Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 9
The other challenge that will be an immediate barometer of Cardona's political dexterity is
what to tell states they must do when it comes to
federally mandated assessments and accountability measures in the spring.
Many states have already moved to reduce if
not eliminate the role of tests in how they measure schools and students, a general approach
that could be relatively easy for Cardona to
Yet he'll face divisions among Democrats
as to whether he should allow states to simply
cancel these tests, allow states to alter them in
some fashion, or tell schools to proceed as usual
(or as close to usual as they can get). Earlier this
month, Connecticut announced that it would
conduct testing as planned this school year.
A Career Educator
Biden had pledged to pick a public school
educator to lead the Education Department,
partially in response to concerns from teachers that their voices are overlooked in policy
debates. Cardona easily fits that description, in
sharp contrast to DeVos, who was a longtime
Republican fundraiser and school choice advocate prior to taking over the department in 2017.
Cardona was appointed Connecticut's
top K-12 official in August 2019 by Gov. Ned
Lamont, a Democrat. Cardona had worked as
an elementary school teacher in Connecticut
and as a principal for 10 years in the Meriden,
Conn., school district. He also served as an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Meriden.
Cardona also has highlighted his Latino background and the fact that he did not speak English when he entered kindergarten in Connecticut. He told the Connecticut Mirror last year,
" It's not lost on me, the significance of being the
grandson of a tobacco farmer who came here
for a better life, who despite having a 2nd-grade
education was able to raise his family and create
that upward mobility cycle. "
for in-person learning and others are
dealing with the fallout of interrupted
" 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.
In general, Cardona hasn't been a
strident critic of standardized testing
like some of Biden's other reported
candidates for education secretary,
but has emphasized the appropriate
use of test scores. Serving on a state
advisory panel that assisted in the design of teacher-evaluation policies as
a district administrator, he stressed
the importance of multiple measures
What it means for the Biden
administration: Biden was skeptical of standardized tests on the campaign trail. Working in cooperation
with his campaign, the Democratic
Party included language critical of
" high stakes " uses of test scores in
its 2020 platform. Some education
policy wonks who supported President Barack Obama's approach to
school accountability said Biden put
too much emphasis on school fund-
The fact is that
to greater student
Education Secretary nominee
ing and not enough on accountability.
Testing and accountability are
poised to be one of the first big education issues to watch under Biden's
leadership. State schools chiefs have
pushed his transition team to give
them flexibility on federally mandated accountability measures, including testing, as they continue to
respond to the pandemic. Biden's
team has not made any commitments
on the issue.
As someone with experience as a
state education chief, Cardona may
have some added credibility with
his former peers that would help
him navigate the discussions. As
education secretary, he would have
to weigh what forms of flexibility to
offer and whether the agency should
allow states to opt out of testing altogether.
Students of Color
Cardona's position: 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 in a 2018 column for a website about
teaching in Connecticut, Cardona wrote: " Like
many, I remember what it felt like to be on the
wrong side of a stereotype, and I felt it was my
purpose in education to evolve the thinking of
the next generation. Equity became a foundation for my passion around this time. "
When Connecticut adopted a requirement
for high schools to offer African-American,
Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies starting in 2022, Cardona praised the shift, saying,
" The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all. "
When he became a principal at age 28, he
became the youngest principal in Connecticut
at that time. In 2012, he was named the state's
principal of the year. He eventually became assistant superintendent for the Meriden schools,
which is noted previously in the story.
Cardona has eschewed labels when discussing education problems. In remarks to the state
legislature in 2014 about the Common Core
State Standards, he said, " I ask that we come together in support of a plan that is not Democrat
or Republican, traditional or reform, urban or
suburban. Proceed with caution, " he said.
News that Biden had picked Cardona received a generally warm reception in general
from the education community.
Representatives from disparate groups like
the American Federation of Teachers, the
Council of Chief State School Officers, the
school choice advocacy group Center for Education Reform, and Teach Plus expressed optimism about if not outright praise of Cardona.
CCSSO's Carissa Moffat Miller, the group's
CEO, said Cardona has " dedicated his career
to creating a more equitable education system, "
while AFT President Randi Weingarten said
Cardona's record indicated how labor and district leaders could collaborate to help students.
and those who speak other languages
" For Latino children from communities that are below the threshold of poverty, you know you're not
typically thinking, the data doesn't
suggest that they're going to be the
next principal of the school ... or state
education commissioner, " Cardona
told the Connecticut Mirror last year.
" There were times throughout my
youth that I think people had lower
expectations than they should have.
It just made me hungrier. "
As education commissioner, Cardona agreed to a state settlement in a
decades-long Hartford school desegregation case that allowed more students in the city's segregated schools
to enroll in magnet programs.
What it means for the Biden administration: White students make
up the minority of enrollment in U.S.
public schools, compared to the combined representation of students from
all other racial groups.
And, as those demographics have
shifted in recent years, so have debates over how to best serve students
from all racial, ethnic, and demographic groups.
Biden's education plans include efforts to encourage voluntary school
desegregation, and to train, recruit,
" Secretary-designate Cardona is someone
who respects educators as the professionals
that they are, will listen to our experiences
as the people who know the names of our
students, and ensure that we have a voice
in developing and implementing education
policy, " National Education Association
President Becky Pringle said in a statement
Those who've worked with him indicate that
he's focused on students and less so on polarizing political battles in education.
" When you think about school choice as an
example, he's agnostic, " said Desravines, of
New Leaders. " Miguel cares about kids, kids
who attend public schools, and he wants to do
everything he can to set those kids up for success. That balanced perspective ... is what he
will bring to this role. "
Other Connecticut educators embraced Cardona's selection.
Mark Benigni, the current superintendent of
Meriden schools who was recognized by Education Week for his district leadership in 2015,
praised Cardona's record.
" He exemplifies the promise of education
and why America is the greatest nation in
the world, " Benigni wrote of Cardona in an
email to Education Week. " If you work hard,
take your education seriously, treat others
with respect, and stay grounded in family and
community, you can realize and fulfill all of
your dreams. Miguel would be an exceptional
choice to lead our nation's educational system. "
And David Bosso, a social studies teacher
at Berlin High School, said he has talked with
Cardona a few times in Bosso's capacity as the
president of the Connecticut Teacher of the
" He's a very genuine individual and seems
to be very collaborative, very supportive, very
open-minded, " said Bosso, who was the state's
2012 Teacher of the Year. " He wants to hear
teachers and their perspectives. "
and retain more teachers of color.
He has also pledged to boost federal
funding for special education and for
students with high enrollments of
students from low-income families.
If confirmed, Cardona would oversee those efforts. It's also expected
that a Biden Education Department
will reinstate key Obama-era civil
rights directives that were rescinded
by the Trump administration, including guidance on racial disparities in
Teachers and Unions
Cardona's position: When he
designed his district's teacher-evaluation system, Cardona emphasized
the importance of cooperating with
educators and seeking their input.
In 2013, the American Federation
of Teachers highlighted that work
and called the district " a roadmap for
union-district relations. "
AFT President Randi Weingarten
" If you want an example of how
labor and management can come together to improve learning and student achievement, you need only look
at Meriden, " she said in a statement.
" His deep respect for educators and
their unions will travel with him to
Washington-and that commitment
to collaboration is crucial to providing the resources and social and
emotional supports to safely reopen
What it means for the Biden
administration: Teachers' unions
were key allies for Biden during his
campaign, promoting his plans to
boost federal funding for schools and
his approach to school reopenings.
Biden also reportedly considered
Weingarten and former NEA President Lily Eskelsen García as potential
education secretary picks.
That relationship comes following
a contentious relationship between
teachers unions during the Trump
administration. U.S. Secretary of
Education Betsy DeVos frequently
criticized the organizations, saying
they stand in the way of the changes
necessary to reimagine education.
It also follows several years of
muscle-flexing from local teachers'
unions, and grassroots groups that
have pushed states and districts to
improve contracts, raise school funding, and increase teacher pay.
Cardona would be the face of the
Biden administration for teachers'
unions, which haven't hesitated to
criticize education secretaries from
both parties in the past.
EDUCATION WEEK | January 13, 2021 | www.edweek.org | 9
Education Week - January 13, 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 13, 2021
Education Week - January 13, 2021
Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
High Risk for COVID-19 And Forced Back to Class
The High-Stakes Tests Facing Miguel Cardona
Where the Nominee Stands On Key K-12 Policy Issues
With Name Changes, Schools Transform Racial Reckoning Into Real-Life Civics Lessons
Should Schools Be Giving So Many Failing Grades This Year?
Millions of ELL Students Face In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19
DeVos Resigns a Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol
Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
Civil Rights for the New Administration
We Must Talk About Remote Student Absenteeism
Letters to the Editor
EdWeek Top School Jobs
Empty Promises Of Equity
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Education Week - January 13, 2021
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 2
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 4
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Teachers Are Already Getting COVID-19 Vaccines
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - High Risk for COVID-19 And Forced Back to Class
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 7
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Where the Nominee Stands On Key K-12 Policy Issues
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 9
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - With Name Changes, Schools Transform Racial Reckoning Into Real-Life Civics Lessons
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 11
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Should Schools Be Giving So Many Failing Grades This Year?
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 13
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Millions of ELL Students Face In-Person, Federal Testing During COVID-19
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - DeVos Resigns a Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A Dreaded, Real-Life Lesson Facing Teachers
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Caring for Students in the Wake of a Traumatic News Event
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Civil Rights for the New Administration
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - We Must Talk About Remote Student Absenteeism
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Letters to the Editor
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 21
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - 22
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - January 13, 2021 - Empty Promises Of Equity