Officially announced December 22, President-Elect Joe Biden has selected current Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to join his cabinet and lead the U.S. Department of Education.
In announcing his selection of Cardona, Biden said in a statement, “He will help us address systemic inequities, tackle the mental health crisis in our education system, give educators a well-deserved raise, ease the burden of education debt, and secure high-quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four year-old in the country.”
The incoming administration also stated that, “If confirmed, Dr. Cardona will help carry out the president-elect’s ambitious plan to ensure that every student in the nation can get a high-quality education from pre-K to post-high school, regardless of their zip code, parents’ income, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, or disability. As states and school districts struggle to meet students’ needs due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Cardona will make getting students of all ages and in every community back in the classroom safely a national priority — working with Congress and local, state, and tribal leaders to secure the funding and strong public health measures needed so that we can work to safely reopen the majority of our schools within the first 100 days of the new administration. Having walked the walk as an educator, administrator, and public school parent, Dr. Cardona has a proven track record as an innovative leader who will fight for all students, and for a better, fairer, more successful education system. He will also strive to eliminate long-standing inequities and close racial and socioeconomic opportunity gaps — and expand access to community colleges, training, and public four-year colleges and universities to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.”
In a rare sign of unity, education advocates from all over the policy spectrum are praising Cardona as the pick, as he is not aligned with teachers unions nor advocates for school choice.
Reactions from education leaders can be found here.
Cardona has only been the commissioner of education for 16 months, meaning that a look at his district will truly tell where his priorities will be once he starts running the Department.
Meriden Public Schools
Cardona spent the majority of his career in the Meriden Public School District in Meriden, Connecticut. The district has some impressive accolades, including the CoSN Leading Education Innovation 2017 Team Award, The Learning Counsel 2018 Digital Curriculum Top 10 Strategy Award, and is a member of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.
It’s not easy to be accepted into the League of Innovative Schools. League members represent 114 districts and 34 states, and their experiences reflect the diversity and shared challenges of public education in America. The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools is a national network of forward-thinking education leaders who are working together to:
- Improve outcomes for students and solving the challenges facing K-12 schools through powerful and smart use of learning technologies
- Use their collective voice to advance positive change in public education
- Partner with entrepreneurs, researchers, and leading education thinkers and serves as a test-bed for new approaches to teaching and learning
Also important to note on the Meriden Public Schools website is the commitment to student-centered learning. In 2013, in recognition of the district's effort, The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), the largest charitable organization in New England focused exclusively on education, awarded the district a 20-month, $450,000 grant through its grants initiative, New Approaches in Urban Districts (New Approaches). The grant helped Meriden build capacity to enable more students to achieve at a higher level, and meet the Common Core State Standards through the implementation of systemic approaches to student-centered learning.
Given Cardona’s record of encouraging innovation when it comes to learning models, which hopefully comes along with flexibility and funds to spur innovation as well.
Susan Gentz is vice president of K20Connect and comes from a strong policy background as a former staffer in the U.S. Senate and Legislative Aide in the Iowa House of Representatives. Along with experience at both federal and state levels, she served as the Deputy Executive Director for the Center for Digital Education, worked for a government relations firm in Arlington, VA, and heavily worked on federal and state education policy at iNACOL, where she wrote published reports to move the field forward with innovative learning models, best practices, and policy recommendations.