ED Review (03/04/22)

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March 4, 2022


State of the Union 

On March 1, President Biden delivered his first State of the Union address (text and video).  He called on Congress to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by more than $2,000, expand institutional aid grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions, and invest in community colleges.  He also called on Congress to address the mental health crisis -- especially among children -- by building a bigger and more diverse mental health workforce and ensuring all Americans can get the mental health services they need. 

“[L]et’s take on mental health, especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down,” he noted.  “The American Rescue Plan (ARP) gave schools money to hire teachers and help students make up for lost learning.  I urge every parent to make sure your school does just that.  And, we can all play a part -- sign up to be a tutor or a mentor.  Children were also struggling before the pandemic.  Bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media….  It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, and demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.  And, let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need.  More people they can turn to for help, and full parity between physical and mental health care.” 

The President also outlined his plan to fight inflation by lowering costs, including the cost of child care.  “Middle class and working families shouldn’t have to pay more than 7% of their income for care of young children,” he stated.  “My plan will cut the cost in half for most families and help parents, including millions of women who left the workforce during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford child care, to be able to get back to work.  And my plan doesn’t stop there.  It also includes…pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old.” 

Secretary Cardona attended the speech as a member of the President’s Cabinet and made some comments on social media using #SOTU (tweets 1, 2, and 3). 

Among the President’s and First Lady’s special guests for the address were Joshua Davis, a seventh-grade student in Virginia who is a diabetes advocate; Melissa Isaac, founder of the Saginaw Chippewa’s Project AWARE Program providing mental health services to children; and Kezia Rodriguez, a full-time student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey benefitting from the institution’s tuition-free child care program. 

For more information, see the following White House fact sheets:


COVID-19 Community Level 

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an updated framework for understanding and responding to the risks and impacts of COVID-19 in communities.  These new guidelines reflect the latest data and evolving science surrounding the virus, with COVID-19 community levels that account for severity of disease and the capacity of the health care system to respond.  The nation is now in a better position than ever before to fight the virus, including preventing medically significant illness, minimizing the burden on the health care system, and protecting the most vulnerable through vaccines, treatments, and prevention (Secretary Cardona’s statement and letter and CDC telebriefing). 

Under the updated framework, in regard to masking, school and early care centers follow the same guidelines as the community in which they are located.  This is a change from previous CDC guidance, where universal masking was recommended for all education settings.  Now, the CDC recommends masking for schools, early care centers, and school transportation in areas where the COVID-19 community level is high.  (Note: About 70% of Americans live in areas where the COVID-19 community level is currently low or moderate.) 

School districts, schools, early care centers, and classrooms may still choose to implementing masking at any COVID-19 community level -- depending on their community’s needs and keeping in mind those for whom prevention strategies provide critical protection for in-person learning. 

Also: The Biden Administration’s “National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan” lays out a roadmap to help fight the virus in the future as the country moves from crisis to a time when COVID-19 does not disrupt daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against, and treat (Secretary’s tweet). 


Secretary Cardona traveled to Tennessee last month to highlight his priorities for the Department and listen to the needs of students, educators, and school communities.  Specifically, he participated in a discussion with students and advocates in a rural district; joined AASA, The School Superintendent Association’s National Conference on Education for a fireside chat concerning the resources provided to districts and schools through the ARP; and learned about state efforts to address teacher shortages through Grow Your Own programs.  “The pandemic is the closest thing to a reset button we have in education,” he said at his first stop in Trousdale County, “and it’s time for us to think outside the box and try to create more opportunities for students…” 

Also last month, the Secretary, joined by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, visited North Carolina Central University in Durham to speak with students about the importance of mental health services and how the ARP Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund may be used to support these services (university’s tweet and Secretary’s tweets 1 and 2). 

The Secretary traveled to Las Vegas that same week with members of the state’s congressional delegation to visit a number of schools.  He started at Spring Valley High School with Senator Jacky Rosen, participating in a conversation with students and school counselors about mental health supports -- especially following disruptions to in-person learning.  Next, he joined Representative Dian Titus to tour Clark High School and meet with students and parents about the importance of after-school activities and enrichment programs.  Then, he joined Representative Susie Lee at Charlotte Hill Elementary School for a book reading ahead of Nevada Reading Week and a roundtable discussion with parents and educators on fully funding Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs.  State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert also participated in several events (tweets 1, 2, and 3). 

This week, the Secretary made a special visit to Linden Street School in Plainville, Connecticut, to highlight the recovery in education and his first year in the Biden Administration (articles 1 and 2 and video). 

Meanwhile, today, the Secretary is in Boston for a school visit focused on the importance of multi-lingualism and providing mental health services and a star-studded panel on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, as well as a side-trip to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst to meet with college students considering the teaching profession. 


Keeley Anderson

On February 23, Secretary Cardona announced the selection of Keeley Anderson, an intervention specialist at Newcastle Middle School in Weston County, Wyoming, as the nation’s second-ever Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award honoree.  This recognition, established by Congress in 2019, spotlights classified school employees’ outstanding contributions to quality K-12 education.  Such employees include paraprofessionals and those in administrative and clerical services, custodial and maintenance services, food and nutrition services, health and student services, skilled trades, technical services, and transportation services (press releaseSecretary’s video, and Homeroom blog). 

Anderson prioritizes students who need additional support to be successful.  She leads Newcastle’s in-school suspension program and its late academic start Wednesday programming.  She also pitches in as part of Weston County’s summer maintenance department and served as the head volleyball coach at Newcastle High School.  Anderson became even more indispensable during the pandemic.  She served as the key communicator and liaison for students who were placed in quarantine by public health orders, helping them manage their work remotely and then transition back to school. 

For the second year of this program, the Department received 25 nominations from 15 states.  Governors’ offices determined state-specific processes for selecting up to two nominees, documenting excellence in five areas: work performance, school and community involvement, leadership and commitment, local support (from co-workers, school administrators, community members, etc.), and enhancement of school employees’ image in schools and the community. 


In honor of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, the Department published multiple blogs: “CTE Pathways to Quality Jobs,” “Fast Forward to 2022: Showcasing our Scholars in CTE Alumni,” and “American Rescue Plan Reengaging Students through CTE.”  It also issued a video asking SkillsUSA students what CTE means to them.  And, it released a new fact sheet spotlighting ways states and districts are using ARP funds to enhance academic learning by expanding CTE opportunities; as schools help students address lost instructional time, CTE programs can be a powerful tool to boost school engagement and on-time graduation. 



“Our schools are open.  Let’s keep it that way.  Our kids need to be in school.  And, with 75% of adult Americans fully vaccinated and hospitalizations down by 77%, most Americans can remove their masks, return to work, stay in the classroom, and move forward safely.”

-- President Joseph Biden (3/1/22), from his State of the Union address 


Among other observations, March is Women’s History Month. 

On Sunday (March 6), Secretary Cardona will join Vice President Harris and Cabinet colleagues in Selma, Alabama, to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. 

On March 16, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and NCES will host a virtual event to discuss findings from the 2019 NAEP High School Transcript Study.  Released every decade since 1987, this study provides information on the types of courses high school graduates take, how many credits students earn, students’ grade point averages, and the relationship between course-taking and NAEP scores.  Understanding changes in these patterns over time reveals important insights into the high school experience, college and career preparation, and achievement. 

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