California STEM Network News – Summer 2019

California STEM Network News – Summer 2019

Executive Director’s Update

As executive director of the California STEM Network, I’m excited to share the news that Jessica Sawko recently joined our team as associate director. She comes to us from the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the state’s largest professional association of science educators, where she served as executive director. Jessica has over 18 years of experience working for non-profits and associations and while at CSTA she positioned the organization to be a lead partner in California’s development, adoption, and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Jessica also has deep expertise in state policy and legislative issues including accountability, assessment, and teacher credentialing. She is known for her collaborative nature and has worked hard to establish strategic relationships with key organizations and leaders in the education community. When asked why she decided to join our team, Jessica told me, “I’ve been a strong advocate of science and STEM education for the past eight years and joining the Children Now and California STEM Network team will give me the opportunity to dive more deeply into policy and practice while helping the state-wide and regional networks develop and thrive as STEM education leaders in their communities.” Stephen Blake, Senior Advisor at Children Now and the other member of our team, and I are thrilled to have Jessica as a colleague and look forward to advancing STEM education and supporting our network members and the STEM education field more broadly.


From the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to Expanded Learning, the recently approved 2019-20 State Budget presents a wealth of investments in and opportunities for investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Education. The highlights include funding for professional learning in the form of the 21st Century Leadership Academy and Educator Workforce Investment Grant Program; the Golden State Teacher Grant Program; a Computer Science Coordinator at the California Department of Education (CDE); and funding for both the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and After School Education and Safety (ASES). All in all, there is very little total funding that is dedicated to STEM education; rather, much of the funding is allocated to programs and services that provide support across multiple subject areas as well as high-need areas such as special education, bilingual education, and English Learners. Thus, it is particularly important to continue local advocacy via the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and other local processes to encourage district planning for and investments in STEM. A STEM-focused 2019-20 State Budget summary is available online.


State Board of Education

Recent months have seen multiple developments related to the California State Board of Education (SBE); issues related to the science assessment and adoption of an updated math framework are described below. Of particular note is the matter of membership of the Board. Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed three new members to SBE: Linda Darling-Hammond (who has been elected President by her peers), Matt Navo, and Kim Pattillo Brownson; all are subject to confirmation by the State Senate within one year of their appointments. Member terms are generally four years in length, although Ms. Brownson is filling the last months of a seat following a resignation. There remains one vacancy on the Board; in addition, in January of next year, the terms of Feliza Ortiz-Licon, Nicolasa Sandoval, and Ms. Brownson will expire. Thus, in an abnormally short period of time the new governor will have the opportunity to dramatically shape the Board, by appointing a majority of voting members in just a year of holding office.

On July 3, the Senate Rules Committee reviewed the appointment of Dr. Darling-Hammond, and by a vote of 4-0 forwarded her to the full Senate with a recommendation that she be confirmed. (The Senate is in recess until mid-August, and her confirmation vote is not yet scheduled.) The STEM community is broadly supportive of Linda’s appointment, and the CA STEM Network testified in support of her. Linda has been a strong leader in the policy arena for over 20 years, and has brought a particular focus on equity to her work advising the Legislature, Governor Jerry Brown, chairing the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), and now advising Governor Newsom. At CTC, Linda worked aggressively to integrate Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-math and California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) into the program accreditation standards, credentialing standards, and content of the teacher candidate assessments; she left the CTC on track to further evolve CA-NGSS assessments into multi-dimensional mechanisms, and to improve the quality of mathematics instruction in elementary grades. Dr. Darling-Hammond is expected to bring to SBE, and her counsel to Governor Newsom, her career-long focus on improving the quality of teaching and site leadership.


2019 California Science Test (CAST) Update

This spring, more than 1.4 million California students participated in the first operational administration of the CAST, the statewide summative assessment designed to assess a student’s knowledge and understanding of science as articulated by the California Next Generation Science Standards. In November, the State Board of Education (SBE) will take action to adopt Threshold Scores, commonly referred to as cut scores, for the CAST. Following that action, in January 2020 CDE will generate the results from the assessment and release the scores and electronic Student Score Reports (SSRs) to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and the public via the CAASPP Results website. LEAs are responsible for distributing the SSRs to families. The SSRs will include an overall scale score and achievement level. Achievement levels will consist of four levels, including 1 – not met, 2 – nearly met, 3 – met, and 4 – exceeded the performance expectations of the CA-NGSS. The report also will include domain-level information to indicate if a student is either below, near, or above standard in the three domains of three-dimensional Life, Physical, and Earth/Space Science.


CDE originally projected scores would be available in late fall 2019. That timing would have allowed for the data to be included in the School Accountability Report Card (SARC), which provides critical data to schools, parents, administrators, teachers, and other education stakeholders on data points – including many that are not available on the California School Dashboard. The delay to January 2020 will prove challenging for schools and LEAs to include the CAST data in the SARC, because the SARC must verified and approved by the LEA by February 2, 2020. Consequently, the SBE approved the 2018/2019 SARC template at its July 10, 2019 meeting with a “placeholder” for the CAST data. The California STEM Network, in collaboration with Children Now and the Equity Coalition, was successful in ensuring the SBE had a discussion about the SARC during their July 10 meeting, rather than including the item on the Consent Agenda. CDE staff reported that it was likely the first time in decades the item was not on consent. The California STEM Network asked the SBE to include instructions on how to report CAST results in the 2018/2019 SARC so that those LEAs able to report the information in the SARC would have an opportunity to do so. While this recommendation was not taken up by the SBE, what did occur was a good discussion about the importance of science and the need for LEAs to invest more in CA-NGSS implementation. The Board determined that the 2019/2020 SARC will include CAST results from both 2019 and 2020.


Mathematics Framework

The Mathematics Curriculum Framework (Math Framework) is scheduled for revision, and the time for engaging in this process is NOW! The Math Framework plays a significant role in informing classroom instruction, the development of instructional materials, and guiding local implementation of the mathematics standards – including attending to critical issues such as professional learning, assessment, access and equity, and instructional strategies for all learners. The revised Math Framework is scheduled for completion in May 2021.

Upcoming opportunities for engagement include:

  • Focus Group Meetings – These meetings will inform the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) in its development of the Guidelines, which provide high-level as well as specific guidance to the writers. Focus Group meetings are open to the public and will be held regionally in mid-late August, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Visit for details and locations.
  • Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC) Call for Applications – The CFCC reviews draft chapters as they are developed and works closely with the writers and CDE staff to craft the document. CDE is currently accepting applications for CFCC members. The deadline to apply is August 15, 3:00 pm. Applications are being accepted from teachers, administrators, IHE faculty, and representatives of citizen groups and educational organizations. For more information visit
  • CFCC Meetings – The CFCC will meet for a total of 12 days in six, two-day meetings in Sacramento between February and August 2020. These meetings are open to the public and public comment, allowing all stakeholders an opportunity to share their expertise and perspectives to help inform and shape the content of the revised Math Framework, the draft of which will be reviewed by the IQC in September of 2020. For more information visit

A schedule of significant events in the revision of the Math Framework is available online. CDE also has a Mathematics Framework listserv available. To join the listserv, send a blank email message to [email protected].


STEM Learning Ecosystems Impact Analysis

In collaboration with Educational Results Partnership (ERP), the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem and the East Bay STEM Network have been invited to collaborate on data collection pilot using student achievement data from Cal-PASS Plus to assess ecosystem and network impact. ERP approached the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem and East Bay STEM Network as two of potentially 20 partner organizations for their pilot efforts. ERP has been funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation to pilot assessment of the impact of STEM Learning Ecosystems and they plan to collect data from Bay Area STEM Ecosystem and East Bay STEM Network partners to create cohorts for comparison with groups that did not participate in the same STEM education activities. ERP will use data from Cal-PASS Plus (student grades, course-taking patterns, standardized test scores, etc.) and attempt to assess the impact of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem and East Bay STEM Network on students across their regions. Three main research questions will guide ERP’s work:

  • Access: What is the proportion of student involvement by race/ethnicity and gender of students involved in these programs/interventions compared to the surrounding region/district?
  • Outcomes: Do students who received a STEM-related intervention have better academic outcomes than their peers that did not?
  • Equity: Do historically underrepresented student populations benefit more than their peers from a STEM-related program/intervention?
    By way of additional background, ERP is a 501(3) non-profit organization that leverages data science to solve some of the most pressing challenges in education and the workforce. Founded in 2000, ERP collaborates with educators, employers, philanthropic and community-based organization, and policy-makers to advance student outcomes and career readiness throughout the United States. As a data-informed, employer-led, and equity-focused organization, ERP is especially interested in applying our domain expertise to efforts that close achievement gaps for underrepresented and marginalized groups.



UC and CSU Admissions Requirements


As we’ve discussed previously during our monthly network calls, the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) both have proposals pending that would change their eligibility and admissions requirements. UC is considering the addition of a 3rd year of science and CSU is contemplating a required 4th year of math or quantitative reasoning. If approved, these proposals would require students to take courses that currently are only recommended, especially for the most selective campuses. However, since one proposal deals with science and the other with math, it means that the university systems could have different minimum standards for admission, and both would far exceed most school districts’ high school graduation requirements. Experience also demonstrates that college admissions requirements can drive major shifts in K-12 curriculum and instruction but at unpredictable and uneven intervals.

These potential policy changes – especially when taken together – have enormous implications for California students, all the more so since many do not even meet the existing admission requirements. Presumably, UC and CSU are exploring these proposals because of the number of students who graduate high school ill-prepared for college-level coursework, and in the case of CSU, the elimination of remedial instruction at their campuses. Nonetheless, there are significant potential unintended consequences due to the lack of access some students have to these courses, particularly those of color and from low-income families, and students’ course-taking patterns that would need to be adjusted perhaps as early as middle school. Conceivably one of the greatest challenges would be the uneven rigor and quality of instruction in some of these courses, given the persistent and on-going shortage of qualified and fully-credentialed math and science teachers in the state, as well as the propensity for the most novice teachers being assigned to teach in schools serving students with the greatest needs and opportunity gaps.

The CSU proposal is currently an informational item under consideration by the Board of Trustees, while the UC proposal is undergoing additional, internal review by the UC Office of the President. The status of these proposals is fortuitous, allowing the broader education community tto examine these possible changes in college admissions requirements to determine the potential impact on students. For that reason, the California STEM Network is maintaining its position of “Concern” with the intention of working with CSU, UC and key stakeholders to modify the proposals and their implementation to mitigate potential negative impacts on students. In contrast, a coalition led by some of our equity community colleagues has chosen to adopt an “Oppose” position. The network could at some point move in that direction but feels that we have the opportunity now to arrive at a compromise that could better meet the needs of students and meet the stated intent of these proposals. Given the California STEM Network’s commitment to expanding equity and access to high-quality STEM instruction, and to diversifying the pool of students pursuing STEM fields and careers, we will watch these developments closely and keep you apprised of their progress.


Regional Update – Bay Area STEM Ecosystem

On Thursday, June 20, the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem held its Spring Convening at Skyline College. More than 40 members engaged in robust dialogue, in their first meeting since October 2018 and the transition of the ecosystem to Children Now. (Click here for a short slide show of photos from the event.) The day was full, with a range of presentations and conversations addressing regional initiatives like the Genentech Bio-Science Teacher Initiative, which is designed to scale their Future Lab Program beyond South San Francisco and is based on the premise that teachers are critical to the work of implementing change and improving curriculum and instruction. The curriculum associated with this initiative is designed to align with the Living Earth course from the 2016 California Science Framework and showcase the various careers in STEM. The goal is to reach 100,000 students by 2025.

In addition, the South San Francisco Public Library shared the model used by the library to utilize best practices learned through the Informal STEM Network. Utilizing work and resources vetted by other network members helped the library re-design its Maker Space program, partner with the Boys and Girls Club to produce successful family STEM nights, and connect with expanded learning programs through the San Mateo County Office of Education.

The convening also featured a presentation from the East Bay STE Network, which focused on its connection with Cal State East Bay. They shared their Roadmap to STEM Success to identify areas of impact along the STEM education continuum: early math, STEM in out-of-school time, professional learning for educators, and transitions from high school to college and career. The network organizes their work around Action Plans so partners can find a place for themselves in their work. The work includes partnering with the Alameda County Office of Education and the East Bay Science Project for middle and elementary school teacher and administrator professional development; working with local museums and libraries to offer “pop-up” museums in libraries, bringing museums to the community; and summer camps for high school student on the CSU East Bay campus. The Chancellor’s Office at CSU has also organized an “Affinity Group” around STEM Education. This effort is being led by the CSU East Bay President, who is looking to replicate across the CSU system work similar to Cal State East Bay’s efforts to support STEM education.

The final presentation was by Allison Scott of the Kapor Center, who shared A Case Study of Computer Science (CS) in California (here are links to the Full Report and her Slides). Key takeaways from the presentation included:

  • The state needs to leverage the potential of CS to push reform of education system to have rigorous education for all kids.
  • Implementing CS for all students in California is a significant uphill battle, as the majority of schools do not offer CS courses and the equity gap is significant.
  • There are substantial challenges to teacher credentialing in CS. While there are teachers authorized to teach CS, the state lacks a credential aligned to the CS standards adopted by California in 2018.

To paraphrase the conclusion of the report: “California urgently needs bold and comprehensive education reform to ensure Californians are prepared to participate in the rapidly evolving global technology economy. The inability to meet the growing demand for a skilled and diverse technology workforce threatens to have a detrimental impact on economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, and inequality, especially among communities of color. It will no longer be sufficient for computing knowledge and skills, degrees, and occupations to be limited to a select few—California must take a long-term, strategic approach to prepare its students and its future workforce, or risk being left behind.”

The group concluded the day by dividing into four tables for small working groups where they responded to the following prompts: From where I sit, I see a need for…; I can commit to helping make this happen by…; and, I’d like to have more conversations about… The group then reconvened and shared highlights from their conversations. The next meeting of the Bay STEM Ecosystem is scheduled for October 16, 2019.


STEMx Meeting & NSTA STEM Forum

On July 24 the STEMx network, comprised of 18 leading STEM organizations across the country including the California STEM Network, held its member meeting in conjunction with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 8th Annual STEM Forum in San Francisco. The featured presentation during the STEMx meeting was a panel discussion with leaders from the East Bay STEM Network (Trina Ostrander and Bruce Simon) and California’s Region 5 STEAM (Mara Wold). The conversation was facilitated by Vince Stewart of the California STEM Network and focused on providing a regional view of the Collective Impact model with a particular emphasis on how regions can use the model to create network infrastructure, identify their natural base, and articulate a value proposition. East Bay and Region 5 STEAM also shared their observations and experiences in engaging rural communities, building regional STEM leadership and network strategic planning, all of which are shared priorities of STEMx.

Immediately following, the NSTA STEM Forum was kicked off by two presentations featuring members of the California STEM Network, Gerald Solomon of the Samueli Foundation, and Rosemary Kamei of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Gerald’s presentation was on building an effective STEM ecosystem/network and Rosemary focused on strategies to ensure access and equity in STEM for all kids. In addition, Vince Stewart participated on the STEMx moderated panel, along with Reo Pruiett Edwards of Texas, David Burns of Ohio, and Tom Peters of South Carolina, held Thursday and Friday mornings. The group addressed how the Federal STEM Plan might be used to help initiate and drive state STEM education initiatives. All of the state leaders agreed that while the federal plan was strong on STEM workforce development, it could have benefitted from more emphasis on teachers and is largely aspirational as it doesn’t include new, on-going federal funding for STEM education.


STEM Legislative Update

Assembly Bill 20 (Berman) – This bill would create the California Computer Science Coordinator in the State Department of Education to provide statewide coordination in implementing the computer science strategic implementation plan once it has been adopted by the state board of Education and submitted to the Legislature. Status: Failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee; Authorization and funding for positions were provided in the 2019-20 State Budget Act.

Assembly Bill 28 (Obernolte) – This bill would establish a State Seal of STEM to recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The bill would establish criteria for the receipt of the State Seal of STEM, would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to prepare and deliver to participating school districts an appropriate insignia to be affixed to pupil diplomas or transcripts, and would require participating school districts to maintain appropriate records and affix the appropriate insignia to diplomas or transcripts of recipient pupils. Status: Passed Senate Appropriations Committee and moved to the Senate Floor.

Assembly Bill 52 (Berman) – Existing law requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop, and requires the state board of Education to consider adopting, a computer science strategic implementation plan on or before July 15, 2019. This bill would additionally require the computer science strategic implementation plan to be regularly updated. Status: Failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 182 (Rivas, Luz) – This bill would add computer science to the list of authorized subjects for a single subject teaching credential and would authorize a person issued a single subject teaching credential in business, industrial and technology education, or mathematics before the establishment of a single subject teaching credential in computer science to teach computer science. Status: Failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 578 (Mullin) – This bill would establish the California STEM Teaching Pathway for purposes of recruiting, preparing, supporting, and retaining qualified science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals, including military veterans, as mathematics, science, engineering, and computer science teachers in California. Status: Failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 1410 (Quirk-Silva & O’Donnell) – This bill would establish the Computer Science Access Initiative, administered by the California Department of Education, in consultation with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, to award grants, on or before July 1, 2020, to eligible entities for the purpose of increasing the number of teachers authorized and trained to instruct pupils in computer science. The bill would provide that the operation of these provisions is contingent on an appropriation in the annual Budget Act. Status: Moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee Suspense File and will not advance this year.