ED Review (09/15/23)

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September 15, 2023


Bus Tour Bus 

Last week, Secretary Cardona visited five Midwestern states as part of his “Raise the Bar Back to School Bus Tour,” showcasing the many ways that schools, families, and communities are doubling down on accelerating student learning and raising the bar in education.  He was joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel -- as well as Congressional members and national, state, and local leaders -- for stops along the route, underscoring the Biden Administration’s commitment to bolster academic recovery, expand out-of-school time programs, invest in mental health services, strengthen the teaching profession, increase college access and affordability, and build career pathways.  Also, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten participated in additional events, further celebrating the back to school season. 

Throughout the tour, the Department made a series of announcements and posted data visualizations of Raise the Bar progress nationwide. 

On September 5, the Secretary traveled across Kansas and Missouri.  He began at the Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers, where he visited students and learned about their recovery efforts.  Next, he joined high school students and Topeka Public School teachers at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Park to discuss the importance of teacher recruitment and diversity in the workforce.  Indeed, the Department will be hosting two convenings -- both in Denver -- focused on educator diversity: a first Conference on Equity in Opportunity, October 26 and 27, and the next Teach to Lead Summit, October 27-29.  Also, the agency posted new data on the Raise the Bar: Eliminate the Educator Shortage subpage. 

Then, the Secretary delivered a keynote address at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and officially celebrated the 50th anniversary of TRIO programs.  (KU is the home to several TRIO programs.)  Along with Chair Rosenworcel, he also highlighted the Administration’s Online for All campaign at a Kansas City, Kansas, event.  The day ended in Kansas City, Missouri, where the Secretary spoke to parents and families about bringing their voices to the table in schools. 

On September 6, the Secretary traveled across Missouri and Illinois.  He started in St. Louis, where, with Secretary Becerra and Deputy Secretary Marten at Compton-Drew Middle School, he lifted up efforts to increase mental health resources for students.  In turn, the agency posted data on the Raise the Bar: Mental Health and Well-Being subpage.  Later, with Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal at Harris-Stowe State University, the Secretary noted the Administration’s historic support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and spotlighted how the institution supported students with federal pandemic relief aid.  The Department also announced it will host the National HBCU Week Conference, September 24-28, and awarded its latest Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant to Dillard University in New Orleans to address bomb threats. 

Continuing on, the Secretary toured an elementary after-school program in Springfield, Illinois, and visited a career and technical education (CTE) center in Peoria, Illinois. 

On September 7, the Secretary traveled across Illinois and Wisconsin.  First, he delivered remarks at an early childhood center in Rockford, Illinois.  Specifically, he announced a Kindergarten Sturdy Bridge Learning Community, for states and school districts to benefit from peer learning, receive technical assistance, and share best practices in transforming how students experience the early grade and its transitions.  The Department also posted data on the Raise the Bar: Comprehensive and Rigorous Education subpage.  Second, he stopped by Vel Phillips Memorial High School in Madison and held a conversation with students on the importance of CTE programs, and the agency posted new data on the Raise the Bar: Postsecondary and Career Pathways subpage. 

Finally, on September 8, the Secretary visited three sites in Minnesota: Marshall High School in Rochester, Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, and Txuj Ci Lower Campus in St. Paul. 

Subsequently, the Administration announced new actions to accelerate learning and improve student achievement, from delivering about $50 million in funding to states for literacy interventions to infusing approximately 187,000 new tutors and mentors into schools, and the Department posted data on the Raise the Bar: Accelerate Learning for Every Student subpage. 

For more content, go to #EDBusTour23. 



Also last week, the Department announced that more than four million student loan borrowers are enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan -- the most affordable income-driven repayment (IDR) plan ever created! -- including those who were transitioned from the previous Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) plan and nearly one million new applicants (press release with state-by-state data). 

This week is a “SAVE on Student Debt” Week of Action with events around the country, from the Department and 100 participating organizations.  These events support borrowers returning to repayment by providing information about available resources, including the SAVE plan.  To see a full list of participating organizations or sign up in support, go to saveonstudentdebt.org/weekofaction/. 

Borrowers may view more resources and tools to help them find the right repayment plan for their current circumstances at StudentAid.gov/restart. 


In a Dear Colleague Letter to Chief State School Officers, Secretary Cardona affirmed school districts’ responsibilities to serve immigrant students, announced a recently updated Newcomer Toolkit, and shared federal resources that may support such students. 

The Newcomer Toolkit, originally published in September 2016 but re-released this year, is a resource for state, local, and school leaders in supporting multilingual leaders and educators who directly serve immigrant and refugee students.  Each chapter includes (1) discussion of topics relevant to understanding, supporting, and engaging newcomer students and their families or guardians; (2) tools, research-based strategies, and examples of classroom and school-wide practices in action; (3) professional learning activities for use in staff meetings or professional learning communities; and (4) resources for further information and assistance.  The toolkit also encourages asset-based and trauma-informed approaches and a focus on equity and inclusivity. 

Meanwhile, the latest Lessons from the Field webinar focused on supporting newcomer students, with lessons learned and best practices from faculty, staff, schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and other places of instruction. 

In another Dear Colleague Letter to Chief State School Officers, the Department outlined recommendations for maximizing use of dedicated American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding for homeless children and youth (HCY) to help students experiencing homelessness and improve outcomes to levels that meet or exceed pre-pandemic achievement.  Any activity allowable under Section 723(d) of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is also allowable under the ARP-HCY program.  Allowable activities include paying expenses necessary to facilitate the identification, enrollment, retention, and educational success of children and youth experiencing homelessness and providing expedited evaluations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

To accelerate opportunities and outcomes, states may consider activities to (1) improve attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism; (2) address physical and mental health needs; and (3) strengthen early childhood education, support college and career readiness, and smooth transitions to higher education. 


Constitution Day

September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution.  In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funding hold an annual educational program about this seminal document.  To assist students and educators in their studies, the National Archives and Records Administration offers key resources, including a free online version of its U.S. Constitution Workshop.  Likewise, free online resources are available from the Library of Congress and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Anyone may watch the Department’s Constitution Day event on September 19 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Eastern Time. 


Earlier this week, the Administration completed its Unlocking Pathways Summit series in Biloxi, Mississippi.  This four-part series was part of the Department’s Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative, aimed at helping young Americans access good-paying jobs created by President Biden’s Bidenomics agenda.  The series was supported by the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Labor, and Transportation (press release). 

The summits were co-hosted with Jobs for the Future, and more than 500 leaders from some 36 states attended the convenings to underscore workforce priorities and growing opportunities for young people. 

At the summits in Renton, Washington, Aurora, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin, the Department announced new cross-sector partnerships to advanced career-connected learning, a $25 million Career-Connected High School Grant, and 81 semifinalists for Phase 2 of the Career Z Challenge, respectively.  In Biloxi, the agency announced the grand prize winner of the Rural Tech Project.  Notably, Woodlake High School in California prepares students for aviation degrees and careers, utilizing drone operations, geometry, and aerodynamic principals (see also other finalist videos: 1, 2, 3, and 4). 


  • President Biden issued a proclamation on Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance (September 11).
  • The President also issued proclamations on National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) and National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week (September 10-16).
  • Vice President Harris has embarked on a month-long college tour to mobilize young people in the ongoing fight for fundamental freedoms and rights.  She is scheduled to visit around a dozen campuses in at least seven states, bringing together thousands of students for high-energy, large-scale events.  Stops will focus on issues that disproportionately impact young people -- from gun safety to climate action, LGBTQ+ equality, and book bans (White House fact sheet).
  • The White House Council on Economic Advisers (CEA) partnered with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to analyze national data during the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years, finding that the observed association between absenteeism and standardized test scores is large enough to account for 36%-45% of declines in reading and 16%-27% of declines in math.
  • A new Department video captures the thoughtful reflections of Dr. Rebecca Gault, who has taught ninth-grade English for more than three decades.
  • The “Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2022,” from NCES and the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, presents data on crime at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, and the general population using an array of sources.
  • NCES’ “Equity in Education Dashboard” compiles findings and trends on educational equity under seven domains.
  • And, the Department announced that Lisa Herring, former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, will join as a consultant and strategic advisor to the Secretary, helping shape the agency’s engagement with state and local officials. 


“We can’t talk about raising the bar for education, and we can’t talk about fixing a broken, inequitable system, if we’re not stepping up in the earliest years….  Right now, kindergarten is the first formal early learning opportunity for children at a large scale -- so it makes a big difference whether or not we get it right.  It’s the first big chance for most students to get the services, supports, and interventions they need for on-track development, and it’s the first big chance to build partnerships and shared understanding with parents and families that can help their children learn and grow effectively….  Done right, kindergarten can serve as a sturdy bridge to first-grade, to elementary school, and beyond.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (9/7/23), in remarks stressing the importance of kindergarten in early childhood education 


With the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency this past April, children will no longer be automatically re-enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  More than half of all schoolchildren rely on either Medicaid or CHIP.  It is essential parents know that they must update their children’s information with their local health department, as a step to renew their child’s coverage.  Schools and school leaders are invited to a special briefing by Department staff on Medicaid renewal on September 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET.  This briefing will include information on the renewal process, tools for schools and parents, and discussion of other supports the agency can provide to the education community. 

Reminder: The ED Games Expo is a public showcase of game-changing education technology innovations developed through programs at the Department and across government.  This year’s expo will take place September 20 and 21 at the REACH at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  Events are free, but registration is required.  This year’s expo will also feature a virtual “Science is Cool” event on September 21 from 12 noon to 5 p.m. ET.  The event will consist of interviews with a group of developers presenting live at the REACH (Homeroom blogs 1 and 2 and promotional video). 

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