTU spokesman Michael Harrington said according to the Sun-Times. “Remember, we’re still dealing with over 100 schools with no library, and just as many with no librarians.”

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