CSBA briefs examine training needed to effectively implement Next Generation Science Standards
Students using classroom whiteboard together
Establishing and maintaining a pipeline of highly trained educators in science, technology, mathematics and engineering is critical in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards. Accomplishing this is difficult for many local educational agencies, however, as many face a shortage of STEM teachers in their region or the funds to train and retain those they recruit.

In a pair of briefs released Oct. 29, CSBA policy experts explore not only the challenges that LEAs face in these areas, but also potential actions that governance teams can take to ensure that all students have access to rigorous STEM curriculum and educators capable of teaching it.

Through a two-year partnership with the Bechtel Foundation, CSBA has developed a suite of resources for governance teams that are committed to providing equitable STEM instruction. CSBA Director of Research and Education Policy Development Mary Briggs said the goal is to help board members maintain momentum in addressing these issues even as they deal with so many current challenges.

“Much of our attention this year has rightly been focused on improving distance learning, but schools still face STEM teacher shortages and the challenges of supporting equitable, high-quality STEM instruction,” Briggs said. “The most recent briefs focus on a critical issue in providing access to high-quality STEM learning: teacher capacity. Whether it be the preparation of STEM teachers or providing professional development, our students deserve teachers that are prepared to provide the best instruction to California’s students.”

Creating and maintaining a pipeline for K-12 STEM teachers in California
A 2018 CSBA survey of school human resources professionals found 76 percent of LEAs experienced teacher shortages, with at least half of LEAs short of math or science teachers. These shortages disproportionately fall on high-needs schools, and leave students less likely to be taught by a highly qualified teacher, and thus, less likely succeed in STEM, pass their math and science courses or choose careers with strong STEM components.

Districts cannot address the issue of teacher shortages alone. Recruiting and retaining high-quality STEM teachers requires collaboration between LEAs, colleges and universities, state agencies and policymakers. Focusing on several areas can improve teacher recruitment and retention, according to research and advocates: increasing STEM educator salaries; offering loan forgiveness programs; relying on retired teachers as both a potential source of labor and mentoring for new teachers; offering mentoring pay that keeps experienced teachers in the classroom instead of pushing them toward administrative roles; and professional development.

STEM residency programs are an example of the creative ways in which LEAs can partner with other entities to build the capacity of novice teachers while giving them a strong incentive to stay in the district for some time. In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District and Bakersfield USD have developed residency programs in concert with their local California State University campuses — Dominguez Hills and Bakersfield, respectively. Both CSU campus received federal grants to develop STEM teacher training.

CSU Dominguez Hills’ program, STEM Teacher in Advanced Residency, offers candidates the ability to obtain a single subject credential and a masters degree in 15 months. Candidates participate in a semester-long internship with a mentor. Candidates receive a stipend to support them as they complete the program. The Bakersfield program for elementary STEM has helped three rural districts to offer similar support and guidance to candidates. One district has been able to retain 95 percent of their graduates after almost four years.

Supporting STEM access, equity, and effectiveness: Professional learning as essential to Next Generation Science Standards implementation
There is no question that strong professional development opportunities are vital in providing educators the knowledge to expand their skill sets, adapt to a changing student population, align their lessons with new instructional standards, and even help LEAs to avoid staffing shortages. Professional learning can take place in the form of medium- and short-term workshops and webinars, as well as long-term, multiday learning sessions or though ongoing professional learning communities.

NGSS represents a significant shift from the former standards — moving from a focus on textbook learning and carrying out predetermined experiments to the development of student-generated science notebooks and the promotion of collaborative learning. This new focus requires longer-term professional learning experiences to prepare educators.

Medium- and short-term professional learning activities should also be used to supplement deeper experiences as teachers go from learning the standards to developing lessons and making the classroom more student-centered. All three types of professional learning are recommended to help teachers transition to NGSS, according to the brief.

Read the full briefs at