By Ronda Pounds
ASD Public Relations Coordinator
Ashdown High School teacher Stephanie Ringgold recently received a Margaret Daniel Education Foundation Grant in the amount of $ 5,271.70 for her computer science class. The grant was to procure computer laptops that would run the programs needed to master Python, R, and SQL as well as others. The present Chromebooks would not suffice for the highly technical needs of this class.
“Mrs. Ringgold and her computer science students were ecstatic with receiving the laptops that would be able to download the necessary programs to write code that represents raw data visually and make it more meaningful,” AHS Principal Kay York said. “The students perceive this huge investment to the computer science department as a statement of how much the MDF and the sponsors value the future of our students and strive to give us what we need.”
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson set a goal in 2016 for 20 percent of all graduating seniors to take at least one high school computer science class by 2020 graduation. Thus began Ashdown High School’s quest for someone to teach computer science. Ringgold grasped this opportunity by completing additional licensure requirements.
Ringgold is the instructor for the first computer science class that began in August. Students started learning programming in Java then the class moved to programming with R and Python after visiting with Dr. Tom Fomby, (alumni of Ashdown High School, Ph.D. Economics SMU), about his ideas regarding where we could take our computer science students. “R” would allow Ashdown students to focus on using programming for data analysis. According to research by Jeff Hale, the most in-demand skills for data scientists are Python, R, SOL, and Java. Ringgold along with Ashdown High School’s goal is to prepare our students with the skills necessary for jobs in the field of data science which are in high demand. Ringgold is committed to giving our students experiences and opportunities to stand out from the rest. These skills and experiences will place our students ahead of schools in our area as well as provide career opportunities for very demanding jobs.
The present goal of the computer science class is to work with the Ashdown Panther baseball coaches to collect and organize data for player training and growth. This collaboration between computer science skills and actual real-life situations will ultimately become a true project-based learning opportunity for all. Looking beyond the first year course would include the second year of programming and during the third year to have an internship with a local company. Students will become fluent in Python, R, and SQL upon completing the three-year program. They will also be gathering data provided online to practice their data manipulation skills.
“The Ashdown School District is so blessed to have the support of the Margaret Daniels Educational Foundation and to see the impact that they make on our students with each grant they provide to our teachers,” Ashdown Superintendent Casey Nichols said. “With this startup money from the Foundation, our Ashdown High School students will be leading in computer science in our area.”