ED Review (02/03/23)

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February 3, 2023


Lead the World

In a major address (remarks and video) on January 24, Secretary Cardona laid out his vision for the direction the Department will follow in 2023 to promote academic excellence, improve learning conditions, and prepare students for a world where global engagement is critical to the nation’s standing.  In his address, he stressed that “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” is not a list of new priorities but a clear call to strengthen our will to transform education for the better -- building on approaches that we know work in education.  He outlined how the nation has moved forward yet emphasized it will require everyone working together to produce lasting change in the pursuit of ensuring that the nation’s schools, students, and educators have everything they need to be successful (press release and Twitter thread). 

The Secretary underscored the need for education to be a bipartisan effort.  The American Rescue Plan (ARP) provided $130 billion in funding to reopen schools out of the pandemic and began the work of supplying resources aimed at closing long-standing academic achievement gaps, while the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided more than $1 billion in funding for mental health supports in schools.  Now is the time to make sure education delivers excellent results for every student, no matter their background. 

After his remarks, the Secretary further discussed his key focus areas in a fireside chat with National PTA Executive Director Nathan Monell:

  • Achieve Academic Excellence
    • Accelerate learning for every student
    • Deliver a comprehensive and rigorous education for every student
  • Boldly Improve Learning Conditions
    • Eliminate the educator shortage for every school
    • Invest in every student’s mental health and well-being
  • Create Pathways for Global Engagement
    • Ensure every student has a pathway to college and career
    • Provide every student a pathway to multilingualism

To advance the Secretary’s vision, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten traveled to Mesa, Arizona (photos), and Nashville, Tennessee (photos), as part of her national “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” tour. 

Meanwhile, on February 9 from 2 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department will host the final session of its webinar series on strategies and programs to boost literacy and math outcomes.  This session includes two parts: connecting policy to practice and starting with early learning as a key lever to accelerate learning.  Registration is free and open to all. 


Riverside Indian School 

Also last week, the Secretary traveled to Oklahoma to meet with parents, visit an exemplary career and technical program, and speak with students and tribal leaders about their needs.  At Francis Tuttle Technology Center, he toured the facility and talked with students about ways the program is ensuring every student has a pathway to college and career readiness.  Then, at Riverside Indian School, he toured the campus, convened with tribal leadership, and participated in a school assembly with the student body.  At the school, he heard the need to encourage language preservation and revitalization and cultural learning, while also offering additional mental health support that is culturally sensitive (readout). 


Student Loans Repayment 

This week, the Department issued a report and new data detailing the success of the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund in helping millions of students stay in school throughout the pandemic, keeping tuition costs down, and helping faculty and staff remain employed.  According to agency estimates, since the start of 2021, more than 18 million students have received direct financial aid grants, including nearly six million community college students, over 450,000 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBUCs), over eight million students at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and over 24,000 students at Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs).  Among other findings: approximately 9 in 10 institutions reported that the fund enabled them to keep students who were at risk of dropping out enrolled by providing financial support; roughly 3 out of 4 institutions indicated that the fund enabled them to preserve student net prices similar to pre-pandemic levels, with some 1,400 institutions spending nearly $1.5 billion on discharging unpaid student balances; and over 2 in 3 institutions indicated that the fund allowed them to retain faculty, staff, employees, and contractors at full salary levels (press release with links to the new data, Twitter thread with video testimonials, and White House fact sheet). 

The White House also shared new data showing the number of borrowers in each state who applied for student loan debt relief or were automatically eligible for such relief.  In less than four weeks that the application was available, 26 million people either applied for relief or had already provided sufficient information to the Department to be determined eligible for relief.  Over 16 million of those borrowers’ applications were fully approved by the agency and sent to loan servicers.  However, in November 2022, the Department was required to stop accepting applications, and servicers were prevented from discharging any debt, as a result of lawsuits.  The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases concerning the Administration’s student debt relief plan later this month. 

Additionally, the Department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office released its annual report, with analysis of the organization’s financial and program performance results for Fiscal Year 2022. 


The nation’s recovery from the pandemic requires more than just restoring legacy education systems.  For the field of educational technology, it requires consideration of the ways in which technology can advance equity, while keeping students safe.  A Dear Colleague Letter from the Department’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) provides information to states, school districts, and eligible partnership grantees on core areas for maximizing investment in innovative, technology-based learning strategies.  Section 1 offers an overview and examples of federal funds to support digital learning -- including improving and personalizing professional learning and other supports for educators, increasing access to high-quality digital content and resources for students, facilitating educator collaboration and communication, and providing devices for students and educators to access digital learning resources.  Section 2 offers example questions to support the selection of high-quality technology strategies related to the critical areas of needs assessment, policy and infrastructure, alignment with instructional approach, professional learning, and evidence. 

Separately, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a report and toolkit for K-12 schools to help them better protect against cybersecurity threats.  The report provides recommendations and resources to help schools and districts address systemic cybersecurity risk.  It also provides insight into the current threat landscape specific to the K-12 community and offers simple steps school leaders can take to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts. 


The Department invites national, regional, and local businesses, non-profits, foundations, and community-based organizations to make bold commitments to advance school sustainability, encompassing infrastructure, health, environmental sustainability education, climate, and environmental justice in America.  Entities are encouraged to complete an online form, registering their commitment in one of three priority areas, by May 31.  The agency will share these commitments around the time of the July 25 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony. 


  • Late last month, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center released “Mass Attacks in Public Spaces: 2016-2020,” a comprehensive report examining 173 incidents of targeted violence (including 13 at educational institutions) and highlighting observable commonalities among attackers.
  • At a White House Summit on Accelerated Lead Pipe Replacement, hosted by Vice President Harris, the Administration announced progress and new actions to deliver clean drinking water and protect children and communities across the country.
  • Secretary Cardona attended the National Prayer Breakfast.
  • The Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a fact sheet to assist K-12 and postsecondary school communities in understanding that diversity, equity, and inclusion training and similar activities in most circumstances are consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • In the second post in a blog series on discipline and behavior, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Director Valerie Williams shares how OSEP’s discipline policies reflect the office’s priorities, while two OSEP-funded technical assistance centers share about the power of preventative models for addressing the behavior of children with disabilities.
  • A new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, “High School Counseling and College Financial Aid,” investigates whether students who expected to go to college after high school met with a counselor about financial aid and completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
  • On January 20, Secretary Cardona announced 38 awards totaling more than $30 million to colleges and universities from five competitive grant programs under the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), which aims to improve higher education opportunities and outcomes for students from under-represented communities.
  • Five educators -- from Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia -- were selected as finalists for 2023 National Teacher of the Year (Department tweets 1 and 2).
  • On February 2, ahead of National School Counseling Week (February 6-10), the Secretary welcomed the 2023 School Counselor of the Year and 2023 state school counselors of the year (photo).
  • President Biden resubmitted to the Senate the nominations of LaWanda Toney to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach, Glenna Wright-Gallo to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Dante Allen to be Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. 


“Over the course of my career, and I am sure for many of you here, we’ve seen education policy veer away from improving [what Elmore, Cohen, and Ball refer to as] the instructional core.  We have seen shiny silver bullets from the federal government promising to ‘fix’ education.  We’ve seen big initiatives with clever names that promise everything, only to fade away after the sense of urgency is over.  That’s not what this Administration is about.  This Administration is about substance, not sensationalism in education.  It’s about real solutions to complex issues, informed by real experience -- with an unrelenting focus on the instructional core.  In my experience, and in conversations with dedicated educators, local elected education leaders, parents, and students, our children cannot afford another round of policies that are not grounded in what is best for kids.  What they don’t want is more partisan politics or culture wars in education.  What we do need is a collective will to fight complacency and the status quo in education with the same passion we used to fight COVID.  We need the same spirit of unity and bipartisanship we had in the first two months of the pandemic, when we looked past red and blue and tapped into our humanity, courage, and American spirit.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (1/24/23), from remarks on “Raise the Bar: Lead the World”


Among other observations, February is Black History Month (President’s proclamation and photos from the Department’s kick-off event), Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month (Secretary Cardona’s video), and National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (President’s proclamation). 

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