Helping More High School Students Take Computer Science

Microsoft is very proud of our TEALS partnership with Seattle Public Schools and Rainier Beach High School. We commend the leadership, vision and courage of these educators to recognize the opportunities that computer science education opens up for young people. Preparing young people for life is perhaps the most important job one can do. Thanks to principals like Dwane Chappelle of Rainier Beach High School for doing whatever it takes. In this blog post, a high school student talks about why he’s excited about taking computer science classes through TEALS.

By Bishal Acharya

There are just three students in my Advanced Placement Computer Science class at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School (RBHS). Three people out of a school of more than 400. Three people out of a senior class of about 100. In today’s high-tech, computer-driven world, that would be sad and depressing news anywhere.

In Seattle, where tens of thousands of people work in software, electronic commerce and other high-tech jobs, it’s just crazy. At RBHS, where three Microsoft software engineers help teach through the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, it’s especially crazy.

Fortunately, the Washington state legislature passed a new law in Olympia that will help change that by counting advanced placement computer science as math or science credit. It may be hard to believe that what is likely the most difficult class offered at my school doesn’t currently count as a math or science credit.

But today that will change when Gov. Jay Inslee signs House Bill 1472 into law. This is a big step in the right direction.


WA state Governor Jay Inslee signing into law the recognition of AP computer science class as credit towards graduation requirements in math and science.

Most of my fellow students at RBHS come from low-income backgrounds and families of color. Like me, many are recent immigrants to this country. The dropout rate here is high, and too few of my schoolmates go on to college. Many do not even understand that companies like Microsoft and Amazon are just a few miles away from our neighborhood. One of my computer science classmates left the class to flip burgers.

Computer science is a way out of that fate, a proven path to a better life.

And yet almost nobody takes it.

Students following a traditional path to college take algebra, geometry, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics. Not computer science.

Even the easier introductory computer science course here at RBHS, while popular, doesn’t get the interest it should even though students in that class get to write cool apps and games for mobile phones. Many schools around Washington don’t even offer computer science.

Again, that seems crazy. Why wouldn’t we want more people taking computer science when our economy needs so many computer scientists and so many people need jobs? A recent report found that there are 25,000 unfilled jobs in Washington because the state’s residents don’t have the right skills. That number could grow to 50,000 by 2017.

That’s why I’m so glad the Legislature has taken action to count AP Computer Science as either math or science credit. Personally, I think the introductory course should count as well. But I understand that lawmakers were concerned that might interfere with students taking Algebra 2, which teaches important skills used in everyday life.

Allowing AP Computer Science to show up on my high school transcript as a math or science credit costs the state nothing and will start many students on a great career path. It’s no surprise that such a simple, straightforward idea is supported by 77 percent of Washington voters according to a recent poll by Washington STEM.

The technology companies that are part of Washington STEM want to hire people like me – local kids from Washington, educated in our schools. I want to work for one of those companies some day, or perhaps start my own company.  I understand the opportunities that await me – especially in my backyard. If more students took computer science, they would understand these opportunities as well. Now, hopefully more will be encouraged to enroll in these classes.   

image Bishal Acharya is a senior at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.
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