ED Review (02/04/22)

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February 4, 2022


Secretary Cardona's Priorities 

In a major address (text and video) on January 27, Secretary Cardona laid out his vision for continued recovery through the pandemic and his priorities for broader investments in America’s education system to ensure all students can succeed and thrive (press release). 

“[R]eopening schools -- and keeping them open -- while critical, is insufficient,” he said.  “Our hardest and most important work lies ahead….  Our students’ success is at stake.  Not just the students we serve today, but for those who have yet to be born….  Our task is not only to improve our education system from where it was before the pandemic, but also to take bolder action to elevate it to lead the world.” 

In his remarks, the Secretary underscored the work the Biden Administration has done to help schools reopen for in-person learning over the last year.  Because of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Education, expanded access to COVID-19 tests and testing resources, and the work of families, educators, administrators, and school communities, students have returned to classrooms across the country.  And, while the Department continues to focus on keeping schools open, it is also focused on strategies to help students make up for lost instructional time and access needed mental health supports, invest in educators, and make improvements in the system to address inequities that existed long before the pandemic.  Indeed, the Secretary explained how the ARP is supporting these efforts now, and how additional investments can spur even greater improvement. 

He also discussed strategies to improve postsecondary education, including by creating stronger through-lines between the P-12 and higher education systems and making higher education more affordable. 

Specifically, the Secretary highlighted four priority areas that will guide the Department’s work over the coming months and years (summative videos 1, 2, and 3):

  • Supporting students through pandemic response and recovery (infographic and tweet)
    • Engaging families as core partners to educators
    • Addressing missed instruction through intensive tutoring, extended learning time, and other evidence-based practices
    • Increasing access to social, emotional, and mental health supports for all students
    • Encouraging every student to participate in at least one extracurricular activity
  • Boldly addressing opportunity and achievement gaps (infographic and tweet)
    • Increasing funding for Title I schools and for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to close gaps in access to educational opportunity
    • Providing every family the opportunity to start on a level playing field through free, universal pre-kindergarten and affordable high-quality child care
    • Investing in, recruiting, and supporting professional development of a diverse educator workforce, including special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and bilingual educators, so that education jobs are ones that those from all backgrounds want to pursue
    • Challenging states and school districts to fix broken systems that may perpetuate inequalities in our schools
  • Making higher education more inclusive and affordable (infographic and tweet)
    • Providing targeted loan relief to student borrowers
    • Holding colleges and universities accountable for taking advantage of borrowers
    • Ensuring borrowers have loan payment options that reflect their economic circumstances
    • Making long-term improvements to programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and creating a strong Gainful Employment rule so career programs are not leaving students with mountains of debt and without good job opportunities
  • Ensuring pathways through higher education lead to successful careers (infographic and tweet)
    • Reimagining the connection between P-12, higher education, and workforce
    • Collaborating with the Departments of Commerce and Labor to invest in career preparation programs that meet the needs of today’s economy
    • Prioritizing grant programs that allow students to return to postsecondary education or pursue career and technical education programs at any point in their lives and careers
    • Investing in colleges and universities that serve under-represented groups and increase access to and funding for programs like federal Pell Grants 

Note: For media coverage, statements, and tweets regarding the Secretary’s speech, see the Department’s ICYMI bulletin. 


Electric School Buses 

The White House released the initial edition of its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) guidebook to help state and local governments and other stakeholders unlock the benefits from this historic investment.  The guidebook contains 12 chapters grouping BIL’s more than 375 programs by issue area: transportation (such as electric school buses); climate, energy, and the environment (such as lead service line replacement); and broadband.  Future editions will feature critical dates, timelines for program implementation, best practices, case studies, and links to key resources. 


Two new Department memos outline using ARP funds and other federal resources to address labor shortages in schools.  The first, targeting teachers, offers short- and long-term strategies, as well as a series of examples of states and districts successfully using federal funding to overcome challenges.  The second, targeting school staff, provides four strategies, as well as state and local practices for transportation and cafeteria and custodial staff. 

The Department recently launched #ARPStars, a social media campaign spotlighting schools, districts, and states -- in their own words -- fighting COVID-19 and giving students, educators, and families the tools they need to succeed.  Check out the first few posts.  Please share compelling projects using the hashtag. 

Late last week, the Department and a technical assistance partner, the National Comprehensive Center, released a new resource to help states share their progress deploying ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.  The ARP Partnership, Assistance, Transformation, and Heightened Support (PATHS) tool invites states to describe the strategies they are implementing that could serve as promising practices in ensuring that ARP ESSER funds are used appropriately and effectively, as intended by the law.  The tool has six sections based on ARP ESSER state plan applications; under each section, states may indicate their implementation status, describe their progress, and outline promising practices or impact.  ARP funding is already being used to address immediate needs, such as back-filling staff shortages, and fulfill long-term goals, such as hiring school counselors.  ARP PATHS will help elevate and track those efforts (press release with examples of ARP’s impact). 


Career Education Summit

This week, Secretary Cardona delivered opening remarks at the 2022 Advancing Equity in Career-Connected Education Summit, a virtual conference bringing together hundreds of policymakers and stakeholders to share ways to help youth and adults access quality career pathways.  The event, hosted by the Department’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), was a forum to exchange research, evidence-based strategies, and innovative practices.  Among the presenters were representatives from federal, state, and local agencies, teachers, and higher education students. 


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report commending how the Department’s Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) supports the needs of students and their districts recovering from natural disasters (see also Homeroom blog post). 

Also, the Department published updated Non-Regulatory Guidance on Flexibility and Waivers for Grantees and Program Participants Impacted by Federally Declared Disasters.  The intent is to restore teaching and learning environments and resume services as soon as possible following disasters, including weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.  This guidance discusses waivers and options under the following categories: general formula and discretionary grants; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); IDEA Part B -- Services for Children and Youth with Disabilities and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; IDEA Part C -- Services for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities; postsecondary education; administration of federal student aid programs; vocational rehabilitation programs; and career and technical education (CTE) and adult education programs. 

Grantees and participants may reach out to program contacts with questions or any requests for assistance. 


  • President Biden signed into law the Supplemental Impact Aid Flexibility Act, modifying the application requirements for the program for Fiscal Year 2023 (instructions).
  • As part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to prevent and reduce gun crime and other forms of community violence, the Department published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) for the Project Prevent discretionary grant program and launched a 30-day public comment period.
  • On January 31, Secretary Cardona officially welcomed a new cohort of School Ambassador Fellows.
  • While in Indiana earlier this month, the Secretary recognized the incredible teachers who influenced him as part of the state’s “Teachers Who Shaped Us” video series.
  • In celebration of World Read Aloud Day, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten read one of Ranger Rick Jr.’s adventure stories.
  • The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) held its annual principal investigators meeting January 25-27, and IES Director Mark Schneider shared the key points of his opening remarks in his latest blog.
  • A new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Data Point examines the background and school settings of African-American teachers in public and private schools in school year 2017-18, by selected school and teacher characteristics.
  • Secretary Cardona and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas hosted a discussion with presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to share information on grant programs, training resources, research opportunities, and tools available to strengthen safety and security. 


“We must Level Up our entire system of education, from pre-kindergarten through adult education. 

“I’d like to see every high school student in America participate in at least one extracurricular activity in their school -- whether that is being a part of an arts or theater program, athletics, or an afterschool club.  All kids must be seen, all kids must be connected, and all kids must hear their names in school every day. 

“And I’d like to challenge all our district leaders to set a goal of giving every child that fell behind during the pandemic at least 30 minutes per day, three days a week, with a well-trained tutor who is providing that child with consistent, intensive support.  We cannot expect classroom teachers to do it all themselves. 

“Our schools must also embed mental health supports into their day-to-day operations in new and innovative ways.  Every child must have access to a mental health professional, whether through their school or through a community-based organization. 

“Each high school in the country should have at least one career counselor so that every high schooler has great options when they graduate. 

“To my colleagues in the field, I know you are tired [and] stretched….  While we did not sign up to serve during a pandemic, we did sign up to serve students.  Your work today will have a greater impact on our country because of the time in which you are serving.”

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (1/27/22), from his vision and priorities speech 


Among other observations, February is Black History Month (President’s proclamation) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, while National School Counseling Week (February 7-11) highlights the significant impact counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. 

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