With the New School Year Comes a New Computer Science Department


Katie S.

A computer science student works on an assignment.

The new school year comes with a host of changes to the school curriculum. Westridge teachers and administration worked to update the classes at the start of the 2021 school year to ensure that students are learning in the most efficient and engaging way. This year, many major changes have been made to the computer science program. Before, computer science classes were seen as a branch of mathematics. But, recognizing the increasing importance of technology in our world, the administration and teachers created a separate department called the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Teachers have been hired to teach computer science only, whereas before teachers taught math foremost and computer science if their schedules allowed.

The department was created so that computer science teachers could easily work together, participate in department chair meetings, and attend CASC, the Curriculum And Standards Committee. “They have a voice at the table to try to move the initiatives forward,” Director of Technology Ms. Miller explained. “So, basically, the administration made the decision over the summer that this was the first step, putting the department together, in reaching these strategic goals [of improving the computer science program].”

Interest in computer science led the computer science department to offer the two computer science classes—AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A—in the same year. In the past, the two classes alternated each year. 

Computer Science Principles introduces students to the field and teaches them how to “design and evaluate solutions and to apply computer science to solve problems through the development of algorithms and programs,” according to the Westridge Course Catalog. They learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. In AP Computer Science A, students build on basic knowledge of programming, with the course emphasizing “object-oriented programming and design using the Java programming language.”

Daniel Calmeyer, chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department, explained how a strong computer science program at an all-girls school can help to close the gender gap in the professional field. “The gender gap in the professional computing world is closing, but not nearly as fast as you would hope. To be able to get girls especially interested in computer science and robotics and rocketry at the high school level is just amazing. Up to now, it has been such a waste of all this amazing talent in our female coders who for whatever reason have been steered in different directions.”

With the new interest in computer science, the department has discussed ways to improve the program at Westridge. One of Mr. Calmeyer’s goals is to develop a course that runs all the way from 4th grade to 12th grade that is flexible enough so that a student can join at any point without prior knowledge while still providing enough material for students taking the entire course from 4th to 12th grade.

With the professional computing career changing and interest in the field growing, Westridge faculty and admission are adapting the computer science program to fit the needs of the students and decrease the gender gap in the professional field.