California STEM Network News – Winter 2019

California STEM Network News – Winter 2019

Update from the Executive Director

It’s hard to believe that it’s already March 2019 and the fourth year of the formal re-launch of the California STEM Network. During this time we have been and continue to be actively engaged in establishing the Network as a leading voice and champion for greater access to high-quality STEM teaching and learning in ALL schools and for ALL children in California. To that end, much of our work has focused on implementing sound public policy and securing additional state funding to support STEM education.

In 2018, the California STEM Network successfully advocated for and the Governor and Legislature approved more than $60 million for STEM education. These resources went to expanding teacher residency programs in high-need subjects, including STEM, additional training for elementary and preschool teachers in math education, afterschool coding programs and expanded STEM Pathways in grades 9-14 to prepare students for STEM careers.

The California STEM Network also sponsored Assembly Bill 2186 by then-Assembly member and now Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to create the Golden State STEM Teacher Grant Program to incentivize the preparation of new teachers of STEM subjects. The program would have provided $10,000 grants to each student enrolled in a professional preparation program leading to a preliminary teaching credential if the student commits to teaching in a STEM field in California for four years. Unfortunately, funding for the program wasn’t included in the state budget so the legislation was held in the Senate. However, the proposal has been reintroduced in this legislative session as Assembly Bill 1623 by Assembly members Rivas and O’Donnell, so there’ll be another opportunity this year to secure funding in the state budget for the grant program. Lastly, at the California STEM Network’s statewide convening in November, we identified the following policy priorities for the current state legislative session and beyond:

  • Expand early math and early science education with the goal that by 2025 all kids will enter the first grade math and science literate, assess proficient in math by third grade, and assess proficient in science by fifth grade.
  • Additional funding for STEM teacher preparation, professional development, recruitment and retention
  • Expand K-12 and higher education partnerships
  • Create an Innovation in STEM Education Award

We’re encouraged by the bold education agenda of Governor Gavin Newsom and the on-going commitment of Superintendent Thurmond to high-quality STEM instruction that ensures the equity, access, and opportunity for all students to succeed academically. We’ll work with the Governor, Superintendent and other state policymakers to see that these objectives and our priorities become reality. I hope you’ll join us in this effort.

Supporting Regional Networks and Ecosystems

With the recent departure of its project lead, Emily Dilger, and its transition from the California Academy of Sciences, oversight and management of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem has shifted to the California STEM Network and Executive Director Vince Stewart. Given the long-standing collaboration between the Network and the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem, as well as a commitment from the leadership of the East Bay STEM Network to work in close partnership under this new arrangement, California STEM Network has the rare opportunity to leverage the expertise and resources of two of the most experienced and long-standing regional STEM networks and ecosystems in the state.

In addition to this new role in the Bay Area, the California STEM Network will be overseeing a planning process in the Central Valley with partners from Fresno State University, the Fresno County Office of Education, and key business leaders to re-envision the Central California STEM Collaborative and develop a long-term plan to sustain a regional STEM network or ecosystem. While the Collaborative was established several years ago, there’s general consensus that a restructuring of the partnership and a clearer articulation of its mission, purpose and goals are needed to reinvigorate its membership, expand its reach, and deepen its impact throughout the Central Valley.


State Board of Education

With the election of Governor Newsom and Superintendent Thurmond, California’s in the process of undergoing a sea change in educational leadership; it will take some time before we know the extent to which specific policies will be altered.  State Board President – and chief education advisor to former Governor Brown – Mike Kirst has left the Board, as have three other members, including Trish Williams, who has been one of the Board’s two “STEM Liaisons.”

Governor Newsom recently appointed Linda Darling-Hammond as Board president.  As Chair of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and a principal advisor to former Governor Brown, Dr. Darling-Hammond has been a champion of implementation of our state’s academic standards.  This has included strong integration of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into the teacher preparation standards, assessments, and protocols whose development she has led at CTC.  In concert with her staff, she has been an extremely receptive partner with STEM educators and others in the STEM community. Dr. Darling-Hammond will simultaneously continue to lead the Learning Policy Institute, which additionally demonstrates a strong focus on equity and provides STEM advocates with reason to be enthusiastic about the prospects of enhanced focus on STEM in evolving state policy.

Current Board Vice President Ilene Straus continues serving as the Board’s other STEM Liaison, and champions the work not only from her seat on the Board, but as an active participant in myriad activities such as the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA)-led Math and Science Communities of Practice; the California Alliance for Next Generation Science Standards (CA4NGSS); and the math and science early implementer initiatives.

There is no further news on who will fill the other three vacancies on the Board.

STEM advocates also should recognize that the SPI sits as a member of the Board, and perhaps more importantly, he and Department of Education staff have a significant role in directing the agenda of the Board in concert with statutes, required deadlines, and identified needs for effective implementation of ongoing work. Superintendent Thurmond previously served as chair of the Assembly Select Committee on STEM Education, reflecting his recognition of and affinity for critically important STEM education for every child.

As one immediate example of change, for more than two years, the Board and Department have been unresponsive to STEM advocates’ appeal to include a placeholder in the Accountability Dashboard for the science assessment measure while awaiting the inclusion of a science indicator – an act advocates say would prompt local leaders, who struggle to keep up with immediate requirements – to begin to more systematically address NGSS implementation in their planning and budgeting. Last month, a Department memo spelled out initial plans for developing the science indicator for the dashboard. The California STEM Network will monitor Board activity and keep our members and partners apprised of developments in STEM as they occur.


Computer Science Education

The California STEM Network has formed a strategic partnership with the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS) and taken on a leadership role in the launch of the Computer Science for California (CSforCA) initiative, which is the state-level equivalent of the national Computer Science (CS) for All movement to rapidly expand access to computer science education and elevate its status as a recognized course for university admission. Just this month, the University of California (UC) officially approved eligible computer science courses to count as a third year of science for admission to the university. While the UC doesn’t require three years of science to be eligible for admissions, it does recommend three years so this change creates additional flexibility for students and an important incentive to take computer science courses in high school. The significance of this shift is remarkable but its impact will be lessened if we don’t ensure that all students have access to computer science courses, are prepared to succeed in those courses, and have teachers who are well-trained and supported to teach computer science. Not doing so would just further exacerbate the inequities that exist in our education system that are especially prevalent in low-income and rural communities, as well as in communities of color.


Silicon Valley STEM Project

As part of our support to regional STEM networks and ecosystems, the California STEM Network is developing a STEM landscape and asset map that would serve as an inventory of STEM programs and initiatives that provide direct services to students, both in-school and out-of-school, and support to STEM educators, formal and informal in Silicon Valley, specifically San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. In November, the California STEM Network hosted a regional convening to share and receive feedback on the initial iteration of the inventory of STEM resources. When complete, the landscape and asset map can be used by both providers and funders of STEM teaching and learning programs to better coordinate efforts and leverage investments. The project will also serve as a model for other regions of the state to develop similar landscape and asset maps.


San Francisco 49ers STEM Leadership Institute

On February 27, I had the pleasure of visiting the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI) at Santa Clara High School. Lisa Andrew, CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) and key partner of the SLI along with Chevron and the Santa Clara Unified School District, invited me and a small group of SVEF donors to see first-hand the unique opportunity the SLI provides both middle and high school students. The SLI is a six-year program that prepares students with high academic potential to be college and career ready. The inaugural year of the SLI began in 2014 with a cohort of 60 incoming seventh graders. Each year, students advance with their cohort to the next grade level and a new cohort of 60 incoming seventh graders are selected through a competitive application process in the spring. By the end of the six-year rollout process, there will be a total of 360 students from grades 7-12 involved in the program. The institute aims to use STEM to inspire and prepare students to pursue their passions and become future leaders in their fields. During my visit I met with students who were working on team projects to design, prototype, and build small scale but fully operational hoover-crafts for an upcoming Tech Challenge competition. The SLI program is offered at no cost and is located at both Cabrillo Middle School and Santa Clara High School.

All of the regional networks and ecosystems are welcomed to share highlights of local efforts to include in future editions of the California STEM Network newsletter. Please send those to [email protected].


Strategic Partnerships

The California STEM Network’s partnership and involvement with STEMx remains strong and continues to expand. The Network is planning a joint convening with STEMx during the National Science Teachers Association’s 2019 STEM Forum, which will be held in San Francisco July 24-26. As the host state, the California STEM Network and our regional STEM networks and ecosystems will be prominently featured and presenting on a series of STEM education issues, programs, and practices that have been successfully implemented across California. The California STEM Network also has been an active partner in the CCSESA Math and Science Community of Practice initiative, which is focused on building capacity within county offices of education and elsewhere to deliver high-quality professional development in math and science education.

At the 2018 California STEAM Symposium, the California STEM Network led an in-depth discussion and analysis of the impact regional networks can have to promote equity and greater access to high quality STEM instruction.

Additionally, the California STEM Network has continued partnership efforts and has been instrumental in growing and directing the broad CA4NGSS coalition to promote STEM objectives. We consistently identify and draw on the knowledge and expertise of an array of alliance members and integrate their interests into a consensus strategy, while drawing on our own planning, policy, writing, communications, and networking capacities to drive forward the execution of the alliance’s interests.


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. This bill was heard and passed unanimously by the Assembly Education Committee on March 13, 2019, and now moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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 STEM. 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. This bill was heard and passed unanimously by the Assembly Education Committee on March 13, 2019, and now moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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. This bill was heard and passed unanimously by the Assembly Education Committee on March 13, 2019, and now moves on to 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.

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, which has yet to be specified.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 15 (Chang) – This measure would designate April 7 to April 13, 2019, inclusive, as Women and Girls in STEM Week and would encourage all citizens and community organizations to support the observance of California’s Women and Girls in STEM Week by encouraging and celebrating women in the STEM fields.