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Paly should reform limited computer science program


Palo Alto is known for many things: a prestigious university, beautiful Baylands and, most importantly, the home of many tech companies and startups. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley, Palo Alto High School students are especially aware of their surrounding tech bubble and the prevalence and increasing importance of computer science skills, including coding, computer programming and web development.

Thus, many students make the educated decision to take computer science in high school in order to obtain a firm grasp on the concepts and skills required to be successful as a technology innovator in Silicon Valley. However, many tend to drop out of the computer science classes because they believe the classes are not taught thoroughly enough for students and especially beginners to gain a well-rounded understanding of the class.

Amid thousands of tech advancements in Silicon Valley, Palo Alto High School should be ahead of the curve in its computer science program.

The program should be structured more strictly so that students will not fall behind when moving up a class and changing their teachers. If the program were to function at its full potential, it should be a class that all Paly students should be required to take at least one of the multiple computer technology classes offered at Paly, because knowledge in computer technology is key to success in the workplace.

There are only two teachers for the entire computer science program, meaning two teachers cover seven different classes, all of which cover diverse and distinct material. It is unrealistic to expect a teacher to not only have the knowledge of so many different aspects of computer technology, but to also successfully teach this information to students.

For the program to be more successful, it should have more specialized teachers instructing their niche of computer technology.

Moreover, the teachers should align the computer science curriculum so when students move up to the next class, they are on track with what the new teacher is teaching  for that year.

Senior Vivian Young had to drop out of Advanced Placement Computer Science after taking a year of Functional and Object Oriented Programming taught by a teacher who was different from the one who taught her AP Computer Science class.

Young felt she was not offered enough support from her teacher in the class.

She ultimately dropped the class because she felt the pressure to cheat in the class in order to keep her grades up.

“It was hard to keep up with projects. I didn’t get a lot of help, and I didn’t feel like copying other people’s code to pass the class.”

Vivian Young

Many entry-level jobs require some knowledge of computer skills, even for positions that may not be traditionally thought of to require proficiency in this specific practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50 percent of jobs require some sort of knowledge surrounding technology skills.

The company estimates that number to go up to 77 percent by 2020.

More entry to mid-level jobs require the skills needed for basic and advanced computer functions.

These include knowledge about using  software such as Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, InDesign and Salesforce.

If students were required to take advantage of computer programming at Paly, they would gain an edge that would set them up for more success once they left high school

Furthermore, coding skills feed into more than technology-based careers. According to Fast Company, approximately 50 percent of computer science and programming career openings are in fields outside of technology.

These include medicine and healthcare, business, finance and manufacturing jobs ranging from programming to web development to computer system operations.

Paly students are  fortunate to attend a school that offers classes in computer technology.

However, for students to keep up with the rapidly-changing workforce, Paly must adjust and improve its computer science program to benefit every student.

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