Spend much time listening to Silicon Alley types talk about their fair city, and it won’t be before you hear someone issue a lament on behalf of the children—specifically, the quality of the math and science education they’re getting. Indeed, teaching tech skills in the public schools is among the most popular political proposals that the New York Tech Meetup suggested last month, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision for New York as a center of innovation is rarely far off from a new plan to offer a 21st century education.
The latest: Mayor Michael Bloomberg named the 20 middle and high schools that will host the city’s Software Engineering Pilot program, which will provide classes in “computer programming, embedded electronics, web design and programming, e-textiles, robotics, and mobile computing” beginning in September. Meanwhile, Union Square Venture’s Fred Wilson broke news on his blog that the TEALS program—which recruits software engineers to volunteer their time teaching computer science in the schools—is coming to New York.
One person who was less than full-throated in his optimism for the two plans: Mike Zamansky, a Stuyvesant High School computer science teacher who has been lobbying for more rigorous computer science training in the city’s public schools for the better part of the last decade.
“The TEALS program is very well-meaning,” Mr. Zamansky told Betabeat. “But they’re not building the core capacity of teachers. It’s wonderful to get engineers in the classroom, but can they teach? I think the cooler endgame would be having teachers that know technology.” The SEP program, meanwhile, sounded good on paper to Mr. Zamansky, but left him wondering if the city would be able to adequately train teachers to lead students through the new curricula. “You need experienced teachers who have technology backgrounds,” Mr. Zamansky said. (Well, yes, but where do you find them?)
Mr. Zamansky has long hoped to expand his school’s computer science throughout the city; meanwhile, he’s launched a program called CSTUY in hopes of reaching students outside the Stuyvesant community.
Earlier this month, Betabeat sat among 50 or so Stuyvesant students in a back corner of TechStars’ East Village offices and listened as Stuyvesant alumni described their careers in technology. The meeting was limited to Stuyvesant students, due to issues with insurance coverage, but Mr. Zamansky told Betabeat that future offerings—which he hopes will include mini-courses on web design and system administration—will be more open.
Next month, CSTUY is bringing together Stuyvesant alumni at companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter with current students at Foursquare’s offices—an event which he hopes will be open to Brooklyn Tech students to attend.
“I don’t want it to be just Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech,” he said. “I want it to be students from across the city.”