I only learned about NYCIST last spring. They're the "New York Consortium for Independent School Technologists." They had something of an open house that I attended. I heard about them from friend and fellow CS educator Saber Khan.
Last Thursday I spent an afternoon and evening with NYCIST members for a discussion of the state of K12 Computer Science Education in the City.
Most of my work has been with public schools and most of the teachers I know, public school teachers so it was great to make new friends in the Independent school community.
One thing I realized during the evening was that NYCIST has a real opportunity to do something special.
In some ways, the public schools are leading the way in computer science education as a result of this administrations CS4All initiative but at the same time, public schools face some real challenges. While some "early adopters" have developed their own take on computer science education, by and large, CS4All is being defined and driven by few for all and, at least right now, the model seems to be the "a little PD and you're a CS teacher" model.
At the same time, standardized testing and teacher evaluations are pressuring schools, particularly schools of our most vulnerable students to push resources towards test prep in tested subjects rather than real education, including CS.
In this particular instance, NYCIST and independent schools can be what charter schools were supposed to be before they were corrupted.
Laboratories of innovation.
NYCIST has already gathered together interested parties and the independent schools aren't burdened by the weight of politically driven testing and teacher evaluation. At the same time, small class sizes and flexible models allow for innovation.
If they wanted to, they could probably create curricular and instructional frameworks for CS education and. dare I say it, share it back to the public schools.
I know I'm ignoring independent school politics and other issues that would prevent this from happening, but I just feel that if there's a desire to do so from a group like NYCIST, it could happen.
I'm looking forward to continuing to work with my new friends and if any of you are interested in finding out more about NYCIST, just tweet to Saber.
I don't know if my idea here will take root but if it does, I'd love to work with NYCIST to make something happen.