New School Trains Future Coders and Developers

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No one knows who the next Mark Zuckerberg will be, but 135 high schoolers at New York City's Academy for Software Engineering are stepping up to the plate with coding textbooks in hand.

"I wouldn’t mind making making software like OSX Mountain Lion or something in that field. I like the idea of making apps," said
Tyler Hibri, part of the first class at the new school near Union Square.

Unlike many other high school freshmen, students are taking computer science and statistics classes as well as teaming up with mentors from New York City's booming start-up scene.

For the aspiring next-gen tech geeks, it's the first step toward building apps, developing websites and thinking up operating systems for smartphones, tablets and devices yet-to-be created. The local tech sector is involved in the school; the mission, after all, is to train students to fill jobs in the growing industry.

"We want kids be problem solvers," said Seung Yu, acting interim principal. "One of the things we have is an advisory board made up of industry partners and these individuals are helping us with our curriculum, telling us specifically what skill sets and type of knowledge that students would need to be successful in their careers."

Principal Seung Yu

Silicon Alley continues to thrive just blocks away, but the coders who build the back-end for websites and mobile apps are in short supply. It's part of national trend, according to AFSE instructors, administration and board members.

"In a time when we have more jobs than people to fill them, we're seeing a decline in interest," said Leigh Ann DeLyser, AFSE's computer science curriculum consultant. To hear more on the state of computer science education, check out this interview with DeLyser.

The number of software development jobs is expected to surge by 30 percent this decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But only about 20,000 high school students take the Advanced Placement Computer Science test every year — a sliver of the more than 150,000 that take the AP Calculus exam.

But budding software engineers at specialized high schools aren't the only students getting a high dose of high tech in the classroom.

Later in the episode, Betsy Corcoran, founder of EdSurge, weighs in on how technology is shaping classroom instruction and whether private companies operating in schools should be a concern for students and teachers. Hit the play button to hear the full report from WNYC's New Tech City.

Students wrote answers on the board to the question "If you could make a computer do anything what would you make it do?"