RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice took part in a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 267 Thursday, which makes West Virginia the first state in the country requiring students to receive computer science education before graduating from high school.
During the ceremony at Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School near Beckley, the governor also issued a proclamation declaring Thursday as “Digital Learning Day.”
“If you are illiterate in computer science today, you don’t have a chance. That’s all there is to it,” he said. “I’ve said all along that we need to make education our centerpiece here in West Virginia. For a long time, our state was 50th in just about everything. This will help us attract even more technology companies to our state, and encourage our brightest young minds to build their careers right here at home.”
Justice said he expects an expanding need for public funding of equipment and personnel training in computer science and digital learning, as part of the state’s future educational platform. He added he welcomes the chance to address such a challenge.
“The more we can bring to the forefront, as far as being able to train our youth into being more highly-skilled, these type (of) jobs are going to be very high paying jobs, as we go forward,” the governor said.
West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine also attended Thursday’s ceremony. He said computer-based skills must be taught beginning at the elementary school level in order to give children the best chance of utilizing those skills as adults.
“Coding programming skills are really, really important for kids, and the earlier we can get students to learn those skills, the better. Most Importantly, they teach kids to think critically. They teach them to problem-solve. They teach them how to be innovators, how to be entrepreneurial,” he told MetroNews.
“We collectively recognize that computer science is fundamental for students’ success in future careers and receiving this instruction will assist them in the transition to industry credentialing and college degrees.”
The new law requires the West Virginia Board of Education to adopt a policy detailing the appropriate level of computer science instruction for students at each educational level. It also requires the state Department of Education to develop and offer appropriate professional development opportunities to teachers providing computer science instruction.