As advances in modern technology continue to reshape society, the demand for creative professionals with computational thinking and programming skills is particularly apparent here in the tech-savvy Bay Area. To that end, Head-Royce is attempting to equip students with the requisite tools by continuing to offer a unique, four-year Computer Science Sequence of elective courses in the Upper School, of which the three introductory courses (Algorithms and the Internet, Computers and Society, and Mobile and Object-Oriented Design) recently earned official college-prep “a-g” approval by the University of California for the 2017–2018 school year.
“A few of my cousins are Computer Science majors in college right now. One of them actually took a computer science course in high school and talks about how fortunate he is now to have that foundation. My other cousin was not so lucky and laments on how difficult it has been to keep up with the rapid pace of coursework as a CS major being formally exposed to these concepts for the first time,” shared 9th grade Computers and Societies student, Yuvraj G. ’21.
The “a-g” course list approval through the University of California “ensure[s] that students attain a body of general knowledge that will provide breadth and perspective to new, more advanced study.” For added perspective, UC’s minimum admission requirements require freshman applicants to complete a minimum of 15 yearlong "a-g" courses with a letter grade of C or better in grades 9-12, seven of which must be taken within the final two years of high school. These courses must be academically challenging, involve substantial reading, writing, problems and laboratory work, and show serious attention to analytical thinking, factual content and developing students' oral and listening skills.
Offering a computer science sequence––especially one approved by a state institution––equips Head-Royce students with not only programming skills, but it also teaches them to combine human creativity with machine efficiency and precision to improve the human condition. Upper School Computer Science teacher Brian Sea explains:
"In our Computer Science Sequence, we focus on algorithms and the problem-solving skills needed to properly create them, and we explore the impact of these algorithms on society. We want the students to have a broader understanding of computer science—the social impact, ethics, public policy and law surrounding it. These three introductory electives will now offer this to students at Head-Royce.”
Motivated by a deep desire to expand academic options for choice, real-world problem solving, and experiential learning at Head-Royce, a schoolwide commitment outlined in the Teaching and Learning goals of the Strategic Plan, Mr. Sea began the “a-g” approval application process for Head-Royce's Upper School Computer Science Sequence Introductory Courses in January of 2017. After well-over six months of arduous back-and-forth with the approval board to ensure the School was in compliance with all of the requirements outlined by UC, Head-Royce’s CS sequence introductory courses were approved. The most noteworthy aspect of this approval, though, is that one of those three introductory courses, Mobile and Object-Oriented Design (MOOD), received UC’s exclusive honors-level course designation.
All UC Honors-designated courses demonstrate distinctive features that set it apart from regular high school courses in the same "a-g" subject area, and are comparable in workload and rigor to Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the subject. Therefore, students who take MOOD are generally prepared conceptually to take the AP Computer Science A exam, but may require outside preparation for the specific style and format of the questions. MOOD meets four times a week and by not calling the class “Advanced Placement” and not forcing students to take it, they are able to disengage from the sometimes rigid College Board curriculum, which can create high stress in students.
Sea is excited about the opportunity to ensure that Head-Royce graduates are ahead of the curve in their Computer Science education. He shared that as an educator he is always on a quest to bring any lesson he teaches back to a real world application.
Bird's Eye View is a story series highlighting our work towards the initiatives and goals laid out in our Strategic Plan: Bridge to 2022.