It used to be that the most common complaint for startups around Portland was “more access to capital.” Now, that refrain has been replaced by “more access to talent, specifically developers.” Portland’s Treehouse is looking to solve that problem, by engaging would-be developers while they’re still in high school.
“It’s certainly been an uphill battle to get Treehouse—or any computer science or design—into schools,” said Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of Treehouse. “We’ve seen numbers that say as few as 5% of American schools have computer science classes. And all indications are it’s a number that is smaller now than it was in the 70s. We’ve been trying to connect to schools to show them that their students need to learn to program. It’s a given that computing will be a required skill for work as we progress through the 21st century.
“Schools are willing, but budgets are small and the number of teachers who know how to code aren’t’ always there. That’s where being able to put a Treehouse teacher into the classroom by video and help the students work through coding with our step-by-step Code Challenges is a big deal, and that’s why I think we’ve seen so much success with students learning in places like Umatilla.”
The results with the Umatilla pilot? Impressive, to say the least.
“We introduced the opportunity to teacher-nominated students over the summer and have been very impressed with the rigor of the course work and interest the program sparks in students,” said Heidi Sipe, Superintendent of Umatilla Schools. “One would expect that students asked to do schoolwork throughout the summer may be less than thrilled with the invitation; however, Treehouse has proven to be a motivating, engaging and exciting program for the students. Our top two students from this summer earned 72 and 53 badges respectively and report enjoying their learning and finding the subtle competition embedded in the leaderboard motivating.
“This pilot was most definitely a success and we look forward to offering Treehouse to all students at Umatilla High School this fall as an independent study elective option.”