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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 STEM@ed.gov.

Table of Contents

ED News
ED Funding Opportunities
Federal Funding Opportunities
Other Federal Agency News
Updated COVID-19 Resources


Department Delivers on Trump Administration’s STEM Strategy with Historic Investment
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that during the last fiscal year, it has invested $578 million to support high-quality STEM education, including computer science, for students through its discretionary and research grants. The Department reported strong progress in implementing the Administration’s five-year STEM education strategy, including building on more than $819 million in STEM investments during fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Find more details on these investments, including approximately $156 million to support projects with a focus on computer science.

Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award Call for Nominations
As the nation recognized National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week (November 9-14), the U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the call for nominations for the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award, which honors two K-12 educators for excellence in cybersecurity education.  Now in its second year, the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award is presented annually to one elementary educator and one secondary educator who instill in their students skills, knowledge, and passion for cybersecurity. Nominations should be submitted to CyberAwards@ed.gov no later than January 31, 2021.

Rethink Work-Based Learning Call to Action
The Department’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) held an event on November 10, 2020, featuring Secretary DeVos, OCTAE Assistant Secretary Scott Stump, and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, to rethink work-based learning (WBL) opportunities and highlight employers that are providing WBL experiences to high school students.  OCTAE plans to release a Request for Information soon to gather additional examples of WBL opportunities.  A readout of the event is also available.

Secretary DeVos’ Statement on The Nation's Report Card Results for 12th Grade Reading & Math

Secretary DeVos released a statement on the new reading and mathematics results for 12th grade students on The Nation's Report Card.  “Sadly, the results confirm America’s schools continue to fall far short, and continue to fail too many kids, especially the most disadvantaged. Being a high school graduate should mean something. But when 40% of these graduates are ‘below basic’ in math, and 30% are ‘below basic’ in reading, it’s hard to argue the education system is preparing them for what comes next.

"It’s particularly troubling to see the results for our lowest performing and most disadvantaged students getting worse. Education funding flows most heavily to these students’ schools, but these data make clear money to schools alone will not fix the problem. It’s a problem of approach.

“This Report Card should light a fire under America’s education leaders to pivot and try something new to avert another lost generation. Legislators of both parties should stop making excuses and start working with their governors and the White House right now to pass meaningful reforms that empower students and parents to take control of their education and their future…We must start to act like our very future hinges on solving this now, because it unquestionably does."

ED News

Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide

OET guide
The Department’s Office of Educational Technology recently released a new downloadable “Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide.” The guide is designed to help all parents and other caregivers understand how digital tools can provide tailored learning opportunities, engage students with course materials, encourage creative expression, and enrich the educational experience as they monitor their child’s progress accessing and using technology for learning. This guide also includes easy-to-understand primers on major federal laws governing student privacy and safety.

Back to School Success Stories
Secretary DeVos and Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) Frank Brogan have spent the past few months discussing the importance of students returning to school in-person. OESE also hosted a series of webinars discussing best practices and successful strategies for safe and successful school reopenings. At the website, you can learn from parents, teachers, students, school officials, and community partners from all over the country.  To submit a reopening testimonial, contact reopeningschools@ed.gov.

School Ambassador Fellowship Program Now Accepting Applications ambassadors
The Department is seeking outstanding teachers, principals, counselors, psychologists, librarians, and other school-based professionals interacting with students on a daily basis to bring their expertise to the Department to serve as School Ambassador Fellows. The program is intended to expand Fellows’ knowledge of the national dialogue on education and, in turn, facilitate the learning and input of other educators and community members. Applicants may choose to apply as Washington, D.C. Fellows — a full-time appointment, or as Campus Fellows — a part-time appointment, where fellows collaborate with Department staff while maintaining their regular school responsibilities at home. Applications are due January 11, 2021. 

STEM webinars

October 27 - Invention Education (in partnership with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office) Learn more about invention education and where to find valuable resources.

November 17 – STEM Education Strategic Plan: 2 Years Later (in partnership with The White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF)  and the Department of Defense (DoD)) Hear the latest updates from four federal agencies on how they are implementing the STEM Education Strategic Plan.


December 10 – Frontiers in K-12 Computer Science (CS) Education Discover what states are doing to advance CS education and hear about some novel approaches to CS education from ED grantees.

February 2 – Inspiring STEM Interest Learn about the latest research and developments that spur interest in STEM fields and how you can apply these in your sphere of influence.

March – Differing Abilities in STEM (tentative) Learn how we can support people with differing abilities to be successful in STEM careers.

ED Funding Opportunities

Rethink Adult Ed Pre-Apprenticeships Challenge Grants
The Rethink Adult Ed Challenge is a $750,000 competition to advance pre-apprenticeships. OCTAE invites adult education providers to design programs that better prepare learners for apprenticeships and beyond. The challenge is open to all AEFLA-funded providers — including those without prior experience delivering pre-apprenticeships — to encourage a broad range of entrants across diverse industries and locations. Applications are due November 25, 2020.

Career & Educational Pathways Exploration Grants
The Department is issuing a notice inviting applications (NIA) for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2020 for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) Career and Educational Pathways Exploration System (Career Pathways) Program. The purpose is to develop technology-based or technology-enabled career exploration systems that enable high school students to identify and explore career opportunities; learn from individuals who work in those fields; and identify education and training options--including non-college programs such as work-based learning opportunities, military training, apprenticeships, and employer-sponsored training--that enable entry into or advancement in those careers. Applications are due December 9, 2020.

Federal Funding Opportunities

SMART Scholarship-for-Service Program
Calling all undergraduate and graduate STEM students! The SMART Program is the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) highly competitive STEM-focused scholarship-for-service program. In return for funding scholars’ academic careers, scholars complete a one-to-one DoD employment commitment for each year of funding (SMART awards range from 1.5 to 5 years of study). The SMART Program is a critical DoD investment in attracting scientist and engineers whose technical expertise will help execute the Department's mission. Applications are due December 1, 2020.

Energy Announces MSI/Tribal Partnership Funding Program
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration announced its first Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Partnership Program - Tribal Education Partnership Program Funding Opportunity Announcement. This funding opportunity announcement aims to create and increase the technical STEM capacity at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) and provide opportunities for students to work within the nuclear security enterprise. TCUs may partner with other MSIs to form a consortium. Applications are due December 18, 2020.

Harnessing the Data Revolution: Data Science Corps Grants
Harnessing the Data Revolution (HDR) Big Idea is a national-scale activity to enable new modes of data-driven discovery that will address fundamental questions at the frontiers of science and engineering.  The Data Science Corps is one of the components of the HDR ecosystem enabling education and workforce development by providing practical experiences, teaching new skills, and offering learning opportunities in different settings. Eligible entities include two- and four-year Institutions of Higher Education and non-profit, non- academic organizations such as museums and professional societies. The solicitation submission window is January 26, 2021 - February 12, 2021

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced a Higher Education Challenge Grants Program. The Request for Applications identifies the objective, deadlines, funding information, and eligibility criteria for projects and applicants. These grants will enable colleges and universities to produce graduates capable of strengthening the nation’s food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce. The application deadline is March 24, 2021.

Other Federal Agency News and Opportunities

Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) Request for Information (RFI) Deadline Extended
The deadline to submit comments to the CoSTEM RFI has been extended to November 20. The series of questions posed by the interagency working groups will help guide the federal government interagency working groups as they pursue implementation of the STEM education strategic plan, Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education. All STEM sectors, including non-profits and colleges, among others, are encouraged to respond to this RFI. Please visit the Federal Register notice and submit your response by November 20, 2020. 

Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC) Program Request for Information (RFI) 
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized, and Congress appropriated $26 million to create a Defense Civilian Training Corps (DCTC) program. The purpose is to establish a civilian training corps to prepare selected students for public service in DoD occupations relating to acquisition, science, engineering, or other critical skills. The scholarship-based program, seeking diverse students, will provide a direct path to a STEM and public service career. Four-year colleges and universities are encouraged to submit their responses the RFI expressing interest in the program to Katie Freeman at katie.e.freeman.civ@mail.mil by December 4, 2020.

National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week
The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted the annual National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week, November 9-14, 2020, to call attention to the vital role cybersecurity and its workforce play in the lives of all Americans. The National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week Toolkit and the Veterans page contain additional resources.

In conjunction, NICE hosted its annual NICE Conference and Expo virtually to bring together thought leaders from industry, government, academia, and non-profit organizations to explore issues in cybersecurity education and workforce development. ED personnel served as panel moderators on Monday, November 9.  ED’s STEM Lead, Jean Morrow, moderated the, “Fireside Chat with the 2020 Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award Recipients” and ED’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Steven Hernandez moderated, “Plenary Session: Career Discovery”.  Additionally, the 2020 NICE K-12 Virtual Cybersecurity Education Conference will take place December 7-8, 2020.

Cybersecurity Education Diversity Initiative
The National Security Administration (NSA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) launched a significant cybersecurity education diversity initiative (CEDI) to enable MSIs and HBCUs access to cyber materials and mentorships to develop cyber programs so students graduate “job ready” - armed with the knowledge, skills, and training necessary for a successful career in cybersecurity. View the CEDI Fact Sheet for more details and contact  Mediarelations@nsa.gov with additional questions.

National Apprenticeship Week
The Department of Labor (DOL) celebrated the 5th anniversary of National Apprenticeship Week November 8-14, 2020, a nationwide celebration that brings together business leaders, career seekers, labor, educational institutions, and other critical partners to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship, with events across the nation. Apprenticeship.gov is the one-stop source to connect career seekers, employers, and education partners with apprenticeship resources. Discover apprenticeships across industries, how programs are started by employers, and how to become an apprentice.  Learn more from Assistant Secretary Scott Stump.

Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest

artemis essay contest
NASA has launched a new K-12 student essay contest to consider what it might be like to live with a pod of astronauts 250,000 miles from Earth on the Moon. Contestants, restricted to U.S. citizens,  should outline the skills, attributes, and/or personality traits of the Moon Pod crew and what high tech gear and gadgets would be important to bring and leave on the lunar surface to help future astronauts explore the Moon. Nine finalists will to travel NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to learn about lunar exploration, and the national winner in each grade division will receive a family trip to see the first Artemis flight test to watch the most-powerful rocket in the world launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Register to be a judge. Entries are due December 17, 2020.

Naval Horizons: Where Students Design the Navy and Marine Corps of the Future

naval horizons
The Naval Horizons challenge is designed to introduce STEM college students to cutting-edge science and technology topics that impact the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.  Students are invited to watch the video series, select one topic, and share their ideas on the current state of the art and a futurist vision of the Navy and/or Marine Corps in the year 2040.  Submissions will be evaluated on a rolling basis and the first 3,000 submissions to meet the evaluation criteria will be awarded a $200 stipend. Please visit the website to learn more.  The challenge will close on January 15, 2020.

USDA Extends Free Student Meals and Invests in Distance Learning

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA is extending flexibilities to allow free meals to continue to be available to all children throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.  Secretary Perdue also announced that the USDA is investing $72 million in grants to help more than 12 million rural residents gain access to distance learning and telemedicine.

Rural Prosperity Guide
The White House recently released a rural prosperity resource guide for state and local officials and Tribal leaders. The resource guide, Promoting Rural Prosperity in America, demonstrates the Trump Administration’s investment in and support for rural America and outlines key programs across the Federal government to support rural prosperity and resiliency. The guide includes rural education resources available to K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions.

American Women of Science Symposium
The Smithsonian Institution hosted a virtual American Women of Science Symposium October 20–22 and 27–29, 2020, including a mix of keynotes, panels, and lightning talks, designed to inspire and educate scientists, and support a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future. The sessions are archived on the website.

Virtual NSF Grants Conference
Join the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its first Virtual NSF Grants Conference to be held during the weeks of November 16 and November 30, 2020.  Registration is required and free of charge.  At this event, designed to give faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues of interest, NSF staff will provide up-to-date information about the proposal and award process, specific funding opportunities, and answer questions.

STEM Matters Infographic
The U.S. Department of Energy has released a new STEM Matters infographic that illustrates why STEM jobs are a smart career choice. In 2020, there are an estimated 17.3 million STEM jobs in the United States. The energy sector has outperformed the rest of the economy in job creation, employing 6.8 million people and adding over 26,000 jobs in the past year. This tool helps illustrate that STEM careers can make a difference in solving our global issues. 

NEW Virtual STEM Workshop Series for Educators
Sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Defense, the USA Science & Engineering Festival is offering four free Inspire Educators Workshops, hosted by Jason Latimer. The virtual on-demand workshops are designed to inspire and equip teachers with the most current and innovative STEM learning tools for the classroom. 

Updated COVID-19 Resources

During this coronavirus pandemic it is important that states, communities, educators, and families are equipped with resources and flexibilities that empower students to continue pursuing their education goals. COVID-19 resources for schools, students, and families are available at ed.gov/coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also continues to provide updated guidance for school settings.

Please send questions on which the Department can be helpful to COVID-19@ed.gov.