U of A Researchers Lead Effort to Train Teachers in Computer Science

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Computer science and engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas will use a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to lead an interdisciplinary team of educators who will train and certify Arkansas school teachers in computer science education.  

Odale thompsonver the next three years, Training Arkansas Computing Teachers, or TACT, will prepare 50 Arkansas teachers for licensure to teach the new advanced placement computer science principles course, introducing high school students to basic computer programming and applications. The program’s goal is to increase student awareness and interest in computer-related professions.

“Until June of this year, fewer than one out of every 10 Arkansas public schools offered computer sciences courses, and the state had no process in place to certify teachers in this area,” said Dale R. Thompson, associate professor of computer engineering. “This grant and program will make that happen and ensures that these courses will be taught in every Arkansas public high school and charter school.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Act 187 into law this year, requiring computer science courses to be taught at all Arkansas public high schools and charter schools. Arkansas is the first state to mandate computer science education.

“I applaud the University of Arkansas for leading in this effort and supporting my computer science initiative,” Hutchinson said. “Over the next three years, Arkansas’ schools will have 50 new teachers trained and licensed to prepare students for careers in computer-related fields. The National Science Foundation’s $1 million grant will provide valuable opportunities for our educators and our students. Thanks to the dedicated efforts the General Assembly and our educational communities, Arkansas continues to lead the national coding movement.”

Thompson and Bryan Hill, assistant dean for student recruitment and diversity, honors and international programs in the College of Engineering, will serve as administrators for the program. They will work closely with the Honors College’s Advance Placement Summer Institute and UAteach, a program that combines in-depth science and mathematics education with teacher preparation. UAteach is a partnership between the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Health Professions, addresses the shortage of secondary mathematics and science teachers in Arkansas. 

The Training Arkansas Computing Teachers program will offer in-service training for existing high school computer science teachers by expanding the Honors College Advanced Placement Summer Institute to include a new Computer Science Principles Course. Additional teachers interested in computer science licensure will attend a summer “boot camp” prior to joining the Advanced Placement Summer Institute. Pre-service training will be offered to students going through the UAteach program.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Dale R. Thompson, associate professor, Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering
College of Engineering
479-575-5090, drt@uark.edu

Bryan Hill, assistant dean for student recruitment and diversity, honors and international programs
College of Engineering
479-575-7236, bwhill@uark.edu

Matt McGowan, science and research communications officer
University Relations
479-575-4246, dmcgowa@uark.edu

Originally published in University of Arkansas Newswire September 10, 2015