California Education Learning Lab to Award $7 Million in New Grants to Support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

“Grand Challenge” calls for ideas to transform how first-year calculus is taught across STEM fields to improve learning outcomes and close racial and gender equity gaps in STEM degree attainment.

SACRAMENTO, CA—November 19, 2020Today, the California Education Learning Lab (Learning Lab) announced a new grant opportunity, the “Learning Lab Grand Challenge: Overcoming the Calculus Barrier to STEM Success” (Grand Challenge), which aims to boost STEM retention and completion in California. Through this year’s request for proposals (RFP), Learning Lab invites faculty teams from California’s public higher education institutions to reconceptualize the role of and approach to calculus in a student’s first year introductory STEM experience to eliminate equity gaps.

Calculus is considered to be foundational to many STEM fields, though the sequence of courses currently poses considerable barriers for prospective STEM students. Retention gaps are especially prevalent for Black and African Americans, Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander groups and women, despite high levels of interest in STEM, with introductory mathematics courses identified as one of the main reasons for drop-off.

To help close these gaps, Learning Lab intends to award up to five grants between $1 million and $1.5 million over three years through the Grand Challenge to intersegmental faculty teams that seek to directly transform the first-year calculus experience or reimagine the role of calculus in STEM majors where calculus is a prerequisite. Full guidelines for the RFP process can be found here, with dates of significance as following:

  • A Statement of Intent is due by January 15, 2021
  • Concept Proposals to be submitted by February 19, 2021
  • Selected proposals will be invited to submit full proposals and awards are intended to be announced by May 2021

In addition to executing on project deliverables, awardees will also be invited to join the Grand Challenge Cohort through which, over the three-year grant period, they will share ideas, approaches, findings, data, and outcomes, and work to develop model curricula, pedagogical practices, and professional development resources. Institutions may apply to lead the Cohort with an additional application.

Established through Assembly Bill 1809 in 2018, the Learning Lab has awarded competitive grants from the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR). Funded projects have sought to improve learning outcomes across California’s public higher education segments, particularly in the STEM disciplines through the application of the science of learning and in online and hybrid course environments.

Now housed at the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) through a three-year partnership agreement with OPR, the Learning Lab also aims to grow a community of practice and highlight new insights for improving learning and reducing equity gaps in STEM. In the next year, Learning Lab will partner with the FoundationCCC to create and curate a “best of” learning science library of online and hybrid course materials and pedagogical resources, including materials developed from Learning Lab grant projects that have demonstrated successful outcomes to bring inclusive and effective practices to scale.

To learn more about the Learning Lab, please visit or


The Foundation for California Community Colleges is the official nonprofit foundation to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor’s Office. The Foundation’s mission is to benefit, support, and enhance the missions of the California Community Colleges system, the largest higher education system in the nation. Incorporated in 1998, the Foundation works to benefit all California Community College students, colleges, college foundations, and the system as a whole by accelerating paths to economic and social mobility, strengthening communities, and reducing barriers to opportunities for all Californians. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. For more information, visit

The California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research serves the Governor and the Cabinet as staff for long-range planning and research and constitutes the comprehensive state planning agency.