ED Review (10/29/21)

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October 29, 2021


Mental Health Resource 

On October 19, the Department released a new resource to enhance the promotion of mental health and social and emotional well-being among children and students.  “Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health” highlights seven challenges to providing school- or program-based mental health support across early childhood, K-12, and higher education settings and presents seven corresponding recommendations.  This resource includes a number of real world examples of how the recommendations are being put into action by schools, communities, and states across the country (White House fact sheet and Twitter thread). 

State Education Agencies (SEAs) and local school districts may use American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, as well as previous rounds of ESSER funds, to implement these recommendations and make sure students get the support they need. 

“Our efforts as educators must go beyond literacy, math, history, science, and other core subjects to include helping students to build the social, emotional, and behavioral skills they will need to fully access and participate in learning and make the most of their potential and future opportunities,” Secretary Cardona said.  “Amid the pandemic, we know that our students have experienced so much.  We can’t unlock students’ potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the classroom each day.” 

It is especially important to acknowledge the pandemic’s impact on mental health at home and around the world, to present an opportunity for meaningful conversations about mental health, and to celebrate schools and other institutions that have found new and promising ways to provide mental health services to students. 

This resource follows World Mental Health Day, earlier this month, as well as the release of “Supporting Students at Risk of Self-Harm in the Era of COVID-19.” 


Youth Vaccinations 

In anticipation of the authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 -- recently approved by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel and under consideration by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- the Biden Administration announced a plan to ensure that the vaccine is quickly distributed and made conveniently and equitably available to families throughout the nation.  As with vaccination for those 12 and older, the success of this program will rely heavily on states, territories, and tribes to help implement a smooth rollout.  The Administration is hosting operational readiness calls with every jurisdiction, encouraging them to help increase enrollment of pediatric providers, and will be providing resources to support them as critical partners in the outreach and public education campaign. 

Thanks to the ARP, states will continue to receive unprecedented levels of federal support, including full reimbursement from the federal government for vaccination operations and outreach programs. 

Among other steps, the Administration has procured enough vaccines for the country’s 28 million children ages 5-11; will support vaccination clinics at doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers, and school- and community-based sites; and will conduct a national public education campaign to reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children. 



Last week, in a series of events, the Administration celebrated the 2020 and 2021 National Teachers of the Year and State Teachers of the Year.  Each year, the National Teacher of the Year is announced by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in the spring, but, due to the pandemic, this year’s White House recognition ceremony was delayed until the fall.  Also, since last year’s event was canceled, the White House invited both the 2020 and 2021 honorees to this year’s ceremony. 

The State Teachers of the Year first heard from Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten (photo), who noted “I’m with the people I love most in the world -- teachers!” 

Next, the National Teacher of the Year finalists met with White House staff, Secretary Cardona, and Deputy Secretary Marten (photo) to learn more about their experiences. 

Then, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Cardona hosted the National Teachers of the Year and the State Teachers of the Year on the White House South Lawn.  President Biden was a surprise guest.  He said teachers are “the single-most consequential people in the world,” beyond one’s parents, because of the influence they have over their students” (photos 1 and 2, video and Twitter thread featuring videos by the honorees). 

Later, the Secretary attended the CCSSO National Teacher of the Year Gala (photo), offering remarks. 

Also last week, the Secretary hosted the 2021 International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP), joined in Washington, D.C., by the rest of the U.S. delegation: American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle, and CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller.  Fifteen high-performing countries from Asia, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere participated in the virtual summit.  The focus for this year, the 10-year anniversary of the convening, was “Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future: Excellence and Equity for All” (opening session with Secretary’s remarks and closing session with Secretary’s remarks). 

This week, Secretary Cardona announced the 2021 recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership.  Named for the second U.S. Secretary of Education, this award recognizes principals who are committed to education as a powerful and liberating force in people’s lives.  Part of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, principals are nominated by their school communities during final stages of the application process and will be celebrated during the program’s awards ceremony (infographic). 

Finally, the Department is accepting applications for the 2022-23 cohort of School Ambassador Fellows.  The fellowship offers two separate nine-month tracks.  The full-time appointment is based at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and requires fellows to relocate for their experience.  The part-time appointment allows fellows to maintain their regular school responsibilities in their home communities, while also participating in the experience.  The final deadline to apply is January 14, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. 


Secretary Cardona declared in a tweet, “Our first batch of PSLF emails regarding loan forgiveness have all gone out to those with Direct Consolidation Loans and certified employment -- check your inboxes!  And if you didn’t get one, hang tight!  More are on the way.”  This action is in response to the overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program that the Secretary announced this month (fact sheet). 

In a statement last week, Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray explained the Department’s approval of the request for Maximus to assume the Navient loan servicing contract.  “We are confident this decision is in the best interest of the approximately 5.6 million federal student loan borrowers who will be serviced by Maximus and will provide the stability and high-quality service they deserve,” he stressed.  “Our confidence in this novation is bolstered by the fact that Maximus will be held to the stronger standards for performance, transparency, and accountability that FSA included in its recent servicer contract extensions.”  FSA, Navient, and Maximus will reach out directly with borrowers about how this change affects them. 

Also, this week, FSA COO Cordray testified before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment on his office’s key priorities, including restarting federal student loan repayments in February 2022 (video). 


October 19-21, Deputy Secretary Marten, Senior Advisor Staci Monreal, and U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Director Andrea Suarez Falken traveled across North Carolina as part of the agency’s annual Green Strides Tour.  Joined by representatives from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the group visited past and present recipients of ED-GRS recognition.  Each site demonstrated progress in the three “pillars” of the program: reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and ensuring effective environmental and sustainability education (special Twitter compilation). 

At the same time, a group of Department staff, joined by members of the White House COVID-19 Task Force and experts from the CDC, conducted a Project SAFE Community Engagement Tour through North Carolina, ending in Atlanta.  This tour -- mirroring a similar tour in Wisconsin and Michigan during the Secretary’s Return to School Road Trip -- is a reflection of the agency’s commitment to work with communities and stakeholders directly impacted, at all levels, to address the pandemic and the historic inequities within the education system.  The time to take decisive action is now. 

To learn more about the Administration’s community conversations, read “Back to School in the Fall Like No Other: Appointees Serving Students, Families, and Communities.” 


  • President Biden visited East End Elementary School in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to spotlight parts of his Build Back Better Agenda.
  • First Lady Biden joined the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s National Summit on Adult Literacy (remarks).
  • The Biden Administration issued the first-ever National Gender Strategy to advance the full participation of all people -- including women and girls -- in the U.S. and around the world (fact sheet).
  • The President signed an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.
  • The White House also issued a new fact sheet on the Administration’s efforts to advance equity and opportunity for Black people and communities.
  • Secretary Cardona issued a statement on the Senate confirmation of Catherine Lhamon as the Department’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced the nominations of Amy Loyd to serve as the agency’s Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education and Sandra Bruce to serve as the agency’s Inspector General to the full Senate.
  • An Office for Civil Rights (OCR) blog discusses confronting discrimination based on national origin and immigration status.
  • Another OCR blog acknowledges Intersex Awareness Day and announces a new resource to support intersex students.
  • In a video, Deputy Secretary Marten calls for preventing bullying by prioritizing students’ mental well-being and creating safe, inclusive environments. 


Today…we have a framework for my Build Back Better initiative.  Here’s how it will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better….  [It’s] going to make sure that every three- and four-year-old child in America will go to high-quality preschool….  Studies show that when we put three- and four-years-old in school -- school, not daycare; school -- we increase by up to 47% the chance that that child, no matter what their background, will be able to earn a college degree.  As my wife Jill always says: Any country that out-educates us is going to out-compete us.  [This] can finally take us from 12 years to 14 years of universal education in America.  We will also make investments in higher education by increasing Pell Grants to help students from lower-income families attend community colleges and four-year schools.  And we will invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), minority-serving institutions, and tribal colleges to make sure every young student has a shot at a good-paying job of the future.”

-- President Joseph Biden (10/28/21), announcing the framework for his Build Back Better Agenda (fact sheet) 


Among other education-related observations, November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, National Native American Heritage Month, and National Veterans and Military Families Month. 

November 8 is the extended deadline to nominate candidates for several positions on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). 

Schools are encouraged to invite U.S. military veterans into their classrooms around Veterans Day (November 11).  Veterans can share their experiences and teach students lessons about the history and significance of the federal holiday, helping students reflect upon the importance of the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy. 

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