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Computer Science for All summit
Former Sweetwater High students Adrian Avalos and Karla Gonzalez with CalTAC member Art Lopez at the White House Summit on Computer Science for All. The Sweetwater High team presented in more events than any other district.

CalTAC Member Art Lopez and Students Present at White House Computer Science Summit

By M. DANIEL DECILLIS | October 6, 2016

California Teacher Advisory Council (CalTAC) member Art Lopez is no stranger to participating in national level discussions about computer science. The Sweetwater High School Computer Science teacher has participated in many projects that extend beyond the walls of his school, ranging from the CE21/ComPASS group of San Diego County, including UCSD, SDSU, and the San Diego Super Computer Center, to serving as a pilot instructor for the College Board's proposed Advance Placement exam in CS. It makes sense, then, that he'd be called to present at a national summit on computer science.

Lopez, along with recently graduated students Karla Gonzalez and Adrian Avalos, were invited by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to present and participate in four distinct events during the White House summit on Computer Science For All on September 14, a summit designed to celebrate progress and announce new commitments to President Obama's 2016 initiative to empower a generation of American students with the computer science skills they need to thrive in a digital economy.

"The White House Summit was a big day for our district, our school, and our higher education partners in CS:CAVE," said Lopez. "We were in fact the only district in the nation to be selected to participate in four separate events at the Summit."

The CS for All initiative builds on efforts already being led by parents, teachers, school districts, states, and private sector leaders from across the country. Among other things, it calls for funding for states to expand K-12 computer science classes and expanding access to prior National Science Foundation supported program and professional learning communities.

Lopez, Gonzalez, and Avalos gave presentations on the implementation of CS for All in districts around the nation, discussing the AP Computer Science pilot classes taught at Sweetwater. Gonzalez and Avalos also presented their AP computer science projects from last year at the White House Student Expo.

"Karla and Adrian were phenomenal and impressive, and truly are representative of the very best qualities that our district aspires our children to have," said Lopez. "They participated in panels and presentations before many of our nation's leading computer science leaders and professionals, as well as a global and national audience for one of the panels which was broadcast from the White House press room."

Computer science education is recognized as a significant need for K-12 education and is one of CalTAC's focus areas. Computer science and data science are not only important for the tech sector, but for many industries, including transportation, healthcare, education, and financial services. Yet despite the importance of the subject, only 357 schools in CA (16% of CA schools with AP programs) offered the AP Computer Science course in 2014-2015. There are fewer AP exams taken in computer science than in any other STEM subject area.

"Events which bring the importance of Computer Science, and the excellent work we do at Sweetwater High, are very valuable for advancing computer science education across California and the nation," said Lopez. "Adrian and Karla were excellent ambassadors: they spoke confidently, eloquently, clearly and concisely of their past and hopefully future computer science experiences. It is truly special that our district, Sweetwater High School, and CS-CaVE are looked upon and recognized by the White House, Department of Education, NSF, the College Board, Higher Education Institutions, industry tech leaders and many other tech organizations as national role models and leaders for Computer Science Education."

M. Daniel DeCillis, PhD is the Spotlight editor and a Senior Research Associate at the California Council on Science and Technology.

The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization established via the California State Assembly - making California's policies stronger with science since 1988. CCST provides California's Executive and Legislative Branches with independent scientific advice, convening a diverse network of expertise spanning California's public and private universities, community colleges, and Federal research laboratories.

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