Archives for category: Cardona, Miguel

President Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Education will take legal action against the eight states that do not permit school districts to require students and staff to wear masks. In so doing, these states put students at risk and violate their right to education.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Erica L. Green wrote in the New York Times:

President Biden, escalating his fight with Republican governors who are blocking local school districts from requiring masks to protect against the coronavirus, said Wednesday that his Education Department would use its broad powers — including taking possible legal action — to deter states from barring universal masking in classrooms.

Mr. Biden said he had directed Miguel Cardona, his education secretary, “to take additional steps to protect our children,” including against governors who he said are “setting a dangerous tone” in issuing executive orders banning mask mandates and threatening to penalize school officials who defy them.

“Unfortunately, as you’ve seen throughout this pandemic, some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Mr. Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House, adding, “We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children.”

Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post about Biden’s announcement:

He did not name any specific governor, but Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona, are among those state leaders who have threatened to withhold funding from districts or take other action against those districts that defy them. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest district in the country, on Wednesday passed a universal masking mandate — with only a medical opt-out — as did Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“I’m directing the secretary of education to take additional steps to protect our children,” Biden said. “This includes using all of his oversight authorities and legal action if appropriate against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local schools officials and educators.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said masking is one of the strongest tools that can be taken to protect the spread of the delta variant, which has caused a rise in pediatric coronavirus cases. The agency this summer, in a shift in guidance, recommended everyone over the age of 2 — even those who are vaccinated — wear masks inside school buildings.

In letters to the governors of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, Cardona said bans on school masking mandates are putting students at risk and “may infringe upon a school district’s authority to adopt policies to protect students and educators as they develop their safe return to in-person instruction plans required by federal law.”

Cardona, in a Wednesday post on the department’s Homeroom Blog, said the department can investigate any state educational agency whose policies or actions “may infringe on the rights of every student to access public education equally.”

“The department will also receive and respond as appropriate to complaints from the public, including parents, guardians, and others about students who may experience discrimination as a result of states not allowing local school districts to reduce virus transmission risk through masking requirements and other mitigation measures,” he wrote. “As always, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights evaluates allegations of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the specific facts of each case.

During the 2020 Presidential campaign, candidate Joe Biden pledged to educators that if elected, Betsy DeVos’s priorities, such as charter schools, would be gone. That’s what he said in a nationally televised forum in Pittsburgh for educators in December 2019 (start about 4:40). In Pittsburgh, he also promised to end the federal pressure for standardized testing. In his campaign documents, he promised that no federal funds would go to for-profit charter schools.

So far, his batting record is poor. The first consequential decision, made before the confirmation of Secretary Cardona, was to insist on the resumption of federal testing in the midst of the pandemic.

Now we know he backtracked on charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program—though riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse, though used in North Carolina to fund segregation academies—will receive the same funding as under DeVos ($440 million a year).

Here comes the next insult to the nation’s public schools: Secretary Miguel Cardona will be the lead speaker at the National Charter Schools Conference. Contrary to President Biden’s statement in Pittsburgh, charter schools will not be gone.

Will Secretary Cardona tell the attendees that he is cutting off federal funding to charters that operate for profit? Will he tell them that the federal government will no longer fund charters operated by for-profit managers? Will he explain why he kept the wasteful federal Charter Schools Program at the same level as it was under Betsy DeVos?

Don’t count on it.

Scores of education deans signed a letter to Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Education Committee, in opposition to the recent announcement by the Biden administration that it would not grant waivers to states from the annual testing mandate in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which originated as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The letter was written before the confirmation of Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The signatures were gathered by Kevin Kumashiro as spokesman for the group.

Dear Chairman Scott,

I am writing as a leader of Education Deans for Justice and Equity (https://educationdeans.org), an alliance of hundreds of education deans across the country with expertise in educational equity and civil rights.

We, in EDJE, are deeply concerned by the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Education that it will not grant state waivers of ESSA mandates for 2021 student testing, as it did in 2020. Two weeks ago, we sent the attached letter to Secretary-Designate Miguel Cardona, signed by over 200 deans and other leaders, that outlines what we believe the research makes clear, namely, that there are fundamental problems with these tests, that the administration and use of these tests widen (not remediate) inequities, and that these problems are exacerbated in the midst of the pandemic.

We agree that we need data to make informed decisions and to address long-standing and emergent challenges, but to do so, we describe the different types of data that are needed and the assessments–other than state testing–that are more appropriate for such purposes. We urge you and Congress to act quickly and forcefully to insist that the Department waive mandates for 2021 student testing, and we are available to work and meet with you in support of this change.

The letter, included in the link below, begins:

As the nation struggles to address the impact of the pandemic on public schools, we urge the U.S. Department of Education to waive federal ESSA student-testing requirements for all states for 2020-2021 (as was done for 2019-2020).
We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE), are an alliance of hundreds of deans of schools and colleges of education across the country who draw on our expertise as researchers and leaders to highlight three research findings to support our request.


First, ​problems abound with high-stakes standardized testing of students, particularly regarding validity, reliability, fairness, bias, and cost​. National research centers and organizations have synthesized these findings about standardized testing, including the ​National Educational Policy Center​ and ​FairTest​. For example, some of the ​harmful impacts​ of high-stakes testing include: distorted and less rigorous curriculum; the misuse of test scores, including grade retention, tracking, and teacher evaluation; deficit framing (blaming) of students and their families and ineffective remedial interventions, particularly for communities of color and communities in poverty; and heightened anxiety and shame for teachers and students. Researchers have also spoken specifically about annual state testing, like in ​California​ and Texas​, arguing that such assessments should not be administered, much less be the basis for high-stakes decision making.


Second, ​these problems are amplified during the pandemic.​ The research brief, ​The Shift to Online Education During and Beyond the Pandemic​, describes the “law of amplification” and ways that the shift to online education widens long-standing inequities and injustices in education, particularly for groups already disadvantaged in schools. These challenges with technology, logistics, and safety would unquestionably apply to testing, whether in-person or online. For example, districts that administer computer-based tests in-person are now trying to determine how to recall computers that were loaned to students in order to have enough computers in school, which in effect, means that those students will not have computers for remote learning for weeks. In fact, with the vast changes and differences in curriculum and instruction that resulted from the shift to online education over the past year—that is, the reduction in opportunities to learn, particularly in schools that were already under-resourced—the content validity of the tests is almost certainly compromised, as described by the ​National Education Policy Center​. Furthermore, with so much trauma in the lives of students and families, schools need to invest all they can into quality time with students, supplemental tutoring, and enrichment and wellness programs, not stress-inducing, time-consuming tests that provide narrow data of limited use.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and board member of the Network for Public Education, responded to Biden’s broken promise about suspending the testing.

She wrote:

Today, Ian Rosenblum acting Asst. Sec. of the US Dept. of Education announced that states would NOT be given a waiver from administering standardized exams – though ten had already requested them, including New York.  Rosenblum is the formerly the Ed Asst. to Cuomo, and then worked at the pro-testing outfit Ed Trust, headed by John King.

His letter is here; article in Chalkbeat here.  The letter does say that the tests could be shortened, given over the summer (!) or even next fall. 

Surprising and depressing that they would make this announcement before Miguel Cardona, appointed as Secretary of Education, even took office, in the midst of a pandemic.  Check out the video here where Biden promised at an AFT forum that he would end mandated standardized testing.  Watch his answer here. Makes you wonder who is really running the show at the Dept of Education.

If states have to give these exams remotely, watch out for the surveillance spyware schools will ask to install on your children’s devices.  Best advice is to refuse and opt out of these exams altogether.

Leonie Haimson 

Executive Director
Class Size Matters

124 Waverly Pl.

New York, NY 10011
phone: 917-435-9329
leonie@classsizematters.org

www.classsizematters.org

Laura Chapman is a regular reader and contributor. She is a retired educator and a crack researcher. She writes here about a letter from Education Trust and other groups to Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona, urging him to deny all state requests for waivers from the mandated federal testing this spring.

She writes:

Kevin Ohlandt of Delaware and I looked behind the curtain of this attempt by the Education Trust and several other charter-loving groups to “demand” Secretary Cardona refuse state waivers on standardized tests.

I looked at the footnotes to discern what “authorities” this hastily assembled group relied on is issuing their demand. Their call included some footnotes as if to prove the wisdom and validity of the tests.

Here is an excerpt from one source: McKinsey & Company.

“We estimate that if the black and Hispanic student-achievement gap had been closed in 2009, today’s US GDP would have been $426 billion to $705 billion higher. If the income-achievement gap had been closed, we estimate that US GDP would have been $332 billion to $550 billion higher (Exhibit 1).”

This absurdity is from a report, dated June 1, 2020, offering several scenarios of possible outcomes for students who would receive instruction online, or in person, or in hybrid arrangements. The report is so out of date that it should be an embarrassment to EdTrust and others pushing these hypotheticals. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/covid-19-and-student-learning-in-the-united-states-the-hurt-could-last-a-lifetime

The second footnote comes from the charter-loving Bellwether Education Partners. It refers to their October 21, 2020 titled “Missing in the Margins: Estimating the Scale of the COVID-19 Attendance Crisis.” This report estimates that three million of the most marginalized students are missing formal education in school–virtual or in-person. The estimate of three million comes from mostly federal estimates of the number of students in higher-risk groups in every state and nationally: Students in foster care, Students experiencing homelessness, English learners, Students with disabilities (ages 6-21) and Students eligible for the Migrant Education Program.

This report, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, offers a series of recommendations already in the works for addressing the effects of the pandemic on K-12 education. Most of these recommendations have less to do with formal education than with tapping every possible community and state resource (except money) to provide food, shelter, and other necessities to survive unemployment and dodge the virus.
This Bellwether report also chases data from news reports from several large districts, the State of Florida and a study done in 2008.

This whole effort relies on out of date “estimates” of this and that, and offers recommendations of little use in addressing the systemic and immediate needs of students, teachers, their families and caregivers.

The last thing we and they need is to have anyone telling the Secretary of Education to keep the meaningless standardized tests.

Opt out and do so proudly.

Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education, watched the Senate confirmation hearings of Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education. She was delighted to hear his responses on issues that matter to friends of the public schools.

She wrote for this blog:

On February 3, I tuned in and listened to Dr. Miguel Cardona’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education.  I was anxious to hear his response to questions about school choice, integration, equity, testing, and schools’ reopening.

I was curious to see if Dr. Cardona would, like his three predecessors, Duncan, King, and De Vos, carry the banner for charter schools and seek to expand the Federal Charter Schools Program. Was he someone who believed that setting schools in the arena to compete benefits students?  Does he prefer the private governance of schools?

The first question on school choice was asked by Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, who voiced his support for all manner of school choice.

Cardona had a practiced response. He did not mention vouchers. He gave the nod to charters saying that some are excellent, which is true. But then the incoming Secretary signaled where he would put his time and treasure.

“Most parents want to send their children to their neighborhood school. It is important to support all schools, including the neighborhood schools that are usually the first choice for families in that community.”

That statement gives me hope. Cardona did not fall into the trap of using the term “traditional public schools,” a term coined by the charter community. 

“Traditional public schools” is and was always meant to be a disparaging term. Cardona’s innovative elementary school was not “traditional.” The high school I led that had an enriched, challenging curriculum for all where support and racial integration of classrooms and activities were the highest priority was not “traditional.” 

Cardona deliberately chose the term–“neighborhood” to describe public schools. Unlike his predecessors he did not use “traditional” to distinguish them from charters.  And he stated that they are, as our friends at Journey for Justice remind us, “usually the first choice for families in that community.” 

If the listener did not understand what he meant by “neighborhood schools,” he clarified the term later.

He used the term “public,” then corrects himself, saying that charters are public schools (they are legally defined as such in his state). He then talks about the need to support neighborhood schools. He says, “Our neighborhood schools need to be schools where we want to send our children, and he calls neighborhood schools “the bedrock of our country.” Wow.

No person who has spent their life in public schools, especially in leadership, is universally liked. Miguel Cardona has his critics. But as I listened to Miguel Cardona, I was filled with hope. He is devoid of Duncan’s folksy goofiness, the arrogance of King, and the burning hatred of all things public of De Vos.

Miguel Cardona is a public school guy. He chose to spend his life walking among children in public school halls. He knows the road he is traveling, and the stars that guide his way will not be charter schools, vouchers, or billionaire reformers.  

During the campaign, Joe Biden promised to stop standardized testing. He acknowledged the damage it does to children and education.

Please sign the petition to remind him of his promise.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.