RCU to Facilitate Hour of Code Events

November 29, 2017
Contact: Carl Smith

The Research and Curriculum Unit at Mississippi State University will facilitate Hour of Code events for three Mississippi school districts this December.

As part of the RCU’s efforts to assist the Mississippi Department of Education expand computer science to every school in the state, the events planned for Calhoun County School District, McComb School District and Quitman School District are expected to directly impact more than 300 students.

Dubbed “the largest learning event in history,” schools across Mississippi, the U.S. and the world will participate in the Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week, which runs Dec. 4-10.

The Hour of Code began as a one-hour introduction to computer science designed to demystify the coding process, show anyone can learn the basics of coding and boost participation in the field of computer science. offers hundreds of one-hour activities for students as young as kindergarteners, and those activities require no experience and can be run on computers, tablets and smartphones.

Students will participate in hands-on activities during the school day, while community members will have the opportunity to learn more about computer science in the evening. School administrators and counselors will also learn how they can incorporate computer science into course offerings for the next school year.

The event, organized by the nonprofit and more than 100 other groups, is a global movement built on the foundation that today’s students are ready to learn the critical skills needed for success in the 21st century.

Although technological advancements are rapidly reshaping industries across the world, less than half of all schools teach computer science. There are more than 500,000 open computing jobs in the U.S., but only 60,000 computer science graduates emerge each year. Women and minorities are also underrepresented in computer science classes and many tech industries.

For more information, visit

  To view pictures from each location, click on the links below.

Calhoun County       Quitman School District       McComb School District       Starkville School District


MSU units bring computer science courses to K-12 classrooms

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State University (MSU) units are leading the charge in bringing computer science to Mississippi’s K-12 classrooms—partially through the funding of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

The over $700,000 grant was awarded to the Research and Curriculum (RCU) to advance training and curriculum for the Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) initiative with the help of the MSU College of Education. The groups will use the funding to train high school teachers in CS4MS pilot districts, which were established two years ago.

“Our state has been at the forefront of the national race to bring computer science to classrooms for the past two years. With this grant, we will increase the number of schools that offer computer science courses and the teachers we train,” said Shelly Hollis, CS4MS project coordinator at the RCU.

Currently, 44 school districts are enrolled in the training and curriculum program, and the RCU has been named a regional partner for, a national organization that shares resources for computer science curriculum.

The 3-year NSF grant aims to connect researchers to practitioners said Lois Kappler, the grant’s principal investigator and project manager at the RCU.

“The value of working with industry professionals and educators is that we can build a sustainable professional development model that will support long term success,” said Kappler.

The researcher-practitioner partnership includes public school educators and industry professionals who will help the RCU modify CS4MS curriculum based on teacher results said Hollis.

Many of the teachers recruited for CS4MS courses are already in schools or are coming from alternate pathways. Therefore, the grant will also support work toward licensure pathways and endorsements in the computer science field.

Donna Shea, the director of clinical and field-based instruction in the College of Education a co-principal investigator on the grant, said that the work is of significance to creating a pathway for teachers and to ensuring that Mississippi’s children have the opportunity to pursue the computer science field.

“We see the importance of and growing interest in exposing children of all ages to computer science; and with that, comes the need for developing a program of study and licensure endorsement in computer science,” said Shea.

The departments will work to make training and curriculum available to teachers in multiple forms, including in person and online, so that participation is less cost prohibitive, which translates to more opportunities for Mississippi’s students to receive computer science instruction and job preparation for the field.

“If students hold these skills, some of the geographical and socio-economical barriers fall away because jobs are available for them to work from home as long as they have access to a computer and the internet,” said Hollis.

For more information on CS4MS, visit

For more information on the RCU, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, also available online at


CS4MS: Year 2

In preparation for the second year of the CS4MS pilot, which coincides with the 2017-2018 school year, nine teacher trainings were held throughout Mississippi. The trainings serviced a total of 66 elementary teachers over the course of three two-day training periods, as well as 69 middle school teachers and 91 high school teachers over the course of three week-long training periods each.

The middle school teachers were trained on a new course called Cyber Foundations, which teaches students about keyboarding, digital citizenship, spreadsheets, word processing, and presentation tools during the first half of the course. The second half of the course incorporates CS Discoveries curriculum to introduce students to problem-solving, web development, and game design.

Forty new Exploring Computer Science (ECS) teachers joined 51 returning ECS teachers for a week of training on the first two units of this course curriculum. Units 1 and 2 of ECS lay the foundation of problem solving and critical thinking skills needed for success in computer science. The new teachers benefited from the experience of those teaches who had taught the course for the first time during the 2016-17 school year. Additionally, the returning teachers were able to complete their training requirements for the course and gain additional insight by reviewing the material taught in units 1 and 2 from an experienced perspective.


The CS4MS Pilot

Starting with the 2016-2017 school year, the Mississippi Department of Education will begin the initial roll-out of the Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) pilot program in 38 school districts across the state. During the pilot’s first year, 67 high school teachers from 50 high schools and 167 K-5 teachers from 106 elementary schools will teach computer science content to their students. More than 200 teachers received training this summer.

Participating districts were chosen via an application process and have committed to a robust schedule of professional development, data gathering, and adequate technology and infrastructure to qualify for the CS4MS pilot. For elementary-age students, the computer science curriculum will include coding, digital literacy, keyboarding, and robotics. High school students will enroll in a comprehensive course called Exploring Computer Science (ECS).

During future years of the CS4MS pilot program, MDE plans to add 6th-8th grade courses, as well as an expanded offering of high school courses. Ultimately, the goal of CS4MS is to have a continuous K-12 computer science pipeline in place for all Mississippi public schools by the year 2024.


Prepare Your School and Your Students for Computer Science

Even if your school is not currently part of the CS4MS pilot, we encourage you to offer computer science activities for your students by integrating coding into classroom activities, encouraging students to experiment with online coding platforms, and organizing after-school clubs. There are a number of excellent resources that can help you get started today.

Click here for a map showing participating school districts for the 2016-2017 school year.

Click here for a map showing participating school districts for the 2017-2018 school year.


CS4MS Pilot Program Launched by Mississippi Department of Education

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has announced the launch of the Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) program, developed in partnership with the RCU.

Thirty-four school districts from across Mississippi will participate in the first year of the CS4MS pilot program, which will debut during the 2016-2017 academic year. The goal of CS4MS is to introduce Mississippi students to computer science (CS), equipping them to be technologically literate citizens and preparing them for CS jobs, as well as other STEM-related careers.

“The Mississippi Department of Education is extremely excited to unveil the first steps of a comprehensive K-12 computer science strategy that will give our students the ability to compete on a worldwide basis,” said Mike Mulvihill, director of career and technical education at MDE. “Working in conjunction with the RCU, we will pilot the first phase of this process with 34 forward-looking districts to prepare our students to be proficient in the workforce and have the ability to adapt to new technology as it becomes available.”

The CS4MS pilot program was created to address an urgent economic need. According to, there are currently 607,708 open computing jobs nationwide, but the US only graduated 42,969 CS students into the workforce last year. Increasingly, schools and parents alike are realizing the potential and promise of CS, yet most schools do not offer CS opportunities for students.

The CS4MS pilot program aims to address this knowledge gap so that Mississippi’s students can compete for CS jobs alongside candidates from any other state or country around the world. In order to qualify for the CS4MS pilot, the 34 participating districts have committed to a robust schedule of professional development, data gathering, and adequate technology and infrastructure. During the pilot’s first year, 235 teachers from 156 elementary and high schools will deliver CS content. For elementary school students, the CS curriculum will include coding, digital literacy, keyboarding, and robotics. High school students will enroll in a comprehensive CS course that covers the fundamental concepts and big ideas of computing and coding.

During future years of the CS4MS pilot program, MDE plans to add CS courses for 6th-8th grades and expand high school course offerings. By 2024, CS4MS aims to have a continuous K-12 CS curriculum in place for all Mississippi public schools that gives students a foundation in problem-solving, critical thinking, logic, coding, and cyber literacy.

In order to bring CS4MS to life, MDE partnered with the RCU to lay the groundwork for this ambitious pilot program. RCU staff conducted research to discover how other states incorporate CS into their public schools and then worked with MDE to select pilot curricula, set initial standards, and structure the program. The RCU also spearheaded the creation of a CS4MS steering committee that includes representatives from K-12, higher education, and industry.

As CS4MS unfolds, the RCU will continue to ensure educators are equipped with the professional development and support they need to make the program a success. The RCU will work with the CS4MS steering committee on an ongoing basis to craft a K-12 CS framework that is tailored to Mississippi’s specific needs.

“The CS4MS goal is one of the most important education initiatives since the Education Reform Act,” said Julie Jordan, director of the RCU. “I see this as an economic imperative because not doing this will handicap the future competitiveness of our students and our state. If we can leapfrog other states with this initiative, we can change the economic trajectory of our workforce.”


CS4MS Highlighted In Debut Issue of School Focus Magazine

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi’s new magazine on K-12 education, School Focus, premiered in early August.

Produced by the RCU in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education, School Focus highlights the accomplishments of Mississippi teachers and students and provides a glimpse into classrooms and schools across the state. It is posted to the RCU’s website and has been disseminated in print and electronic forms to thousands of educators, officials, and other groups across the state.

Kim Benton, chief academic officer at the MDE, said the magazine highlights the hard work of teachers, students, and administrators and provides an opportunity for Mississippians to see the progress and achievements of school districts.

“I am pleased to share the great news from our schools because that is where the real change happens for our boys and girls across the state. I am optimistic about the future of public education in Mississippi, and I believe these stories prove we are well on our way to higher achievement,” Benton said.

This issue has a special section on the state educational standards, covers an innovative computer science pilot, and gives an exclusive look inside an elementary teacher’s desk. School Focus combines feature stories with informative material for educators and administrators.

“Every district in this state has a success story—a student, an educator, a program—and we hope this magazine can bring awareness to and celebrate those stories while also challenging educators to try new things and reach across district lines for ideas and support,” said Kristen Dechert, who oversees communication, research, and evaluation at the RCU.

The magazine, which was written, designed, and printed at the RCU, will be published twice a year with fall and spring issues. The RCU’s communication team and the MDE hope it will inform educators and other stakeholders of the exciting work happening in Mississippi’s K-12 classrooms.

“School Focus complements our established magazine Connections, which focuses on high school career and technical education,” Dechert said. “Together, the two tell a powerful story of public education in Mississippi by highlighting students on the path to college and career readiness and the schools and educators who prepare them.”

For more information on School Focus, visit or contact Emile Creel at


Computer Science Pilot Program Wraps Up First Teacher Training

STARKVILLE, Miss. —The Computer Science for Mississippi program is set to help the state’s students prepare for careers in a high-tech, high-demand field.

 Also known as CS4MS, the program has completed its summer training for teachers in anticipation of the pilot program’s rollout in districts across Mississippi during the upcoming school year.

Sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), in partnership with the Research and Curriculum Unit (RCU) at Mississippi State University, CS4MS aims to equip Mississippi’s students with the computer science skills necessary to enter the high-tech workforce.

At the training sessions, elementary and high school educators from 38 participating school districts across Mississippi learned how to teach the new computer science curricula. Over 160 teachers took part in hands-on training and robotics demonstrations, practiced coding with, and received an Edison robot to take back to their classrooms in the fall.

“We are looking to the teachers who took part in this training to help us shape what computer science will look like in every grade level, in every school across the state,” said Shelly Hollis, a project manager for the RCU who is overseeing the CS4MS pilot.

Computer science is a high-demand field that currently has more job openings than workers qualified to fill those positions. The MDE hopes that by teaching computer science skills in the K-12 years, students will be better positioned to build careers in computer science and related technology fields.

“The teachers recognize the need for students to be exposed to computer science concepts, and they understand how important these skills are to be college and career ready,” Hollis said.

In the pilot year, computer science curricula will be introduced to students in grades K-5 and 9-12. In addition to pretraining over the summer, teachers will be supported throughout the upcoming school year with further training. CS4MS will grow to include additional grades in the coming years.

“Only a few other states have adopted a K-12 curriculum for computer science, so Mississippi is at the forefront of the growing computer science movement,” said Hollis. “The goal is to have computer science offered in each grade, at every school in Mississippi by 2024.”                                                    

For more information on CS4MS, visit or contact Shelly Hollis at 662.325.6313 or

To learn more about the RCU and its work to support public education in the state of Mississippi, visit