Computer Science for Every Student in Arkansas: A Work in Progress

Anthony A. Owen, J.D.
Anybody Can Learn
Published in
4 min readApr 19, 2017


Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking with computer science students at Wynne High School in Arkansas and Arkansas have partnered over the past two years to bring computer science to every student in the state. The process hasn’t been easy, and we still have a long way to go, but here’s a snapshot of what has worked in Arkansas so far.

Early on, Arkansas studied the suggestions for state implementation and infused those suggestions into its strategic plans. now calls these suggestions the 9 policy recommendations for states to make computer science fundamental.

These nine policies are centered on providing all students with access to computer science in K-12, including considerations of equity and diversity, developing leadership at the state, defining computer science, increasing capacity through funding and certification, and making the programs sustainable.

My office made it a goal to lead our state to become the first to meet, in our own unique way, all nine. It is noteworthy that Arkansas is also the only state to meet all ten priorities listed in the recently released State of the States Landscape Report. Our greatest successes in this initiative are directly linked to the following policy recommendations:

  • Recommendation: Allocate funding for rigorous computer science teacher professional learning and course support.

Gov. Hutchinson with the support of the Arkansas General Assembly has allocated $10 million of funding over 4 years specifically to provide rigorous and relevant computer science teacher professional development and course support.

  • Recommendation: Require that all secondary schools offer computer science with appropriate implementation timelines.

Through legislation Arkansas required all secondary schools to offer at least one rigorous computer science course beginning in August of 2015.

  • Recommendation: Define computer science and establish rigorous K-12 computer science standards.

Arkansas educators and industry representatives worked under the facilitation of the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Department of Career Education to develop K-12 computer science standards and high school courses.

  • Recommendation: Implement clear certification pathways for computer science teachers.

Arkansas has identified and implemented clear certification pathways for computer science teachers.

As our state has worked to meet the policy recommendations, we see these and the State of the State priorities as foundational elements, not the capstone to our ongoing work. We realize that there is still a long way to go in our state; however, Arkansas remains committed to the success of the #ARKidsCanCode initiative and the nationwide success of #CSforAll. Our state recognizes that computer science is becoming increasingly vital for our state and national economy, safety, and security.

As Arkansas continues to push forward, our focus will be on building teacher capacity and increasing student enrollment. We are working to have computer science enrollment demographics more closely align with our state general population demographics. To accomplish this, we’ve looked at several short and long-term promotions and strategies, including:

Earlier in March, Governor Hutchinson also signed the “Arkansas Future Grant” (ArFuture) into law, which provides up to two years of tuition and fees at a publicly funded Arkansas community or technical college to any student who enrolls in a high-demand field of study or STEM field, such as computer science or welding. We’re excited about how this grant will incentivize higher education for students following computer science pathways throughout the state.

Arkansas’s immediate focus on increasing quantity, by expanding access, is equally important to its ongoing commitment to increasing quality, by implementing new K-8 computer science standards and high-school computer science courses. We appreciate and agree with Pat Yongpradit’s statement regarding the Arkansas Computer Science Initiative, “[a]lthough there is a lot of work to still be done in Arkansas, they have a comprehensive plan in place and are only at the beginning of a long term commitment to both increasing the quantity of students taking computer science and the quality of their experience.” Or as he has often stated in less formal terms, “this is not a sprint; it is a marathon.” If your state is already running this marathon with us, we challenge you to become the second state to meet all 9 of’s policy recommendations, and if you are still at the starting line, please join us. The CSforAll initiative, both at a national and at the individual state level, will become stronger through a combined and collaborative effort.



Anthony A. Owen, J.D.
Anybody Can Learn

Anthony serves as Arkansas’s State Director of Computer Science, leading the development and implementation of Gov. Hutchinson’s computer science initiative.