Computer coding as a foreign language? Florida lawmakers again push the idea


We've seen this move from the Florida legislature before. In August 2017 they are talking about taking this idea to the legislature in 2018.

Here's the February 2017 version from before the legislative session opened in March:

Computer coding as a foreign language? Florida lawmakers again push the idea

...Aimed at preparing students for high-tech jobs in a modern digital economy, the legislation (SB 104) has the backing of such influential powerhouses as Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“I love this idea. This is the future,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who is driving the Senate bill this year. “Employers are valuing the skill of coding, and we should ensure that the education market is geared toward what employers want.”

But the idea is drawing renewed criticism from educators and Hispanic advocacy groups — particularly in South Florida, which has the most diverse population in the state.

“I sort of comically applaud that some would want to categorize coding as a foreign language,” said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who speaks five languages and fiercely opposed the measure when it was first pitched in the 2016 session. Miami-Dade’s school district is the largest in Florida and the fourth largest in the country.

“Coding cannot be seen as an equivalent substitute,” Carvalho said. “It shouldn’t be an either-or. It should be both — and a reality for all kids.”

Brandes says the proposal is “not a mandate”; students who want to take a traditional foreign language could still do so.

His bill for the 2017 session will be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Monday afternoon, its first of two hearings in the chamber. A bipartisan House version (HB 265) — sponsored by Reps. Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City, and Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes — hasn’t been considered yet.

Last year’s measure, the first of its kind in the country, received mixed results. Despite similar concerns raised, the plan easily cleared the Senate with only 5 of 40 senators objecting. The House never held a floor vote, killing the bill for that session.

Under this year’s bill, students — starting in the 2019-20 school year — who take two credits of computer coding and earn a related industry certification could then count that coursework toward two foreign language credits.

...If the bill is enacted, Florida’s public colleges and universities would have to accept coding classes as satisfying admissions requirements in foreign language. But private colleges and universities in Florida and any out-of-state institution would not have to count them.

That caveat is another reason opponents resist.

Carvalho warns that students could potentially be “shut out of scholarships or admission at some very demanding colleges and universities because they didn’t take foreign language,” and he has concerns about equity in opportunity because some schools in Florida have better resources than others.

The Florida Chamber and Disney — which each give millions of dollars each year in campaign contributions to Florida lawmakers — both have an army of lobbyists registered to fight in support of the bill this session. The chamber has 10 signed up, while Disney has eight.

Brittney Hunt, director of talent, education and quality of life policy for the Florida Chamber Foundation, called the computer coding bill a “forward-thinking step in the right direction toward closing the skills gap and preparing students to enter the workforce.”
Read whole article here:

2016 article to compare with new legislation

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida senators overwhelmingly approved a proposal Wednesday to allow high school students to count computer coding as a foreign language course, although questions linger about whether the two subjects should be considered one and the same.

The Senate passed Sen. Jeremy Ring’s bill (SB 468) by a 35-5 vote.

“With this bill, we’re putting a stamp on it: Florida is a technology leader in this country,” said Ring, a Democrat from Margate and a former Yahoo executive. “We are truly, in this state, pioneering something that I believe will be a very significant trend.

Ring said, if it becomes law, the computer-coding measure — which would take effect in the 2018-19 school year — would be the first of its kind in the country. He said “dozens of other states are looking at this.”

But critics of the proposal worry it could dilute students’ cultural education and place a burden on public schools that already lack adequate technology resources. The bill includes no funding to improve students’ access to computers at school, and Ring has maintained his proposal has no financial impact on districts.

The five senators who opposed the measure Wednesday were Republican Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami and Democratic Sens. Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay, Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth, Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood, and Geraldine Thompson of Orlando.

“What I’m fearful of is now we’re at a place where certain students in certain ZIP codes may not have access to those kinds of classes because they may have antiquated equipment,” said Bullard, who is also a high school social studies teacher in Miami-Dade.

Ring said amendments added to the bill should resolve any fears of an unfunded mandate on schools. The changes, adopted Tuesday, aimed to sync up the Senate version with a similar-but-broader proposal (HB 887) that’s also ready for floor action in the House.

Gone is the requirement that public schools “must provide” computer coding. Instead, if districts cannot or do not offer coding, schools “may provide students access to the course through the Florida Virtual School or through other means.”

Clemens said he appreciated the intent of Ring’s proposal but disagrees that computer coding is — as Ring argues — a language, rather than a computer science.

“This debate is not about coding,” Clemens said. “It’s about whether or not we value culture and whether or not we value foreign language as a means to teach that.”

Miami-Dade public schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is among those who have opposed making computer coding a substitute or alternative to foreign languages, especially because of the global economy and Florida’s increasingly bilingual communities.

Clemens challenged Ring by asking whether someone who learns computer coding is bilingual.

“In my mind, I think yeah,” Ring said.

Ring said computer coding is more aligned with the liberal arts than computer science. He argues computer coding is a universal language that helps prepare students for careers in high-demand careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“Computer coding [and] technology is a basic skill in everything we’re going to do,” Ring said. “You can’t do a job in this world … unless you have an understanding of technology or you absolutely will be left behind.”

Other senators agreed and praised Ring for his innovation.

“We may debate whether or not it’s a foreign language but it [coding] is a valuable skill,” Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said. “Let’s give our students a valuable skill that they’re going to use forever.”

Florida’s public colleges and universities would be required to accept computer coding credits toward foreign language requirements for admission. Parents and students would have to sign a waiver acknowledging that out-of-state or private colleges and universities might not honor the credits as a foreign language.

The legislation has been marked as a priority by tech companies and other special interests. One of the biggest proponents, Motorola Solutions, gave legislators $88,500 between July and the start of the 2016 legislative session in early January.

Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach — the House sponsor — argues the legislation will also have broader effects by helping children who have dyslexia or mental disabilities, which make it difficult to learn global languages.

The House version has not been scheduled for floor consideration yet and it still differs from Ring’s. The House and Senate have to pass identical bills in order for legislation to be sent to the governor for his signature.

Adkins’ bill includes a provision directing the Higher Education Coordinating Council to develop recommendations for student success in post-secondary education and careers in computer science, information technology and related fields. It includes funding for a $79,000 position at the Department of Education for a “program specialist” to support that directive.
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About Dr. Rita Oates

As the ISTE representative for FSTE, Rita shares info between the two organizations to try to help both. She is a former high school English teacher and adviser to student publications.In Miami-Dade schools, she led ed tech for nearly eight years, winning multiple grants for software co-development, PD, and special projects. With Barry University, she won a FIPSE grant. She has written 12 books and more than 100 articles about technology, education, and school reform. She has been president of Oates Associates consulting firm for 20 years.

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