Shortly after taking office in 2014, Gov. Asa Hutchinson recognized the need for more computer training in Arkansas schools and advocated for the introduction of coding into school curriculums across the state. In 2015, legislation was passed to expand computer science offerings in state schools and fund teacher training.
Starting with the 2016-17 school year, computer coding classes were made available in every Arkansas high school and $15 million dedicated to the program’s implementation. This push for coding also included the creation of the Arkansas Computer Science and Technology in Public School Task Force (CSTF) in 2015.
Hutchinson appointed the members and gave them three main responsibilities: research and recommend computer science and technology courses and standards, study the computer science and technology needs of Arkansas, and recommend strategies to meet the anticipated computer science and technology workforce needs of the state. The task force’s report advised that computer-science class enrollment should reach 20 percent among graduating seniors by 2020. In January, the state took a victory lap: Arkansas schools saw computer science enrollment grow in 2014-15 from roughly 1,000 students to 9,813 in 2019-20. Counting students enrolled in multiple courses, that number climbs to 10,420.
The state also increased the number of computer science-certified teachers from 20 in 2014 to more than 225 teachers who are fully endorsed with 220 more holding an approval code gained through development and training and dedicated $1 million to expand career-related computer science pathways, including robotics, mobile-application development and cybersecurity academies.