Posted by Brad Smith
General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Yesterday, Washington took an important step in helping create new opportunities for our state’s children and our economy. At Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, I had the opportunity to stand with Governor Jay Inslee as he signed into law SHB 1472, making AP computer science count as a math or science course in our state’s high schools. The signing of this bill is a major step forward for the future of technology and for the future of young people in this state. Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Drew Hansen, Rep. Cyrus Habib, Rep. Chad Magendanz and Rep. Roger Freeman, the bill passed with strong bipartisan support.

Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft and several students look on as Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signs SHB1472 into law at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.

In September, Microsoft published a white paper documenting ideas for a National Talent Strategy to secure U.S. competitiveness and economic growth. It called for long-term improvements in STEM education along with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms.

Broadening access to quality computer science in U.S. high schools is an essential element in this strategy, and we outlined three ideas to broaden access to computer science in high schools. First, ensure that computer science counts as a high school math or science course in all 50 states. Second, recruit and prepare more high school computer science teachers. And third, raise awareness of what computer science is and why it matters.

We wanted to help spark a discussion on ways we can tackle the problem, and it is heartening that many others share the same vision. Washington State yesterday demonstrated it is making progress on all of these strategies.

In addition to supporting thoughtful policy changes, we’re focused on helping to expand access to computer science in schools in other ways. We heard from teachers and students at Rainier Beach who benefit from a Microsoft YouthSpark program called TEALS: Technology Education and Literacy in Schools. This program, which you can read more about in a recent CNN story, pairs Microsoft employee volunteers and high school teachers to teach “Intro to Computer Science” and “AP Computer Science” courses. More than 40 young people take computer science classes at Rainier Beach.

Together we are making progress. More students are becoming interested. Teachers are learning cutting edge technologies. Schools are partnering with industry. And now we have a new law that encourages more kids to take classes that open up great opportunities in the world of technology.

Computer science drives much of the technological innovation that now underpins the global economy. This is where the future is. Technology is one of the fastest growing, most lucrative and rewarding fields a student can pursue. And yet, of the 771 public and private high schools in the Evergreen State, only 35 offer the Advanced Placement course in computer science. Of the 542 Washington students who took the AP computer science exam last year, fewer than 25 were Hispanic, African-American or Native-American. Now, that starts to change.

I hope that all students in the U.S. will soon have access to computer science classes in high school. We encourage other states to make computer science count as a math or science credit, just like Washington did yesterday, and Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia have done before.