Education Reform

Education Week: Where Cardona Stands on the Issues

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Eve Blad wrote in Education Week about where Miguel Cardona, Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education, stands on the issues:

On reopening schools during the pandemic: He favors in-person instruction, but has not mandated it. He recommends face masks.

“We all know remote learning will never replace the classroom experience,” Cardona wrote in a November opinion piece published in the Connecticut Mirror. “We also know that the health and safety of our students, staff, and their families must be the primary consideration when making decisions about school operations. The two are not mutually exclusive.”

Charter Schools: He has not taken a strong position for or against charter schools, but the state board has not approved any new charters since he took office in August 2019.

“Charter schools provide choice for parents that are seeking choice, so I think it’s a viable option, but [neighborhood schools] that’s going to be the core work that not only myself but the people behind me in the agency that I represent will have while I’m commissioner,” he said during his state confirmation hearing.

During the campaign, Biden promised to stop federal funding of for-profit charters, a small segment of the industry. Charter advocates are pleased that he is not an opponent, but progressive groups are wary because charters drain funding from neighborhood schools. [My note: Connecticut has only 21 charter schools, including the no-excuses Achievement First, three of whose charters are on probation because of their harsh disciplinary methods. This action was taken last February, while Cardona was state chief.]

High-stakes testing: Before he was selected, Cardona made clear that he wants to resume annual testing this spring.

In a Dec. 7 memo, the agency said the state would conduct testing as planned this year, even as some schools remain closed for in-person learning and others are dealing with the fallout of interrupted schooling. 

State tests are the most accurate guideposts to our promise of equity for ALL,” that memo said.

The state plans to assess all students and report the data, but it will not use students’ test scores or to identify schools that need improvement, the guidance said.

[My note: Please, someone, tell Dr. Cardona that testing does not produce equity. Tell him about Finland, where there is no high-stakes standardized testing, and every school is a good school. Tell him that Finland aimed for equity and got excellence. Give him a copy of Pasi Sahlberg’s book Finnish Lessons 2.0, or the Doyle-Sahlberg book Let the Children Play. Tell him that test scores report gaps but do not close them. Tell him that the high-performing nations of the world do NOT test every student every year. Do not waste hundreds of millions of dollars on standardized testing. Teachers should write their own tests, because they can test what they taught and get rapid feedback about what students learned.]

English Learners and Students of Color:

Cardona wrote his doctoral dissertation on closing the achievement gap between English-language learner students and their peers.

As a Latino American and former English-language learner himself, he has said he relates to students of color and those who speak other languages at home.

(My note: These statements show he cares but it says nothing about what he will do.)

Teachers and Unions Cardona worked well with teachers and unions and will help Biden collaborate with the two big teachers’ unions, who were major supporters of his campaign. After four years of DeVos and eight contentious years with Arne Duncan and John King, the unions are looking forward to having a good relationship with Cardona.

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