Bechtel Continues Support of California Teacher Preparation

S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation is in the midst of a spend-down to invest all of its assets by the year 2020, and its longtime partners are important beneficiaries. Just ask the California State University system, which just received more than $10 million in grants for its teacher preparation initiative.

New grants from Bechtel will support CSU's expansion of the New Generation of Educators Initiative, or NEGI. The program trains K-8 teachers across the Golden State, preparing them to administer the state's new math and science standards. Grants range in size from $600,000 to $1.2 million each and were awarded to 11 CSU campuses, including those in Bakersfield, Chico, Fullerton, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, and San Luis Obispo. The work focuses on ensuring that California teachers are fully prepared to implement the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

These new grants mark the second phase of NEGI, which had its first phase in 2014, with 13 CSU campuses receiving funding. Eight of those schools engaged in broad partnerships with local school districts, aimed at transforming teacher preparation, while another five CSU campuses operated more targeted programs with partner school districts. Elements that are central to NEGI include partnerships with school districts; focus on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for beginning teachers to be successful; high-quality opportunities that include residencies and co-teaching; meaningful support and feedback systems from senior teachers and campus coaches; and the use of data to assess teacher preparation and program quality.

The relationship between CSU and Bechtel goes back about six years, with the funder supporting a range of reforms to boost teacher recruitment and preparation across California. CSU is one of the biggest suppliers of new teachers to the state's public schools.

Bechtel Foundation announced a spend-down strategy in 2014, aimed at investing all of its assets by the year 2020. The funder's giving has focused on projects related to environmental conservation and education, especially in the STEM fields. At the time, the funder announced it would concentrate on select high-performing organizations to increase their impact, implying an intention to continue support for longtime funding recipients such as CSU.

CSU has its work cut out for it, especially when it comes to preparing teachers for math. Results of the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments for 2015 — the first year for the new test — showed that only 33% of California students met or exceeded standards in math.