Arkansas saw a 22 percent increase in the number of high school students enrolled in computer science classes in a single year.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the increase from this academic school year over last year last week.

In the 2018-2019 school year, a total of 8,044 Arkansas students were enrolled in computer science classes. This year, however, that number has increased to 9,813 students. A key factor to consider in the increase is that legislation now requires all public schools to offer computer coding classes.

The increase in enrollment in recent years shows that students are aware that being technologically savvy is going to be important moving forward, said Anthony Owen, the state’s director of computer science.

“The 2019-2020 enrollment numbers communicate clearly that Arkansas students realize that having these critical skills and knowledge is a necessary part of their academic and professional future,” Owen said.

Expanding computer science has been a keystone issue in Hutchinson’s gubernatorial plans for the state, and last year he visited Hamburg High School as part of a tour promoting computer education.

In 2015, only 1,104 Arkansas high school students received a computer science education.

The increase also reflects a wider number of girls to participating in computer-based STEM education.

In 2015, only 223 girls were enrolled in the classes, whereas this year that number is 2,852.

“When we first launched the computer science education initiative, we set a goal to increase the number of students who are enrolled in a computer science course to 7,500 by the 2019-2020 school year,” Hutchinson said in a news release. “This year marks the end of that timeframe, and we have exceeded our goal by more than 2,000 students. The enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation that we have seen for computer science from our students and teachers continue to amaze me, and I’m confident that this movement will be a catalyst for continued growth in Arkansas.”

Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key said the state’s move to educate students in computer science could be a national model.

“Not only have our students far exceeded expectations set five years ago, they are paving the way in computer science education for the rest of the country,” Key said.

“I am so proud of their hard work, as well as the efforts, time, and commitment from Arkansas’s educators. Together, we are leading the nation in student-focused education.”

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