STEM Opportunities and Resources for a Happy New Year from the U.S. Department of Education - January 2021 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 News
ED Funding Opportunities
Other Federal Funding Opportunities
Request for Information

Other Federal Resources and Opportunities 
Research Updates

New COVID-19 Resources


Education Innovation and Research Grants Announced
The Department announced $185 million in new grant funding for 28 school districts, institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations across the United States as part of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. These new grant awards will accelerate locally driven innovation and improve academic achievement for high-needs students around the country. In addition to promoting teacher empowerment, the 28 awards help realize other key Administration priorities, including:

  • over $79 million to grants serving rural areas;
  • over $66 million to grants focused on STEM education including computer science; and,
  • over $77 million to grants supporting Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) projects.

For additional information about the EIR competition, please visit

Out of School Time Career Pathway Awardees
Under the national activities authority in the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC)  program, the Department this week announced $2,133,357 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 awards to four state-based partnerships to develop out of school time career pathways (OSTCP) that will offer participating students an opportunity to earn a recognized postsecondary credential such as an industry-recognized certification or apprenticeship in an in-demand industry. The project period is up to five-years. 

  • The New Hampshire Out-of-School-Time Career Pathways Initiative seeks to build out a holistic career pathway program for students in K-12 public schools.
  • The Tennessee Expansion of Computer Science Career Pathways Project (TEC) Project, brings together the Tennessee Department of Education in partnership with other education organizations and industry partners to promote the growth of computer science (CS) pathways in rural districts.
  • The Utah 21st CCLC Out-of-School Time (UOST) Career Pathways Collaboration project is designed to create connections between out of school time programs and Career & Technical Education (CTE) career pathways.
  • The Iowa 21st Century CLC Career Pathway program will partner with three current 21st CCLC sites and four high schools to develop partnerships with businesses and other entities to provide career experiences.

STEM Education Briefing Series

STEM webinars


February 2, 2021, Inspiring STEM Interest

Join us as we learn more about some of the Department’s efforts and the latest research and resources for inspiring STEM interest from respected subject matter experts.  These tips can help inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.

March 25, 2021, Differing Abilities in STEM featuring Dr. Temple Grandin

              More details to follow.

For archived briefing presentations, check out


December 10, 2020, New Frontiers in K-12 Computer Science Education

Learn more about K-12 CS education, which states are leading the way, as well as some innovative approaches to integrating CS into formal, informal, and virtual educational settings.

November 17 – STEM Education Strategic Plan: 2 Years Later 

Hear the latest updates from four federal agencies on how they are implementing the STEM Education Strategic Plan.  This briefing was conducted 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).

For archived briefing presentations, check out

Rural Tech Finalists Selected
The Department announced the five finalist teams in the Rural Tech Project. The $600,000 challenge aims to advance technology education and support rural educators. The finalists will work to prepare students for technology careers in computer science and informatics, cybersecurity, engineering, healthcare and drone operations. Each team will receive a $100,000 cash prize and progress to the second phase of the challenge. One grand-prize winner will receive an additional $100,000. Congratulations to the winning finalists:

  • iLead Academy (Carrollton, Kentucky)
  • Louisa County Public Schools (Mineral, Virginia)
  • Premont Independent School District (Premont, Texas), collaborating with Brooks County and Freer Independent School Districts
  • Ravenna High School (Ravenna, Michigan)
  • Woodlake High School (Woodlake, California)

You for Youth Offers New NASA Activities

Mars Challenge
The You for Youth (Y4Y) technical assistance site provides online professional learning and out of school resources for 21st Century Community Learning Centers and other afterschool providers.  In addition to exiting STEM initiatives, Y4Y recently partnered with NASA to offer additional opportunities for out of school time (OST) educators and students. 

One example of this partnership are the STEM Shorts feature “NASA STEM Stars” in a webchat series that gives students ages 13+ the opportunity to connect with subject matter experts at NASA. Each chat introduces a STEM career, addresses a STEM topic, highlights a NASA mission, and includes a STEM activity that students can do at home.  

Another example of this collaboration is around the imminent Mission to Mars Student Challenge that celebrates the landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover on February 18, 2021, with hands-on at home STEM enrichment activities for the weeks leading up to the landing. The fun starts on January 21, at 8:30 am PT, with a live STEM enrichment training especially for the out-of-school time community. For a preview, watch Curiosity’s 2012 landing in “Seven Minutes of Terror!”  Register here to get all the details. 

ED News

Department of Education Quickly Makes Available an Additional $54 Billion in K-12 COVID Relief Aid
The Department of Education recently announced that more than $54 billion in emergency relief funding is now available to support fully reopening K-12 schools, facilitate continuity of learning, and measure and address the learning loss caused by a lack of in-person learning opportunities. This funding is allocated by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on Dec. 27, 2020.

Webinar TONIGHT: Learning in a Pandemic
Please join the U.S. Department of Education for a discussion on the state of student learning during the pandemic and tools that families and teachers can use to support student learning now.  This event will educate parents and teachers on the state of learning today and how you can better support your students during the pandemic.  The forum will feature Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Jim Blew and Institute for Education Sciences Director Mark Schneider and will review the most updated research on the state of student learning today and share personalized platforms you can utilize to support student learning immediately.

  • Thursday, January 14, 2021 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM EST (please note start time and time zone).
  • You must RSVP to join the forum. Upon successful registration, you will receive an email containing a personalized access link.

Student Aid Forbearance
In response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the Secretary announced the extension of the federal student loan administrative forbearance period, the pause in interest accrual, and the suspension of collections activity through January 31, 2021.  Federal student loan borrowers will not be expected to make any payments through January of next year, although they will continue to be able to do so and benefit from the 0% interest rate as they pay down principal.  Non-payments will continue to count toward the number of payments required under an income-driven repayment plan, a loan rehabilitation agreement, or the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

College Scorecard Updates, Greater Transparency on Borrower Repayment Progress and Postsecondary Costs
The Department announced on January 12 a new update to College Scorecard that delivers on the Administration’s promise to make higher education more transparent and accountable. College Scorecard now provides prospective students with information on how well borrowers from individual colleges and universities are progressing in repaying their federal student loans, as well as how overall borrower cohorts are faring at certain intervals in the repayment process.  These updates follow the total revamp of College Scorecard in November 2019, which allowed users to compare median debt and earnings data by field of study – not just by institution – for the first time. 

ED Releases Spanish Version of the Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide

OET espanol

The Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) recently released a Spanish version of the Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide, a resource to help parents and guardians understand how digital tools can provide tailored learning opportunities, engage students with course materials, encourage creative expression, and enrich the educational experience. The Spanish version allows the guides’ resources, tips, and information about best practices to reach more families. Back in October 2020, the Department released the English version of the Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide.

OET just released the Teacher Digital Learning Guide and the School Leader Digital Learning Guide, which are two new resources and complete this series. These guides provide strategies to help teachers and leaders effectively incorporate digital learning strategies both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers and leaders may also use the information in the guides to support parents and families, as they navigate learning from home. All three guides may be viewed here.

The HBCUs PARTNERS Act signed into Law
In late December 2020, the President signed into law the HBCU PARTNERS Act.  Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a critical part of America’s postsecondary education system and this bipartisan legislation codifies the Presidential Executive Order to pave a brighter and stronger path forward for HBCUs.

ED Funding Opportunities

Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 officially kicked-off on October 1, 2020.  Currently open discretionary and research opportunities that can support STEM are listed below. New to the Department’s grantmaking process? The Department offers introductory resources about its grantmaking and is always seeking experts in STEM education and other fields to serve as peer reviewers of grant applications. Consider becoming a peer reviewer for FY 2021!

College Assistance Migrant Program
The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education issued a notice inviting applications (NIA) for FY 2021 for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).  CAMP is designed to assist migratory or seasonal farmworkers (or immediate family members of such workers) who are enrolled or are admitted for enrollment on a full-time basis at an institution of higher education (IHE) to complete their first academic year.  Applications are due by January 22, 2021.

Native American Career and Technical Education Program (NACTEP)
The Department’s Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education issued an NIA for new awards for FY 2021 for the NACTEP. NACTEP provides grants to improve career and technical education (CTE) programs that benefit Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Applications are due January 29, 2021. 

Transformative Research in the Education Sciences Grants Program
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and its National Center for Education Research (NCER) announced a Request for Application (RFA) for the Transformative Research in the Education Sciences Grants Program.  Applications are due February 25, 2021.

Talent Search Program
The Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education issued an NIA for fiscal year (FY) 2021 for the Talent Search Program. The purpose of the Talent Search Program is to identify qualified individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds with potential for education at the postsecondary level and encourage them to complete secondary school and undertake postsecondary education. This competition contains a Competitive Preference Priority for STEM. Applications are due by February 26, 2021.

Other Federal Funding Opportunities

Workforce Pathways for Youth
The Employment Training Administration (ETA) at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a $10 million Funding Opportunity Announcement seeking applications to support Workforce Pathways for Youth. The purpose of this program is to increase alignment between workforce and out of school (OST) programs and expand job training and workforce pathways for youth and disconnected youth including soft skill development, career exploration, job readiness and certification, summer jobs, year-round job opportunities, and apprenticeships.  Applications are due February 4, 2021.

NSF Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) NSF announced a program solicitation seeking applications to: 1) increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need obtaining degrees in S-STEM eligible disciplines and entering the US workforce or graduate programs in STEM; 2) improve support mechanisms for future scientists, engineers, and technicians, with a focus on low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need; and 3) advance our understanding of how interventions or evidence-based curricular and co-curricular activities affect the success, retention, transfer, academic/career pathways, and graduation of low-income students in STEM.  Full proposals are due April 7, 2021.

National Defense Education Program
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) National Defense Education Program (NDEP) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeks innovative applications on mechanisms to: 1) implement STEM education, outreach, and/or workforce initiative programs; 2) implement biotechnology outreach and workforce development; and/or, 3) enhanced civics education. White Papers are due January 25, 2021 invited applications are due April 19, 2021.

Request for Information

Input Needed to Expand Innovation
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a request for comments in the Federal Register seeking public input in the development of a national strategy for Expanding American Innovation. All parties interested in invention education, innovation, and the convergence of STEM, STEAM, real-world research and development, and entrepreneurship are encouraged to share their input.  Comments are due February 8, 2021.


ED Delivers Historic Investment in STEM
In FY 2020, the Department invested $578 million to support high-quality STEM education, including computer science, for students through its discretionary and research grants.  Read more about this support and the program investments.

Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award – Last call for nominations!
The call for nominations is now open for second year awards for one elementary and one secondary teacher that teach cybersecurity education.  Nominations and any questions should be submitted to Nominations are due January 31, 2021.

CTE CubeSat Finalists Announced
OCTAE’s Assistant Secretary Scott Stump recently announced the five finalists, who will each receive $5,000 and in-kind prizes that they may use to build CubeSat (cube satellite) prototypes in the second phase of the challenge. To receive Phase 2 updates and other challenge news, subscribe to the CTE Mission: CubeSat newsletter.

December 2020 STEM Newsletter 
Last month’s newsletter featured some great information and opportunities, including NASA’s computer science education resources and information about the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) with applications due by April 1, 2021.

Other Federal Resources and Opportunities

Department of Energy Job Fair
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will host a virtual job fair on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). NNSA and its Labs, Plants and Sites are seeking to hire about 2,000 new employees in fields such as engineering, science, security, IT, business, foreign affairs and many others to join its robust and diverse workforce in 2021 and continue to build the next generation of nuclear security professionals. Individuals are encouraged to register in advance.

White House STEM Progress Report
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released its annual STEM education progress report.  This progress report includes a summary of the implementation of the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan, an inventory of Federal STEM education investments, and more.  A few ED programs are highlighted in this report, including the STEM Inclusion for Innovation in Early Education Center (STEMI2E2), which seeks to improve access and participation in STEM learning for young children with disabilities. STEMI2E2 will disseminate these practices and support tools to early childhood programs, administrators, providers, families of children with disabilities, and institutions of higher education.  Also mentioned were the Department’s efforts to support computer science via a priority in several discretionary grant competitions in FY 2019 and FY 2020 and implement the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award to primary and secondary educators.

Free Innovation Professional Development and Support
The USPTO is pleased to offer monthly virtual professional development workshops for K-12 educators interested in integrating intellectual property (IP), invention, and innovation content into STEM/STEAM classrooms. Explore different types of IP protection including patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets. Sessions are held the last Tuesday of each month from 6:00 pm-7:30 pm ET. Registration is available online or email Upcoming dates: Tuesday, January 26 and February 23, 2021.

The USPTO also hosts monthly virtual “Office Hours” for K-12 educators and learners to provide an informal opportunity to ask intellectual property related questions and allow deeper exploration of ideas to integrate intellectual property and invention education concepts into various subjects. Office hours are held on the last Wednesday of each month from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm ET. Register hereUpcoming dates: Wednesday, January 27 and February 24, 2021.

NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions
NASA announced it has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program. The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.

Best Practices in Virtual Internships Webinars
The National Science Foundation (NSF) INCLUDES Coordination Hub is hosting a panel representing federal agencies and INCLUDES National Network members to share best practices and lessons learned on hosting virtual internships on January 29 at 3PM ET. Then on February 18 at 3pm ET, the INCLUDES  Coordination Hub will host another event with representatives from across federal agencies to share upcoming Federal Undergraduate STEM virtual internship opportunities.

Stories of Women in STEM at the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Women

This free e-book features biographies of trailblazing women who made history through their scientific discoveries and innovation. From aerospace engineer and mathematician Mary Golda Ross to hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, learn how women have defied gender stereotypes and overcome structural barriers to advance the science, technology, engineering, and math industry. 

Five Federal Institutions with Free Education Materials
Many organizations across the federal government and their partners have free education resources available for use, including the Smithsonian’s Zoo.  Many more are available online.

New Small Business Administration (SBA) Platform Women Business Owners
The SBA recently announced Ascent, an interactive digital platform packed with resources, including expert fireside chats, self-assessments, discussion guides, and success stories for women business owners to set, and achieve, their business goals. Ascent is designed for the “missing middle” — growth-oriented women entrepreneurs who are beyond the start-up phase and already generating revenue yet looking to grow and scale. This platform can also support current or future STEM entrepreneurs.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) STEM Resources
Interested in aviation education? With the aviation industry growing, a diverse pipeline of skilled, passionate aviation professionals will drive innovation and better prepare the industry for tackling the challenges of the 21st century. Therefore, the FAA has developed STEM resources to help students and educators with a variety of programs.

FAA Airport Design Challenge Awards Ceremony
Last Fall, nearly 1,300 students from 22 countries joined the FAA Airport Design Challenge for a journey in learning, gaming, and airport development. Watch the live award ceremony January 21, 2021 on the FAA’s TwitterFacebook and YouTube channels. The ceremony for kindergarten to 6th grade teams will stream at 11:00 am ET, and for 7th to 12th grade teams at 2:00 pm ET.  More than 80 video entries were submitted via YouTube. Watch a few samples to see how students recreated their local airports: 

The virtual event is open to students in the U.S. and internationally. Visit Airport Design Challenge for more details and join the mailing list for future competitions.

Research Updates

IES/NCSER Spotlight: KinderTEK – Improving Early Mathematics Learning in All Students.
The Institute of Education Sciences’ (IES) National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) supported the development of the KinderTEK program, an iPad application used in Kindergarten classrooms to provide multi-tiered systems of support for students struggling with mathematics. Building on a prior research and development grants, IES/NCSER funded the evaluation of KinderTEK to examine the efficacy of the intervention in general education Kindergarten classrooms.

IES Blog “Reverse the Loss”
IES Director Mark Schneider’s latest blog post, “Operation Reverse the Loss, Redux,” identifies three main “buckets of actions” that IES should pursue to help reverse pandemic-related learning loss: understanding the crisis and accelerating discovery; responding to the crisis with new tools to help students catch up; and making sure the most high-need students do not get left behind.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 Results 
The TIMSS is an international comparative study that measures trends in math and science achievement in the fourth and eighth grades every four years. The U.S. had higher average scores than most participating systems in both subjects and grades. However, the U.S. also had relatively large score gaps between the top- and bottom-performing students in both subjects and grades.  Looking at changes over time in math at both grades, U.S. average scores have increased -- with higher average scores in 2019 than in 1995 -- but show no significant changes between 2015 and 2019. 

National Assessment of Educational Progress Postponed
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on school attendance patterns, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has determined that it cannot conduct the 2021 NAEP in a manner with sufficient validity and reliability to meet the mandate of the law.  NCES is postponing the next NAEP collection until 2022

New COVID-19 Resources


The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and Institute of Education Sciences (IES) developed “Effective and Engaging Instruction: Remote and In-Person” -- resources to support teachers and school, school district, and state leaders.  These resources include:

Similar resources are available at OESE Resources, OSEP Continuity of Learning During COVID-19, and IES COVID-19 Evidence-Based Resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an updated COVID-19 Toolkit for K-12 Schools with guidance and tools to help school administrators make decisions, protect their students and staff, and communicate with their communities. 

Last month, the Department issued an updated fact sheet for procuring, donating, or loaning personal protective equipment and other medical supplies and equipment purchased with federal funding. 

Please send questions on which the Department can be helpful to