As GO Virginia Grant Closes, Office of Computer Science Reflects on Achievements

 

As the three-year, $2.4 million Growth and Opportunity (GO) Virginia grant closes in June, the Office of Computer Science Supervisor Nick Grzeda reflected on the accomplishments achieved thanks to the grant funding.  The grant led to the creation of the Office of Computer Science, making Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) the first school division in Virginia to have a team dedicated to expanding computer science education through high school.

 

The grant, awarded in December 2019, was designed to fund curriculum development, professional training and equipment purchases to build the Virginia K-12 Computer Science Pipeline, helping to ensure that students have workforce readiness skills. Components of this larger goal included integrating computer science into K-8 core subject areas, creating a follow-up course to the popular Introduction to Computer Science (formerly known as Coding at Middle School), and developing business partnerships to foster experiential learning opportunities and internships for high school students.

 

Loudoun Education Foundation (LEF) worked with LCPS and Chesapeake Public Schools to secure the GO Virginia grant. “The GO Virginia grant is a great illustration of LEF’s work. We bring in key partners to help Loudoun County Public Schools launch programming that creates true classroom-to-career pathways, connecting student interest to workforce needs,” said Danielle Nadler, Executive Director of Loudoun Education Foundation, who has worked closely with Grzeda to manage the grant.

 

Grzeda said that developing a curriculum that integrated computer science learning was possible thanks to the talented Office of Computer Science team. In addition to the Computer Science Supervisor, other positions funded by the GO Virginia grant included the Experiential Learning Coordinator, who connected hundreds of high school students with internships, and an Instructional Facilitator of Computer Science (IFCS), who wrote curriculum and trained teachers to teach computer science. 

 

In the three years since the grant started, Grzeda said he is proud of what the team has achieved, such as creating a monthly newsletter for LCPS staff and partners with over 7,000 views each month, establishing a repository of computer science integration lessons for LCPS teachers to access, and connecting with area businesses and partners to support real-world engagement. 

 

“The wins keep happening,” said Grzeda. “Having the talent to support the work makes it all the easier.”

 

Grzeda said that he is also proud of the development of the computational thinking model, which he explained is getting students to be able to present information or processes in a step-by-step, logical fashion and to be able to communicate the steps clearly. 

 

The Office of Computer Science has shared its computational thinking model with other school districts around Virginia and the country. “We're not creating things inside a vacuum. We share our work with anybody who wants to use it.” Most recently, the Office of Computer Science provided a workshop for the Compton (California) Unified School District.

 

In addition to the GO Virginia grant successes, the Office of Computer Science, in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), opened the Think Big Space at J.L. Simpson Middle in December. The LCPS Think Big Space is the first of its kind to focus on teacher upskilling, meaning that teachers – from LCPS and other districts – have the space and opportunity to learn and collaborate on incorporating computer science resources into their lessons.  

 

As Grzeda looks at what is next for computer science education at LCPS, he said that he would love more collaboration between computer science industry leaders and LCPS educators to “create curriculum that is up to date based on what's happening in the tech workforce.” 

 

Published on June 13, 2023