California STEM Network News – November 2020

California STEM Network 2021 Priorities

Following discussions during the October and November virtual convenings, the California STEM Network has identified three key priorities for 2021, which include a focus on early STEM experiences and instruction (PreK-3rd Grade), supporting teachers and addressing the shortage of and lack of diversity among STEM teachers, and improving and expanding access to high school STEM teaching and learning, particularly for student groups underrepresented in college STEM majors and in STEM careers. These three priorities align with important elements of our work that include our leadership of a California statewide team participating in an early STEM policy academy in December hosted by the Education Commission of the States, our partnership with the STEM PUSH Network to establish an accreditation system to assess the quality of pre-college STEM programs and the extent to which they are recognized for college admissions, and our research project to examine the effectiveness of STEM teacher recruitment, preparation, training and retention programs, especially as it relates to attracting more diverse candidates into the teaching profession. These priorities are intentionally concentrated on specific outcomes so that we are better able to connect our statewide work with the efforts of our affiliated regional STEM networks and ecosystems and so we can better measure our impact and outcomes. We look forward to sharing more information about these priorities as we move into the new year and a new budget and legislative session in Sacramento.


Regional STEM Network & Ecosystem Updates

During the November meeting of the California STEM Network and as part of our recognition of the Education Team at the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, three of our affiliated regional STEM networks and ecosystems provided updates on their local partnerships and activities.

East Bay STEM Network

Bruce Simon, Director of the STEM Institute at Cal State East Bay and lead for the East Bay STEM Network, shared a brief history of the network, which started with a seed grant from the Bechtel Foundation in 2008. That initial grant was used to survey the East Bay community and led to the development of their Roadmap to STEM Success and helped them to define their mission, vision and structure. Much of their early work was focused on teacher preparation and professional development, which evolved into a long-standing partnership with the Alameda County Office of Education and the Science Partnership of the East Bay that includes 10 school districts and provides science pedagogy to educators, including principals and administrators, throughout the region. The East Bay STEM Network also leveraged its early involvement with the Power of Discovery initiative supporting STEM in expanding learning time, as well as business and industry partnerships that support STEM career exposure and exploration for both high school and college students.

Region 5 STEAM

Mara Wold of Region 5 STEAM and the regional lead for afterschool partnerships at the Monterey County Office of Education, followed Bruce. Region 5 STEAM was also an early partner in the Power of Discovery initiative and serves as one of the California Department of Education’s 16 regional STEAM hubs. Their work has been focused on building the capacity of STEAM educators in expanded learning time and most recently has led to the development of updated vision and purpose statements for the California STEAM Hubs. Region 5 STEAM is also part of the national STEM Learning Ecosystems initiative (as are seven of the 11 affiliated regional STEM networks and ecosystems) and is currently applying for funding from the National Science Foundation to study and measure the impact of their work, especially as it relates to student outcomes.

San Diego STEM Ecosystem

Eric Meyer, the Assistant Director of Education at the Fleet Science Center and the lead for the San Diego STEM Ecosystem, provided the final update. Eric stressed the importance of collaboration between the philanthropic, education and business communities in the greater San Diego region and their emphasis on listening to and engaging the many voices that make up their constituencies. They recently established an Innovation in K-12 working group that hosted monthly “Educator Meet Ups” which led to the development of asynchronous STEM content that’s been shared with educators throughout their network. The San Diego STEM Ecosystem is also focused on STEM career exploration for students and providing “parent professional development” to help parents better support their child’s learning. In addition, distance learning has been a key feature of San Diego’s efforts, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, and has led to innovation in how professional development is provided to educators and the creation of distance learning hubs that offer safe and supportive environments for kids to participate in physical activities and engage with their peers during the day. Lastly, with 47 school districts in San Diego County, a county-wide approach presents many challenges. Consequently, the San Diego STEM Ecosystem initiated a neighborhood approach that focuses on using neighborhood successes as a catalyst for replicating and scaling successful programs in STEM.

We look forward to hearing from other regional STEM networks and ecosystems during future meetings of the California STEM Network and will feature those activities and innovative approaches to STEM teaching and learning in our newsletter.

California STEM Network Expands Partnership with 100Kin10

The California STEM Network recently expanded its partnership with 100Kin10 that will bring together teams from four states (California, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina) to develop a networked impact approach to increasing the range and quality of high school STEM courses, particularly for students of color. This May, 100Kin10 and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) received a planning grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to prepare for submission of a five-year NSF INCLUDES implementation grant in January 2021. The California STEM Network, along with the Charles A. Dana Center, the National Math and Science Initiative and South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics and Science, were invited to partner in the creation of a network-of-networks that would foster learning and collaborative problem-solving to accelerate impact in California and across the country.

100Kin10 is increasingly focusing on the highest-leverage challenges underlying the STEM teacher shortage. Earlier this year they announced their third catalyst, or influential root cause to solving a Grand Challenge: increasing the range and quality of STEM courses in high school, with an explicit focus on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. 100Kin10 was looking specifically for networks using a network impact approach in their communities to address inequities in STEM education, and the California STEM Network stood out to them because of the work we’re doing to connect and engage with STEM partners throughout California.

This month, we’ll have our first gathering of project partners to introduce ourselves and learn more about one another’s work. Over the course of the next 10 weeks, we’ll work together to develop our NSF grant proposal and model of engagement, which will serve as the roadmap for our approach and core set of activities for the next five years.

We look forward to providing future updates regarding this project and partnership in our newsletter. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.


Join Us at the California STEAM Symposium

We are pleased to be presenting at the 2020 California STEAM Symposium scheduled for December 11 – 13. Registration is still available for the annual event that is well-known for its high-quality workshops, inspiring keynotes, and excellent networking opportunities. This year will be no exception. We hope to “see” you there!

Please join us for:

  • Pre-College STEM Programs: Are they really diversifying STEM majors? – Learn about our partnership with the STEM PUSH Network and the National Science Foundation to take a closer look at pre-college STEM programs and how to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who major in STEM subjects in college. (Friday, December 11, 12:20 – 12:40 pm)
  • STEM Resource Inventory – learn about the online tool we developed to support connections amongst STEM program providers, funders, and clients in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lessons learned during development of the tool will be shared. (Saturday, December 12, 9:20 – 9:40 am)

University of California Revises High School Mathematics Course Criteria – Area (c)

In October, the University of California approved revisions to the Area (c) – Mathematics – course requirements. The changes allow for a broader range of mathematics courses to be developed and meet Area (c) criteria. Courses such as data science, computer science, applied mathematics, and CTE courses which meet the revised criteria can now be taken by 11th or 12th grade students to fulfill the third year of Area (c) admissions requirements for UC. Currently three years of math are required for admission, with four recommended. This is an important shift in that it will allow for students to meet the math admissions requirements via a variety of pathways while pursuing their academic interests.

STEM Network Convenes Virtual Sendoff for S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

On December 31, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation – after 63 years of philanthropic support to educational, environmental, and other causes – will cease operations. The Bechtel Foundation has been an extraordinary champion of STEM education in California throughout these decades, but its impact has been particularly profound since it launched its planned spend-down in 2009. At that time, it moved toward tripling its annual grants – to more than $110 million annually – in myriad facets of science, math, engineering, environmental, and computer science education. The grants have spanned curriculum development; state policy development; the adoption of standards, frameworks, and assessments; educator professional development; and more. Moreover, large initiatives (several in the tens of millions of dollars each) supported by the Foundation, such as Math in Common, the NGSS Early Implementers Initiative, the Instructional Leadership Corps, the California Partnership for Math & Science Education, and the New Generation of Educators for California provided laboratories for experimentation in STEM implementation that modified practice and informed policymakers – while building capacity for sustained impact after the its planned closure.

The Bechtel Foundation also recognized the power of local networks to support STEM education: it was a significant supporter of this Network, as well as its precursor (CSLNet).

All of us in the STEM education field owe a debt of gratitude to the Foundation for all that it has enabled us to accomplish, both through its direct support and the many ways that it helped reshape the landscape to allow STEM efforts to be received and flourish. In recognition of that, on November 10 the Network brought together many of our partners throughout the STEM field to share with the Foundation’s education team reflections on how their work, their colleagues, and their students were impacted through Bechtel’s longstanding support of STEM education. Speakers ranged from a State Board member, to district educators, to state and regional supporters of professional development, to external program operators, and many others: the interest in participating was so strong that we were forced to place limits on speakers, but heartfelt tributes were expressed by our friends in every STEM sector.
On behalf of the Foundation, Susan Harvey and Arron Jiron have thanked all of our event participants and shared that it has been a joy and honor for them to be able to learn from so many of you who dedicate yourselves to improving the lives of students and educators, and ultimately our society, through STEM teaching and learning.

The California STEM Network Newsletter will take a break in the month of December. We look forward to resuming our communication with you in January 2021. Thank you and happy holidays!