As School Year commences, STEM Opportunities Keep on Rolling: October 2020 STEM Newsletter October 2020 STEM Newsletter

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STEM Education Updates from the

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED or the Department) developed this STEM newsletter to provide resources and inspiration. The Department also maintains resources on its STEM landing page, including funding opportunities and archives of STEM briefings. You can manage your newsletter subscription and you are encouraged to invite your colleagues and friends to sign up as well!   The Department welcomes your feedback and questions. Please feel free to share them at

Table of Contents

ED Funding Announcements
ED News
ED Funding Opportunities
STEM Briefings
Other Funding Opportunities
Other Federal Agency News
State STEM Programs
Updated COVID-19 Resources
ED STEM Resources

ED Funding Announcements

Secretary DeVos Expands Commitment to Elevating the Teaching Profession through New Grant Funding for Performance-Based Compensation, Professional Development
The U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on September 30 nearly $100 million in grant awards to school districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit organizations that build on her commitment to elevating the teaching profession and empowering teachers. The three grant competitions announced earlier this year challenged education leaders to rethink teacher preparation, professional development, and compensation in order to treat teachers as valued professionals. Additional information on the three grant programs and the awards announced today can be found below:

Teacher and School Leader Incentive (TSL) Program
Under TSL, the Department made 13 awards totaling $63.7 million to support local education agencies in developing, enhancing, improving, and/or implementing human capital management systems (HCMS) that include performance-based teacher and/or principal compensation systems (PBCS). Each of the funded projects was also designed to be concentrated in high-need schools and has the goal of increasing overall student achievement and closing the achievement gap between low- and high-performing students.

Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program
Under SEED, the Department of Education made 12 awards totaling $23.8 million to support evidence-based educator development models that prepare teachers, principals, and other school leaders serving students in high-need schools. The purpose of these grants is to increase the number of highly effective educators by supporting the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators with a focus on the following: preparing educators to teach STEM, with an emphasis on computer science; incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) practices into teaching; and, providing services to educators serving students and schools located in distressed communities designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones.

Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program
Under TQP, the Department of Education made 10 awards totaling $7.3 million to support innovative teacher preparation models that prepare prospective and new teachers to serve students in high-need schools. The purpose of the program is to improve student achievement, elevate the quality of the teacher workforce by enhancing preparation of prospective teachers and professional development of new teachers, and recruit highly qualified individuals into the teacher workforce.

New Grant Awards to Spur Worker Development, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth
Secretary DeVos announced on September 25 more than $126 million in new student-centered grant funding will be awarded to eight states to provide students the opportunity to develop new skills in high demand areas. The recipients will leverage the expertise and facilities available on college campuses to spur entrepreneurship and foster business development and innovation as America begins to recover from COVID-19-related disruptions to education. Awardees include Alabama, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Hampton University in partnership with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Grants Awarded to Expand Student-Centered Funding for Personalized Learning & Course Access
On September 18, the Secretary announced new funding for two grant programs focused on meeting students’ unique learning needs and improving student outcomes.  The Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grants Program supports school districts’ efforts to develop distance-learning opportunities, expand their course offerings, and ensure students have access to a broad range of advanced, career or technical, and other courses. The Well-Rounded Education Through Student-Centered Funding Demonstration Grants Program allows funding to follow individual students so that school districts can allocate resources in a way that provides a customized approach to education that considers individual needs in order to improve academic achievement. Both grant programs are funded through a required 2% set-aside of funds for technical assistance and capacity building under Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

ED News

Secretary DeVos Visits Workforce Prep Program

BDV at hamptonU
The Secretary and Assistant Secretary Scott Stump visited Hampton University in Virginia to celebrate the school’s winning a Reimagine Workforce Prep grant proposal which will build small business incubators in Opportunity Zones. This exciting project, funded via the CARES Act, will help students jump start their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs.

2020 National Blue Ribbon School Awardees Announced
Secretary DeVos recognized 367 schools in late September as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2020. The recognition is based on a school's overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Now in its 38th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed almost 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools, with some schools winning multiple awards. The Department recognizes schools based on two performance categories:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools – These are among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools – These are among their state's highest performing in closing achievement gaps between a school's student groups and all students.

New Cohort of HBCU Competitiveness Scholars
The Secretary and Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Johnathan Holifield recently celebrated this year’s selectively chosen cohort of HBCU Competitiveness Scholars. Scholars are chosen for their outstanding work as campus and community leaders. For example, Christopher Ward is an HBCU Competitiveness Scholar pursuing a degree in computer science at Kentucky State University. He plans to use his degree to become the Chief Information Officer at a fortune 500 company. Congratulations to all the HBCU Competitiveness Scholars! Nominations for 2012 will open in the Spring.

Department of Education Hosts Virtual Panel on Successful Strategies to Reopen Schools This Fall
On September 24, Secretary DeVos and Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan hosted a geographically diverse group of education practitioners to discuss successful strategies and innovative ideas they have implemented to reopen schools, rethink education, and improve student outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The forum engaged a broad audience of K-12 education leaders from across the country who considered creative ways to help students learn this fall, including state and district superintendents, private and charter school leaders, teachers, and state and local school board members representing traditional public, charter, private, and tribal networks. View and bookmark this series of Reopening Webinars.

It Feels So Good to Be in School


Check out this heart warming blog by New Hampshire high school science teacher Lori Christerson, Ph.D

New Web Tool to Help Families and Educators Easily Access School Spending Data
In September, the Department and Secretary launched a new tool that increases transparency on per pupil expenditures (PPE) in schools. This new user-friendly website shows how much money each school spends per student and will help parents and local leaders seek to understand funding levels and differences between schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to report how much federal, state, and local taxpayer money school districts spent on students. Unfortunately, each state provides the information in different ways and places – some with more transparency then others.

Now, through the new website, state data will be aggregated and made easily accessible and searchable. The tool displays the breakdown of federal, state, and local funds that make up the PPE for each school and district, starting with the 2018–19 school year. The tool features an interactive map, individual state pages, and a downloadable Excel file. Users can search for individual districts and schools and sort, filter, and compare information between schools and districts within each state. The site is also accessible on mobile devices.

ED Funding Opportunities

Department Launches Rethink Adult Ed Challenge to Grow Pre-Apprenticeship Opportunities
On September 24, in recognition of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, Secretary DeVos announced the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge that will expand career opportunities for adult life-long learners through pre-apprenticeship programs. These important educational opportunities help to ensure students seeking apprenticeships are prepared with the skills they need for success. Community colleges, correctional facilities, libraries, community-based organizations, and other eligible providers interested in entering the challenge should complete a Stage 1 submission by November 25, 2020.


CTE Mission: CubeSat Challenge – deadline October 16, 2020.

Grants to Promote Institutional Resiliency and Expand Educational Opportunity for Studentsdeadline October 20, 2020.

Blockchain Innovation Challenge – deadline October 30, 2020.

STEM Webinars

stem webinars

Mark your calendar for the following:

Speakers include:

  • Joyce Ward, Director, Office of Education and Outreach, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • Radia Perlman, Dell Corporation, National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee
  • David Coronado, Program Officer, The Lemelson Foundation
  • Stephanie Couch, Executive Director, Lemelson-MIT
  • Kristin Moon, Program Administrator, Technology and Engineering, Portland Public Schools, OR
  • November 17 – 5-Year Federal STEM Strategic Plan Update
  • Speakers from Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF)

In case you missed it, you can view the September 15 STEM Teacher Prep webinar.

Other Funding Opportunities

Lab-to-Market Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize Competition – now open! The Lab-to-Market (L2M) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on the Science and Technology Enterprise launched on September 30 a $325,000 prize competition to highlight successful examples of innovation ecosystems, particularly existing resources that support underrepresented communities or remarkable responses to the pandemic environment. The prize competition will also recognize the most impactful ideas for using prize funds to develop strong connections and support within the research and development (R&D) innovation ecosystem.  Deadline to apply is October 14, 2020.

NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning
The National Science Foundation (NSF) published its Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) funding solicitation. The AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.  AISL supports six types of projects: (1) Pilots and Feasibility Studies, (2) Research in Service to Practice, (3) Innovations in Development, (4) Broad Implementation, (5) Literature Reviews, Syntheses, or Meta-Analyses, and (6) Conferences. The submission deadline is January 12, 2021.

Other Federal Agency News

STEM Request for Information
On behalf of the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC's) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) and in coordination with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Science Foundation (NSF) requests input related to the implementation of the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan released December 2018, Charting a Course For Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education. This request seeks public input on STEM education including digital resources, strategic partnerships, computational literacy, transdisciplinary learning, and more. Any questions regarding the RFI should be directed to Cindy Hasselbring, Assistant Director, STEM Education, OSTP, The STEM Request for Information (RFI) comment period will close at 11:59 pm on October 19, 2020.

Quantum Information Science Advances
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced the launch of, the official website of the National Quantum Coordination Office, and the release of the Quantum Frontiers Report identifying key areas for continued quantum information science (QIS) research. In addition, today OSTP and the National Science Foundation (NSF), brought together members of the National Q-12 Education Partnership for its inaugural meeting to chart a path forward for expanding QIS education opportunities in K-12 classrooms. Established in August 2020, the National Q-12 Education Partnership is a first-of-its-kind public-private effort promoting the development of educational programs, tools, training opportunities, and curricula that help introduce QIS themes at the middle school and high school levels.

New NASA Artemis Student Challenge Opportunity Available: 2021 Micro-g NExT

Calling all undergraduate students who would like to gain hands-on, authentic engineering design experience while also contributing to NASA missions! Micro-g NExT, or Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams, challenges undergraduate students to design and build prototype mission hardware like spacewalk tools. The student designed prototypes are tested in the simulated microgravity environment of NASA’s 6.2-million-gallon indoor pool – the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in Houston, where astronauts train for spacewalks. You will apply classroom knowledge and benefit from the expertise of real NASA engineers. Take the Micro-g NExT challenge and join NASA as we embark on a mission to the Moon and beyond. The proposal deadline is October 30, 2020.

Discover Apprenticeships
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of registered apprenticeships, and increase participation by business leaders and job seekers nationwide.  The “Discover Apprenticeship” campaign is part of DOL’s broader $858 million investment since 2017 to grow apprenticeship programs in the U.S.  The campaign will help fulfill the Administration’s goals to spur greater employment and support the growth of American businesses. While more than 6.6 million job openings exist in the U.S., the growing skills gap in the workforce leaves many of these vacancies unfilled as employers struggle to find job seekers with the skills needed. Check out the Apprenticeship Job Finder and visit to learn more.

NOAA Webinars and Hands-On Science Activities
This hands-on NOAA collection includes hands-on earth science activities that can be done in 15-30 minutes and will get students thinking about how things really work. Activities were developed by NOAA Teacher At Sea alumni and other NOAA partners and tested with students of various ages. The NOAA Education at home collection features a quick roundup of some of NOAA’s most popular educational resources that can be done without leaving the house. NOAA’s extensive library of live and archived webinars are designed for educators and students. With themes like satellite monitoring, hurricane hunters, and deep-sea dives, our webinars range from the surface of the sun to the bottom of the ocean floor. Visit the NOAA Education Portal for many more resources and opportunities for educators and students!

NASA Offers International Space Station Downlink
STEM on Station, a NASA Office of STEM Engagement activity, is currently accepting proposals for U.S. educational organizations to host a downlink during International Space Station Expedition 65, which will run April to October 2021. The downlink provides a twenty-minute, live video question and answer session with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS). There will be an information session October 28 at 3pm CDT.  You can request a proposal form and downlink guide by email.  Proposals are due December 1, 2020.

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS)

NASA seeks community college students to inspire them to become the next generation of the STEM workforce. NCAS gives community college students an opportunity to learn from experts about NASA’s missions and current research in an online self-paced course. Students, who succeed in the course, may have the opportunity to attend a NASA experience where a NASA scientist or engineer would lead them in a competition with other likeminded students. To find out more or to direct students to the application, please visit the NCAS website. The application will remain open through November 18, 2020.

State STEM Programs

Million Girls Moonshot Launches
On September 16, the Intel Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation joined STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the Million Girls Moonshot (MGM).  The effort is designed to engage one million school-age girls in the U.S. in STEM learning opportunities over the next five years. The organizations will provide grant funding and in-kind resources to Mott-funded afterschool networks in all 50 states to increase access to hands-on, immersive STEM learning experiences. The MGM aims to create a national movement to change the trajectory of women and girls in STEM. Led by STEM Next Opportunity Fund, the MGM will tap a wide range of funding and programmatic partners, including NASA, Qualcomm Incorporated, Technovation, National Girls Collaborative Project, CSforALL, JFF, Techbridge Girls, STEMconnector and If/Then, an initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. Learn more at

NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS)
HAS is an authentic learning experience for Texas high school juniors to engage with NASA’s mission to become the next generation of explorers. Following a series of online lessons, highest achieving students attend an all-expenses-paid, week-long visit to the NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston during the summer. Selected participants plan a team-based Artemis themed mission to Moon and Mars with the guidance of NASA scientists and engineers. NASA has many resources for teachers who are looking to enhance STEM experiences in their classroom at Student applications are available through October 21, 2020.

New Ohio High School STEM Scholarship to Recognize STEM Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Believe in Ohio program on September 16 announced the launch of a new statewide scholarship program that seeks to recognize Ohio high school students for their contributions to innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program also introduces applicants to Choose Ohio First, an Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) scholarship program for students in STEM fields. More than 45 public and private Ohio colleges and universities award Choose Ohio First scholarships in more than 110 program areas.

Update COVID-19 Resources
The White House, the Department, and other federal agencies continue to release guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19. Many of the latest documents are listed below. Please visit the Department’s COVID-19 information and resources web page for the most current information, and any questions for the Department may be directed to