California STEM Network News – May 2020

2020 California STEM Network Convening Update

For the health and safety of our community and in light of local, state, and federal guidance, the May 19, 2020 California STEM Network Convening has been cancelled. We are pursuing a virtual option, and are in the process of connecting with the scheduled presenters to consider sessions via webinar or similar format. More information about the virtual convening will be made available in the coming weeks. We appreciate your patience as we work to adapt our programming.

In the interim, we will continue to share information and resources via this newsletter. Thank you for your continued support and we hope to see you at our next event! Be well and be safe.


COVID-19 STEM Education Resources

The California STEM Network has compiled and posted to its website a list of key resources for educators, parents and students related to supporting STEM teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures. The resources can be accessed here.

We remain deeply concerned about the severe impact of the novel coronavirus on California children and their families. As an organization, we are focused on how children and families, particularly those most vulnerable, will be impacted as we emerge from this health crisis and the effects of the economic recession. We know there is a lot of information being shared right now and it can be hard to keep track of all the available resources. We will continue to refresh the list as we receive new resources or updated information, and we invite you to share with us any resources you think we ought to include.


Online STEM Resource Inventory

Later this month, the California STEM Network will release version 2.0 of its web-based inventory of STEM education resources available in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. This online database includes program providers with a physical presence in the Bay Area that offer direct instruction to youth, grades TK-12, both in-school and/or during extended learning opportunities, and in formal and/or non-formal settings, or that support educators who deliver this STEM instruction.

This tool allows users to identify and search STEM education resources by provider, subject matter, organization or program type, population served, and/or geographic region. The expanded content also includes school district and county office of education-based programs for students and educators. The first version of the inventory captured out-of-school STEM education resources in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties only.

The California STEM Network created the online database to better connect STEM teaching and learning provided during the regular school day with similar opportunities provided during expanded learning time and to facilitate communication between and among STEM program providers. We envision this as a model for other regions across California and will share the platform with each of our affiliated regional STEM networks. In addition, we intend to explore other potential audiences beyond the initial audience of STEM education program providers and funders.

We are grateful to Microsoft Philanthropies, the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for their partnership and generous support of this project.


Assembly Education Committee Convened on May 6

Under current guidelines for physical distancing, which limited physical representation of the public, the Assembly Education Committee took up a handful of bills on Wednesday, May 6. The shortlist of 13 bills included AB 1835 (Weber), AB 1982 (Cunningham), and AB 2485 (Kalra).

AB 1835, co-sponsored by Children Now, seeks to increase fiscal transparency under the Local Control Funding Formula. The bill requires local education agencies to reconcile and report at the end of the year supplemental and concentration grant funds budgeted for that year in the Local Control Accountability Plan. In addition, it requires any unspent funds from those sources continue to be used to increase or improve services for English learners, foster youth, or students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which will now head to appropriations.

AB 1982 and AB 2485 seek to allow preservice teachers to complete coursework in lieu of passing certain assessment required for earning a teaching credential. AB 1982 seeks to allow certain coursework with a grade B or better to demonstrate basic skills proficiency rather than performance on the California Basic Educational Skills Test. AB 2485, which is sponsored by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), would authorize candidates seeking a preliminary multiple or single subject teaching credential to demonstrate subject matter competence by competing higher education coursework in the subject area covered by the credential. In addition, individuals would have flexibility in demonstrating subject matter competence through a combination of subject matter program, subject matter examination, or higher education coursework. Both bills were passed to appropriations, with AB 2485 receiving more support (seven votes in favor vs. four in favor of AB 1982) and a recommendation of consent.


California State Board of Education Update

The May 2020 meeting of the California State Board of Education (Board) reflected the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways. First, the agenda was reduced, and the bi-monthly meeting was shortened to just one day. Second, several actions taken (or not) reflected the changes that school closures, sheltering-in-place, and related actions have necessitated.

With regard to STEM instruction, the state has begun work to update the 2013 Mathematics Framework. The Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC) already held its first meetings, and the Board’s adoption of the revised framework was scheduled for May or July 2021. In response to Governor Newsom’s shelter-in-place orders, the Board took action to delay the timeframe for all entities’ activity on the framework revision. March, April, and May CFCC meetings were postponed, and the schedule for CFCC, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Board’s activities were all moved back. Final adoption is now scheduled for November 2021.

The Board received a report on the California Science Test (CAST) Alignment Study. Among the significant findings, the study contractor has reported that CAST forms are consistent with the Board’s blueprint and its revisions, CAST items are aligned with the CA Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and all of the new items developed to support the revised blueprint will be aligned with the CA NGSS and will assess at least two of the three dimensions of the Performance Expectations.

The Board took similar actions to delay scheduled development of the World Languages and the Arts Education Frameworks. Also, because only one vendor submission was received, the Board cancelled adoption of Health Instructional Materials, which had been planned for this year.

The suspension of the statewide assessment also creates a hole in the state’s accountability system. With pressure to perform accountability this autumn/winter relieved, the Board rescheduled until September its planned modifications to the 5×5 color matrix – intended to stabilize color ratings – on the California School Dashboard. Meanwhile, the Board moved forward with other accountability work to (a) develop a Growth Model for future inclusion in accountability, and (b) update its work to develop an English Learner Progress Indicator.

In April, the Board applied to the U.S. Department of Education for waivers of the annual testing requirement, as well as to gain flexibility over a wide range of requirements pertaining to federal funding; these waivers were granted. At last week’s meeting, the Board ratified the provisions of the waivers.


Educator Workforce Investment Grant Funds Redirected

On April 22, 2020, the California Department of Education (CDE) announced that it had been notified by the Department of Finance (DOF) that due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of the funds allocated in the 2019-20 state budget for the Educator Workforce Investment Grants , which were intended to support competitive grants to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers and paraprofessionals would need to be returned to DOF for reallocation in the current budget year. Specifically, grants supporting professional learning in the areas of school climate, social-emotional learning, restorative justice, ethnic studies and computer science would revert back to DOF. The only grant funds remaining would be approximately $15 million for the support of professional learning for English learners and special education. Clearly, we are disappointed that funding for professional development in computer science will no longer be available, however, we appreciate the dire fiscal circumstances facing our state. Per the most recent projection by the Governor, California will experience a budget deficit of $54 billion and an $18 billion cut to K-14 public education due to the pandemic and resulting economic downturn.


CTC Responds to Pandemic with Actions to Support Inservice and Preservice Teachers

On April 23, 2020, the CTC took action to provide flexibility, authorize programs providers to make key decisions, and ensure a path forward for preservice teachers who were on track to enter to classroom this fall. Key actions include:

  • Temporarily waiving the 600 hours of required student teaching and four weeks of solo teaching needed to earn a preliminary credential and authorizing the program faculty determine how many hours each individual needs;
  • More time for preservice teachers to pass required assessments;
  • Counting the 2019/2020 as a full year of induction for new teachers and administrators participating in an induction program as long as individuals were on track to complete the program; and
  • Authorizing the issuance of Variable Term Waivers for credential candidates unable to complete their program due to the pandemic.

Complete details of the actions taken by CTC and additional resources are available on their COVID-19 Resources website.

Other items on the CTC’s agenda for the April meeting included approval of the 2018-2019 Report to the Legislature on Teacher Supply in California and an update on the California Statewide Assignment Accountability System, which now has a projected start date of June 1, 2020.


New Math and Science Teacher Scholarships

In late April, the California State University (CSU) announced that it received two grants from Microsoft (totaling $930,000) to increase the number of scholarships available to teacher education candidates specializing in mathematics, science and computer science, as well as to expand design of computer science courses and mathematics training curriculum for current teachers. The first grant provides $800,000 in scholarship funding to augment financial aid packages for 160 mathematics or science teacher candidates. Each scholarship awardee will receive an additional $5,000 to support their academic endeavors for the 2020-21 academic year. This financial support will allow candidates to focus on increasing their knowledge and skills during their student teaching period and may reduce the number of hours they have to work part-time jobs. The second grant supports CSU’s Mathematical Reasoning with Connections (MRWC). MRWC is a CSU faculty-designed fourth-year high school bridge course in quantitative reasoning and mathematics that prepares high school students for the rigor of college-level courses. Of the $130,000, $90,000 will support faculty in their development of 10 units of upper-division level computer science curriculum, and the remaining $40,000 will be for high school teachers who participate in professional-development to increase their readiness to teach quantitative reasoning and mathematics bridge courses.


Expanded Learning Programs Take on New Roles During Pandemic

From tracking down students who have not connected with their school or teachers and helping make meals available to students in need, to providing online social-emotional support and helping kids get connected to the internet, expanded learning programs across the state have taken on critical roles in our TK-12 education system during the pandemic. Following the signing of Executive Order N-45-20 on April 4, and guidance released by CDE on April 10, programs began providing services to children of essential workers. Responding to the needs of the field, the California Afterschool Network (CAN) developed a website with resources for expanded learning programs, including a video series with CDE’s Expanded Learning Director, Michael Funk. These videos have served to answer many questions from program providers as well as spotlight models of practice currently underway. CAN is also collecting stories from providers in order to help identify best practices as well as to highlight the important role programs are playing during this crisis.


California STEM Network Webinar Series

Due to the statewide shelter-in-place order, the California STEM Network had to postpone its Spring 2020 convening not once but twice. Earlier this month we made the difficult decision to cancel the spring convening, with hopes of scheduling a similar event in the fall, assuming in-person gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed, and there are no associated public health concerns. In the meantime, we are planning a series of webinars that will address the issues we planned to discuss during our spring convening. Please stay tuned for future announcements regarding the timing and registration details of these free webinars.