The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) is using a nearly $1 million grant to launch a program that will help Iowa teachers receive their secondary computer science education endorsement – qualifying them to teach computer science in grades five through 12.

The program, with funding by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, is now taking applications for the initial cohort which will begin in June 2023. The online program will take 18 months for each cohort to complete. The first cohort will be comprised of up to 90 teachers. A second cohort starting June 2024 will double to nearly 180.

Iowa has a requirement in place that mandates state schools offer at least one computer science course. Currently, the requirement is in place for high schools.  Elementary, seventh and eighth grades will begin starting July 1, 2023.

“The NSF entrusting us with this kind of award is a huge testament to the long history of high-quality teacher education at UNI,” said Ben Schafer, professor in the Department of Computer Science and program coordinator for UNI’s Computer Science Education program.

In a press release, UNI explained that in addition to the online lectures and coursework, teachers will participate in monthly face-to-face meetings facilitated by partners at their local Area Education Agencies (AEAs). The first cohort is partnering with the Central Rivers AEA, Grant Wood AEA and Northwest AEA.

This expanded program builds on a similar program from 2018. The 2018 program was funded by a $300,000 NSF grant and helped in-service teachers earn a computer service endorsement. This grant helped formally launch the computer science education program at UNI.

“This is an incredible opportunity and I am so very, very proud of the work that our team has put into making this happen and bringing this opportunity to the teachers in the state of Iowa,” said Schafer.

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