Education Secretary Miguel Cardona celebrated and praised teachers today as he shared US Education Department priorities for the coming years. He hopes educators can mitigate the upheaval of the past two years by reimagining education and solving problems that started long before the pandemic.
“Your work today will have a greater impact on our country because of the time in which you are serving,” he said. “We can collectively lead our nation’s healing [and] lift our country to a level never before seen. … We can’t lose this chance for a reset by going back to the same strategies.”
100% of federal rescue funding in states now
States now have 100% of the American Rescue Plan funding dedicated to education, which can help them stay open and invest in recovery, Cardona said. Districts are making progress — more than 96% of schools are open for full-time, in-person learning today compared with 46% of schools two years ago, he said.
Cardona’s vision includes increasing student engagement, closing learning gaps, and engaging parents and families more meaningfully. Wraparound programs, after-school and summer programs, webinars, meetings and other tools will help. He challenged district leaders to provide every struggling student with tutoring. They need at least 30 minutes, three times a week, of extensive, consistent tutoring, he said.
Student-school relationships are vital, and co-curricular activities can enhance feelings of connectedness and support, Cardona said. He wants every high-school student to participate in at least one. Also, more students will feel like they belong if classroom lessons include more diverse cultures and experiences.
“All kids must be seen, all kids must feel connected, and all kids must hear their names in school every day,” he said.
Embed mental health into school environment
Because well-being is crucial for both students and teachers, Cardona recommends finding ways to embed mental health supports into schools. He mentioned one high school that has built well-being efforts into students’ daily schedules. Cardona envisions doubling the number of school counselors and ensuring each child has access to a mental health professional via staff or community partnerships.
Likewise, teachers need ongoing professional development and livable wages. They also need a voice in decisions and support from communities, he said. The goal should be encouraging and retaining teachers and coaxing people in other professions into the classroom.
Cardona also mentioned the need for high schools to evolve to provide better career preparation in concert with community colleges.
States, districts need to provide more funding
Cardona admitted that these goals can’t be reached with federal resources alone. “States and districts need to reevaluate funding and make difficult decisions” to fix broken systems that perpetuate inequitable education, he says.
Educators, families and community partners should brainstorm together to come up with creative ways to reach these goals, he said.
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