Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced $2 million in grants to 29 districts across the state, including two in South Jersey, to expand STEM education.
The Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District and Ocean City High School will receive funds for the 2019-20 school year to implement courses that allow students to earn college credit, encourage them to take Advanced Placement classes, offer summer bridge programs and provide classes that can lead to credentials in the tech industry.
“One way to supercharge our economy is by advancing cutting-edge technology coursework in our schools,” said Murphy during a visit to Belleville High School in Essex County. “By giving students early access to the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century workforce, we are helping them prepare for high-demand, high-paying career opportunities. Today’s announcement puts the state closer to providing high-quality computer science education to all New Jersey students.”
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The funding is part of Murphy’s Computer Science for All initiative to advance STEM education. According to the Governor’s Office, the initiative is the first time the state has specifically funded an expansion of computer science education and will give 900 additional high school students access to computer science coursework.
Ocean City is set to receive $55,518 for 25 students.
“We firmly believe that in order to increase student awareness and identify opportunities that the field of computer science has to offer, our students need to build competence in these fields at an early age, which in turn will build confidence that they can and should consider pursuing this competitive career field,” Ocean City Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said after the governor’s announcement. “This grant will afford us to further expand our program, as well as recruit and motivate our students to pursue computer science opportunities by providing more introductory programming, identifying those students with Advanced Placement potential and recruiting students for our current AP Computer Science offering at the high school.”
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In Greater Egg Harbor, which has three high schools, the district will receive $79,793 for 20 students.
Jennifer Rushton, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Greater Egg, said the grant will be used specifically at Oakcrest High School in Mays Landing.
Rushton said the grant will allow the school to offer two AP computer science classes for at least 20 incoming freshmen who are considered part of underserved populations such as English-language learners, special needs and economically disadvantaged students.
She said the district is also in talks with Stockton University to offer dual credits in the course, although that has not been finalized.
According to Rushton, the grant includes professional development for teachers, purchasing of the technology needed for the courses and covers the cost of the year-end AP exams.
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“As we meet with the schools for scheduling and we have those parent meetings, we’re encouraging our parents to take advantage of this opportunity,” Rushton said. “If you look at the industry, there’s many, many jobs where students out of high school could make $50,000 and beyond a year to support their families.”
In addition to the grants, Murphy announced Math for America, an organization dedicated to improving math and science instruction in the classroom, will launch its first New Jersey program for the 2019-20 school year. The program will create one-year fellowships for public school elementary teachers across New Jersey to help them learn and institute innovative teaching practices to help students develop the flexible problem-solving skills required for STEM.