The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District is one of six districts to receive a computer science grant from the Minnesota Department of Education, the district announced this week.
To grant totals nearly $80,000 with opportunity to receive an additional two years of funding for a total of over $200,000 of support.
This year, the district launched a new "Pathways" curriculum model at all elementary and middle schools to align with Burnsville High School's existing curriculum, which has received several local, regional and national awards.
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage is the only district in the Twin Cities metro area to receive the grant.
Kathy Funston, the district's director of strategic partnerships and Pathways, said the grant will support efforts to identify and nurture computer science talent among elementary students.
According to a press release, "The Universal Plus: A Two-Step Process for Equitably Identifying Computer Talent Competitive Grant" is intended to:
- Focus on students in first and second grade and is intended to increase student interest in and positive attitude towards their learning in general and computer science in particular,
- Identify greater numbers of students as gifted, particularly in computer science,
- Increase the number of students who are limited English proficient, twice-exceptional, or are from a traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic group, or gender identified as gifted, particularly in computer science,
- Help teachers demonstrate a greater awareness of gifted student characteristics and effective instructional best practices.
For students underrepresented by the demographics of an industry, such as female students interested in construction or engineering jobs, Funston said helping students make inroads early-on in their learning is key.
"We're very intentional about exposing students to the myriad of opportunities within a broad career field," Funston said.
Implementing and maintaining programming at the elementary level that supports culturally and linguistically diverse students helps shape industries by attracting more underrepresented employees.
Additional training for teachers on recognizing giftedness in all of its forms supports these efforts, Funston said.
While the district-wide Pathways model aims to support a student's passion and purpose as they navigate through the school system, it ultimately aims to support their transition into post-secondary opportunities.
At the high school level, the Pathways program focuses on connecting students to family-supporting wage earning opportunities in the community after graduation.