Photo by Desola Lanre-Ologun on Unsplash.

Washington state is a leader in technology. Yet, Washington is falling behind when it comes to educating young people about computer science. 

A bill making its way through the legislature seeks to remedy these shortcomings by adding computer science learning standards to the state’s graduation requirements.

Students in the graduating high school class of 2029 would need to demonstrate their competency in these areas either through completing a computer science class, a class which embeds computer science learning standards, or by taking a test. 

The senate passed SB 5849 — its version of the bill. The house is now deliberating on its companion bill. 

“Computer science is the new literacy,” Dave Brown, director of CS Forward, a computer science advocacy organization, said in public comment at the House Education committee meeting. “It is as foundational to learning as English, reading, writing, and math.”

The constant evolution of technology in society means students will need more computer skills now and in the future, Brown explained.

“We want students to be prepared, to be creators and not just consumers of this technology,” Brown said in his testimony. 

Only 48% of high schools offer foundational computer science classes, according to data from, an education innovation non-profit based in Seattle. Hadi Partovi,’s founder and longtime tech leader, has been pushing for more computer science options in schools for a decade since he helped launch the organization.

“It’s hard to say every student needs to study it when it’s not even offered on the menu,” Partovi said. 

Ten states in the U.S. have computer science graduation requirements. Washington is one of another ten states pushing to add the requirement this year. 

Hadi Partovi, CEO and founder of ( Photo)

According to Partovi, in South Carolina, the first U.S. state to implement these requirements, once implemented, graduation rates increased for all students. And, participation by young women — a demographic that is typically not strongly represented in computer science — grew exponentially

“Students who study computer science also improve at reading, writing, math, science, problem solving, executive function skills,” Partovi said. “My theory is that by requiring students to study computer science they get better at all the other things they’re studying which helps increase graduation rates.” 

But even though other states have already paved the way for this type of graduation requirement, making it happen in Washington is easier said than done, according to Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. 

“Generally speaking, I am in support [of the bill], but I think we need to be a little more thoughtful on the timing and the investments we need to make,” Reykdal said. 

As the bill stands now, the state’s public education arm (OSPI) must first decide what the computer science learning standards are (they aren’t named in the bill), then, instead of requiring one specific course, OSPI must weave those learning standards throughout the K-12 curriculum. 

“I’ve got a lot of teachers I need to get [trained] if we’re really going to deliver computer science standards starting in elementary school,” Reykdal said. 

In the legislature this year, lawmakers have considered not one but seven different bills which amend or add subject-specific graduation requirements to embed within the state’s curriculum. 

“‘Embed’ is their magic word,” Reykdal said. “They think ‘Gosh, we don’t want to pay for any added requirements, so just embed it into what you’re already doing.’ We have all these folks who want us to do more, do more, but it’s still just a 180-day school year, 1,000 instructional hours, and the money isn’t changing.”

Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. (OSPI Photo)

In short, according to Reykdal, it’s a complicated task. 

Members of the House’s education committee adopted an amendment in a 8-7 vote this week to move the implementation date for the requirement to 2030 and to allow students to request a waiver of the requirement from their principals.

After exploring what computer science “was all about,” Rep. Joel McEntire (R – Cathlamet) found that this requirement didn’t just cover “opening Windows or learning how to draft a Word document and typing.” 

He continued, “This is about something much more specialized, so as long as we can give that flexibility through this amendment, I fully encourage people to study this, but I think it needs to be taken into account about who is really going to need this.” 

However, Partovi sees the impacts of a computer science education as much more wide-ranging than just for those looking to become software engineers. 

“Realizing that you can make that stuff is empowering, it builds confidence, it makes school creative,” Partovi said. 

The bill moved out of committee as amended and now awaits a final vote from the House.

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