Posted in Mission, Reflections, Thoughts About Children

Meet Miguel Cardona, the New U.S. Secretary of Education | NEACindy Long…

Historical…

I am so hopeful that for the first time, that I can remember, our NEA
(National Education Association) will have a cooperative relationship with the Secretary of Education…What a difference for our children and public schools will this make!!! This is historical…Such an opportunity!!!

NEA President Becky Pringle sat down (virtually) with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and hundreds of NEA members to learn about the department’s priorities during the pandemic and beyond…

Pringle thanked Cardona and President Joe Biden’s administration for honoring “the promises made to get control of the pandemic, to make investments in public education, to listen to educators, and to lead on racial and social justice.”

Cardona then expressed appreciation for educators’ heroic and unyielding work during the pandemic, saying more people than ever now recognize that community and state growth starts with good education: “I want to thank you for your commitment and for everything you’ve done,” he said.

Cardona stated that he will focus on closing the digital divide and homework gap; getting all of our students back into classrooms as quickly and safely as possible; creating equitable access to college and career programs; and making higher education affordable..

As his department begins to address these issues, Cardona said he will partner with NEA every step of the way as we “learn together, grow together, and heal together.” But we must not lose the sense of urgency of the pandemic, he cautioned…

“Our kids need us now more than ever. … We now have the opportunity to hit reset on things that don’t work, and I am committed to making sure we have NEA at the table to [elevate the profession] and do the very best for our students.”

NEA members submitted thousands of questions for Secretary Cardona. The following are some highlights of the hourlong town hall, with questions and responses edited for brevity…


Key Takeaways

Cardona’s priorities: closing the digital divide and homework gap; getting all of our students back into classrooms as quickly and safely as possible; creating equitable access to college and career programs; and making higher education affordable.
The Department of Education will work with NEA and educators to guide decisions on assessments…
Educators and unions will be part of the planning process in how American Rescue Plan funds are used to best serve students…

Question:

Can you share with us how you envision the future of assessments?..

Miguel Cardona: There is no “one-size-fits-all.” For example, assessing students who don’t understand English makes no sense. I get the frustration and the challenge that assessments present. No educator needs a standardized test to let them know how their students are doing. It’s just one data point. We need sensible assessments, always asking, why are we doing this? Does it improve instruction? Does it help serve students?

I’ve seen an overreliance on tests, and I’ve seen a harmful narrowing of curriculum. Assessments should mirror good instruction, and I’m eager to make sure they are authentic and assess students in a real way. I look forward to having NEA members at the table from the beginning to guide the work on assessments.

Now that the money from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is going to the state and local schools, how are you working to ensure governors and local districts are using the funding to best help our students?

MC: We released an application for states to share what their plans are going to be and what they entail, and I want those plans to be public … to have educators’ fingerprints all over them…

We need to work with our educators and all stakeholders. We need ongoing collaboration. This is unprecedented, the amount of funds going to schools, and we need to be good stewards of that, which means bringing educators and all voices together.

We put out guidance (that includes the voices of NEA members) to make sure the money is going to support schools and not supplant funding that would have been there before.

I recognize that people are feeling burned or hurt or pushed aside. Through our actions more than our words, I want you to know that this is a new day, and I look forward to working with our educators. Our job is to help support you so can be successful in helping children…

Question:

Due to the pandemic, some students are behind academically. What will you do to help get students back on track?

MC: Many of our students were significantly affected academically. But to get to that piece, we first need to get to their social and emotional well-being. It’s hard to learn if you’re grieving, or if your teeth hurt, if you’re hungry, or if you’re not sure where you’re sleeping at night. The pandemic created a lot of these issues for our students and families…

After such a traumatic experience, let’s make sure that the social and emotional well-being of our students and educators guides the decisions we’re making. People talk about the “three R’s,” but the most important is the fourth R—relationships….

After we support that, we focus on accelerating learning inside the schoolhouse, outside the schoolhouse, after hours. That could be in nontraditional forms. We need to be creative about that…

Question:

What is your plan to serve students with special needs and to fulfill the promises made to them at the federal level?



MC: I want to make sure [those] I bring in to the agency share my belief that our students with disabilities are first students who need to access the general education curriculum. They should not be defined as students with disabilities—they are students with abilities. They are assets, and they bring so much to the table. We have to shift to that way of thinking.

We need to ensure they have access to quality, tier one education first, and then look to specializing instruction. We need to ensure there is funding for IDEA. Special education teachers’ caseloads are too high to help students grow. Our regular classroom teachers haven’t had sufficient professional learning to help these students, and there is a lot we can do…

What policies do you plan to put in place to support all educators as expert professionals?

MC: Hopefully after this pandemic, there’s a newfound appreciation for the amazing work educators do day in and day out

First, we must pay educators what they are worth. It’s unacceptable that, in 2021, educators have to work a second job because their first job doesn’t pay enough. We need to value growth opportunities and professional learning opportunities. We ask so much of our educator’s—blended learning, trauma-informed instruction—and I want to make sure that ARP resources have job-embedded professional learning opportunities. Not those offered from 4 to 8 p.m., or three times a year where we cram everything in. Let’s reimagine what professional learning means.

We also need good “grow-your-own” strategies. How can we more systematically make sure education support professionals and more people of color become certified teachers so they can grow in their careers….

Question:

How will you expand and ensure access to more student debt cancellation, particularly for Black, brown, and Indigenous students, and ensure that public service workers have a clear pathway to the loan forgiveness they were promised?

MC: We can’t expect that college students take on this massive debt and be weighed down for rest of their lives. It’s unacceptable, and there are some students that are disproportionately affected by this.

We have done some things to help borrowers most in need. For example, there is now relief—$1.3 billion—for those who have total or permanent disabilities. We will continue to look at ways to help other borrowers with the most need.

In 2017, when public service loan forgiveness loans became available, 98 percent of those who applied were rejected. We need to do better.

At the end of the conversation, Pringle told participants that it was the first in many conversations NEA will have with Secretary Cardona to discuss his experience in public schools, his vision for learning, and the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities for our public schools and institutions of higher learning.

Watch a Recording of the Full Conversation with Miguel Cardona…

Posted in Mission, Reflections, Thoughts About Children

Dreams do Come True…

In the many years I taught; dating back to 1972…

I began with such hope!

Children were a priority…Integration and Early Childhood Education were paramount…And Head Start began…

However, as the years passed, by the nineties I realized that due to changes at the Federal level: our public school children were less of a priority because they were losing the funding to privatization, and the resources needed to do all we could for our children were diminished…

Yet our expectations were unrealistic and we were being blamed…

There now was teacher accountability, developmentally inappropriate curriculum and over testing….Yet fewer resources…

And moreover since the new millennium…with all these drastic changes…. Dismantling of public schools…teacher shortage….Poor leadership… A Pandemic..

We are facing a crisis…

However, through all of these changes I always maintained there would be that better day!!!

And now with the election of a new President….we may see a change!!!

” Biden’s education plan: Targets inequity, expands federal role”…Laura Meckler and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel Washington Post

The federal government has long been a bit player in education… Under an expansive vision being rolled out this spring by President Biden, that would change…

Biden has proposed — or is expected to propose — a half dozen education programs that would constitute the largest federal investment in education in at least a half century. Any one of them would be significant on its own. Taken together, if approved by Congress, they form a cradle-to-college plan that aims to reduce inequities that course through American schools by infusing hundreds of billions of dollars into virtually every level of the system….

“These are truly unprecedented investments in education,” said Sarah Abernathy, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding…

Much of Biden’s strategy is focused on cold, hard cash, a show-me-the-money plan that would more than double federal support to high-poverty districts, rebuild crumbling schools and subsidize pre-K and community college alike. It’s excited educators up and down the system, but left some allies wondering if the administration is doing enough to use the money to drive policy changes by states and districts. For their part, Republicans oppose such sweeping new spending as well as the tax increases proposed to offset some of the cost…

Should Biden’s entire agenda become law, the U.S. educational system could morph from a 13-year guarantee — where children are entitled to free education from kindergarten through 12th grade — to a 17-year promise, where prekindergarten is available starting at age 3 and tuition is free through two years of community college…

“Think of it this way: Joe Biden is adding four years to a student’s education. It’s the largest increase in educational time since high school became universal,” said Rahm Emanuel, a longtime Biden ally who championed similar policies for early childhood and community college when he was Chicago’s mayor. Early-childhood education, he said, will prepare children to learn, while postsecondary programs prepare them for the workforce…

Biden does enjoy support for his education agenda among liberals, who are pushing him to aggressively confront educational inequity, and centrist Democrats, who like several pieces of this package…

“He’s investing in things like apprenticeships and community colleges and pre-K and all kinds of things that moderate Democrats love,” said Lanae Erickson, who heads social policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. “There’s something in there for everybody in the party and that’s how he’s keeping folks on board.”Even when he had a Democratic Congress, Obama did not ask for this level of spending. After passing into law a recovery act meant to respond to the 2008 financial crisis, he telegraphed his interest in fiscal responsibility. At his first Cabinet meeting in April 2009, he announced that federal agencies would be hunting for cuts and efficiencies, saying he had challenged his secretaries to find $100 million in reductions…

Never give up on your dreams…

President Biden is determined…. making his Presidency consequential… Our children a priority; making our public schools stronger… Providing our children the success they so need…

Posted in Mission, Thoughts About Children

Children and Testing during a Pandemic…

Our children have been dealing with so much this past year…

And I believe, it is extremely wrong to expect them to perform their best when they take any standard test…this Pandemic year!!!

In addition to how well a teacher is doing…. teacher evaluations rely on this data…

And moreover, because of the big business of Educational Testing companies influence on education, government mandates that our children be tested…

It is unconscionable!!!

However…here in Florida…they are listening to parents, teachers, and those concerned for our children…

New order allows Florida high school seniors, 3rd graders to graduate without passing state exams…

Florida high school seniors will be able to graduate this year and 3rd graders can move on without passing the normally required state assessments, according to a new executive order signed Friday by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

Students everywhere have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic over the last year when schools closed and later reopened with virtual or in-person options.

Corcoran signed a new emergency order Friday that addresses a wide range of pandemic-related setbacks students have faced, including whether they take year-end assessments.

“Emergency Order-02 protects our seniors and empowers local school districts and schools to make the important decisions on graduation, promotion and whether to opt in to school grades and improvement ratings,” Corcoran said in a statement.

Gov. Ron DeSantis echoed those thoughts in a statement released by his office.

“Over the past year and beyond, Florida has led on prioritizing the education and wellbeing of our state’s students,” DeSantis said. “This emergency order will empower students, families and teachers with data on students’ progress and growth and provide them with the necessary tools to create the best educational experience for each individual.”

Under the order, school districts will be permitted to waive the state assessments required for graduation this spring on a case-by-case basis.

“Local school districts, in consultation with parents, are in the best position to evaluate the academic progress of each student and then make individualized decisions related to students progression and graduation in keeping with the best interest of each child,” the executive order reads….Even if they do not have an end-of-course exam….

Again, based on an individual basis, 3rd grade students will be able to move up to 4th grade without an English Language Arts assessment score or a Level 2 ELA score…

Those students will be promoted to the next grade “if the district is able to determine that a student is performing at least at Level 2 on the ELA assessment through the good cause exemption process provided in s. 1008.25, Fla. Stat., or other means reasonably calculated to provide reliable evidence of a student’s performance,” according to the executive order…

However, school districts are also required to begin remediation efforts with priority to students at risk of being retained for summer learning programs.

The executive order also addresses school districts’ concerns about school grades or ratings, which can impact funding.

Under Corcoran’s executive order, all schools will maintain their pre-pandemic grades unless a district opts in and applies to the Department of Education to have one or more 2020-2021 school grades recorded.

Schools participating in Florida’s voluntary prekindergarten education, or VPK, program will be required to have 200 hours of instruction for summer 2021 instead of the normally mandated 300, according to the order.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar released the following statement Friday in response to the order, saying teachers also deserve some grace:

“The new order lifts a heavy burden from our students. It’s only right that they should be exempt from dire consequences when they take standardized tests this spring. This has not been a normal school year, and a test should not cost kids the chance to graduate or be promoted. However, teachers did not get the same kind of consideration. Test scores still will be allowed to impose very real costs on them through their evaluations. The educators who have served Florida’s students throughout the pandemic also deserve to be shown some grace. They have faced unprecedented challenges this school year.”

My hope is that government put our children first…

Not big business, nor those who want to reform our schools without really addressing the needs of our children…Ask a teacher!!!

Posted in Mission, Thoughts About Children

Help is on the Way…For Our Children

This is a significant amount of money’: COVID-19 relief bill would send nearly $170 billion to schools..Jillian Berman

The Covid Relief Bill passed, and will now be enacted!!!

This is historic!!!
Our children will be able to get back to their routine of going to school, and being able to socialize with their friends…

They will be able to finally have the opportunity to receive an education they so deserve!!!

Our schools will have the necessary funding to provide the safety protocols, along with the ability to vaccinate all essential staff…And there will be the necessary funding to hire more teachers and staff!!!

What a dream coming true!!!

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and First Lady Jill Biden visit a school as part of the administration’s push to reopen schools.
MandelNgan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
As part of the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Senate Saturday, schools from kindergarten on up will receive billions of dollars in funding…
The money comes as K-12 public school systems and higher education institutions grapple with how best to cope with the fallout of the pandemic on both their students and budgets. Public schools at all levels rely on state and local government money for funding, resources that could be squeezed by the pandemic inducted downturn…
At the same time, schools are wrestling with how to return to some semblance of normalcy as more widespread vaccination brings hope of emerging from the pandemic in the next several months…
If the bill is approved by the House of Representatives and signed by Biden, the roughly $170 billion lawmakers are sending to educational institutions could help with these efforts. It comes on top of the $82 billion they received in COVID-related relief Congress passed in December and the roughly $31 billion they received as part of the CARES Act passed in March…

Here’s what’s in the bill for schools: Kg-12 schools:
Lawmakers voted to send $128 billion to state and local education agencies, which mirrors President Joe Biden’s request for $130 billion for K-12 schools in the relief package he laid out in January.

“This is a significant amount of money,” said Terra Wallin, associate director for P-12 accountability and special projects at Ed Trust, an organization that focuses on education equity.“We think that it gets much closer to addressing the needs of schools than the previous relief packages have.”
Schools will likely use some of that money to work towards safe, in-person reopening…
School reopenings have become a flashpoint over the past several weeks as questions about whether Biden will meet a goal of reopening schools in his first 100 days and what exactly that means have surfaced…
The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines last month on the safe reopening of schools, which outlined a tiered approach to in-person learning tied to COVID-19 transmission in the communityIn addition to the guidelines, the Biden administration has taken steps to push schools towards in-person instruction including launching a vaccination program for teachers in March and using the bully pulpit. On his second day on the job, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined First Lady Jill Biden on a tour of schools offering in-person instruction…

Though the Biden administration doesn’t have the power to reopen schools on their own — those decisions are made at the state and district level — the funding will certainly help. To re-open safely,schools may need to hire more teachers to offer smaller class sizes, redesign classrooms for social distancing, retrofit ventilation systems and more… But the funding provided is aimed at addressing more than just the immediate challenge of getting students learning in person…
Local education agencies have to use at least 20% of the funds, respectively, to deal with learning loss resulting from the pandemic…Schools could use this money on things like intensive tutoring, extending the school year through the summer, hiring more teachers, and more to address the learning loss students have suffered during this period, said Victoria Jackson, senior policy analyst on the state fiscal team at the the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focused on the impact of budget and tax issues on inequality and poverty…
The bill also provides guard rails to ensure that the funding for students who likely have been hardest by the challenges of remote school — those from underserved communities, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities and others — is protected, Wallin said…

The proposal lawmakers passed Saturday is the first COVID relief package to include a maintenance of equity provision… The requirement means that if states and school districts have to make cuts, they can’t cut any more from their highest poverty districts and schools than the per-pupil average…“The idea here is that it requires that states protect the highest need or highest poverty district and that districts in turn protect their highest need schools,”Wallin said…

Higher education:
Congress will be sending nearly $40 billion to colleges and universities as part of the relief package. Though it’s less than the $97 billion, the AmericanCouncil on Education, a higher education lobbying group, estimated schools and students would need, they praised it as the “largest federal effort so far to assist students and families struggling to cope with lost jobs or reduced wages and colleges and universities facing precipitous declines in revenues and soaring new expenses.”Indeed, many colleges’ major sources of revenue — tuition, room and board, conferences, camps, parking and more — have been dinged as a result of the pandemic.

During the Great Recession, public colleges in particular struggled with cuts to state funding, “but colleges just didn’t lose revenue to the same extent,” as over the past several months, said Robert Kelchen, an associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.“The big challenge for colleges is they’re not replacing the revenue they got from not having students on campus,” he said...Colleges across the country have made cuts in staff and Programs to cope with the lost revenue, Kelchen noted. At the same time, they’ve spent money on COVID tests, technology and other infrastructure necessary to try and make campuses safe. If the bill becomes law, a lot of the money colleges receive from Congress “will be used to backfill what they’ve already spent,” Kelchen said.At least 50% of the funds colleges receive will have to go directly to students for emergency financial aid...The pandemic and accompanying down turn has put up obstacles in the way of attending and completing college, particularly for the most vulnerable students.

The relief package requires that colleges spend some of the money they receive on outreach to students to let them know they can get more financial aid if their circumstances have changed… The bill also allocates $91 million to the Department of Education to reach out to students and borrowers about financial aid and other benefits for which they may be eligible.

JillianBerman covers student debt and millennial finance. You can follow her on Twitter @JillianBerman.

President Trump is definitely not a proponent for children, and those who rely on our public schools for their education…

Just the fact his selection of Betsy DeVos , an unqualified, billionaire who has strong ties to religious, private schools…as secretary of education….
I knew our public schools were in trouble…

With the fewer resources and funding this administration has taken from public education…and putting those funds into privatization…

And Now…this week at the State of the Union, post Impeachment… President Trump had an opportunity to vindicate the past…

 

He most definitely did not… He made his State of the Union Speech…a bid for his reelection….His little regard for our public schools calling them government schools…is absolutely disgraceful!

Taking this momentous occasion as an opportunity to stage a young student, who he said attended a public school,  to be a recipient of the Education Freedom Scholarship…so  she would be able to attend a private school…(Which is reportedly false)
…She is already  attending a prominent private school!He then revealed that he
for wanted Congress to fund 1 million dollars to that Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act- for those worthy students….Adding:

“Because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government schools!
 
 
He also urged Congress to pass legislation,
creating a 5 billion federal tax credit program that would fund scholarships to private and religious schools… benefitting individuals and donors…
The scholarships would be funded by individuals and businesses who want to privately donate but who would then receive a federal tax credit…

 

The President did call for more vocational and technical education at the high school level…And  the importance of the constitutional right for prayer in schools...

 

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union, said in a statement: “Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have made no secret of their antipathy for public education. Rather than strengthen the cornerstone of our democracy and the chief enabler of pluralism and opportunity, they choose to defund and destabilize it. No amount of rebranding vouchers and privatization as ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ changes that...

 
 
 
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In State of the Union, Trump makes clear his aversion to public schools – Article by Valerie Strauss…from The Washington Post..

Posted in Mission, Reflections

School Spirit…

With the beginning of a new school year, and the start of my second year since retiring…I am ready to reflect on those many wonderful memories …

The one I do hold dearly is that all through my thirty-eight years…I truly appreciate my children allowing me such a wonderful platform where I could utilize my unique sense of drama and creative talents into my teaching..

In today’s challenging times, with fewer resources, and many demands of teaching; even after these many years; It was the children’s love and innocence that provided me with passion to inspire them utilizing my enthusiasm and my strong sense of spirit…

They were a wonderful audience where each day was unique… And led to my success I felt as a teacher…

It was always my goal to find the fun… And now, I can recollect those moments of fun a teacher shares with his or her children… Through this captive audience, my children allowed me to keep my spirit alive…Keeping “the child in me alive”…

When I first began teaching in the early “Seventies”, I was young and fresh; our curriculum allowed time for the fun…We got to bake more often…Play and theater was a big part of the day…I myself enjoyed the opportunity to use drama in the classroom… I felt like I was playing a role, putting on a performance…to engage with the children…Never a dull moment…Each day was a new beginning….The years flew right on by….

Teaching the children of today, has certainly become much more serious… than just the “play”… I have needed to become a strong, positive role model… incorporating “my spirit’ to get their attention…even to manage behavioral issues…

For many of the children, I was their one positive constant in their lives… Utilizing my drama and creative spirit to reach them, even for that moment…Hopefully touching their lives forever…

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Posted in Mission, Reflections, Thoughts About Children

Politics in the Classroom..

Having taught back in the early seventies, post Civil Rights Movement and  having the most important opportunity teaching all children especially those that were mainstreamed from our society that practiced segregation …I  can remember just like it was yesterday,  entering into teaching with such passion that reflected my idealism and hope…As I do speak for myself;  many of my colleagues felt as I did…

I can even remember entering the classroom for the very first time, summer of…1970…doing my first field experience in preparation for my becoming a teacher….

I was going to “Change the World”…And “Make that Difference”!

The political climate of the Seventies was definitely pro education…It was more than just rhetoric… Federal programs such as Head Start with such a strong emphasis on early childhood education and Title I programs that assisted those children who struggled with their learning…were being funded and implemented…

Parenting groups also began at this time,  providing such educational and informative workshops for those parents who needed support and encouragement;  Hopefully in the end, becoming more knowledgeable and  involved in the educational needs of their child…And I too, even had the wonderful opportunity to be involved with…

I feel so blessed that I was able to be a part of this history; fueling my passion for saving children …So much so , that most of my forty years have been in primary education…

Over twenty five years as a first grade teacher, of which ten of those years, teaching children that were not on grade level…

 This  political climate of pro funding continued through the Eighties … However by the early Nineties there was a most definite shift… … the result from the direction of our politics right here in Florida, under the Governorship of Jeb Bush. .. Sadly, his politics encouraged the privatization of education, detrimentally affecting our children with the… “No Child Left Behind” Movement…And I as many feel the beginning of Public Education’s struggles….

Public Education was most definitely not a top priority any more…We teachers felt this in our classroom everyday… We had to deal with the strain of  more standardized tests, and more biased accountability…  This was now  the beginnings of vouchers and the privatization of  education…Our children were now  feeling  this emphasis, more demands and  less resources…We  teachers, feeling so unappreciated…and devalued…And more than ever the blame with all the reasons schools were failing…

“Our children were being left behind”… 

My first twenty years flew by so…Teaching was such a joy…

However, through the Nineties, and into this New Millennium with the demands and  fewer resources due to this political shift…Society’s politics has impacted families thus affecting our children… Children are now coming in to school less prepared…More of our children live in poverty and have emotional and physical issues… …And we teachers with all our creative talents have such unrealistic demands…Our classrooms are micromanaged and we are being assessed on how proficient we are…We educators have always felt being accountable is extremely essential…Children deserve the best… However we are not being assessed fairly due to the limits placed on with testing and collecting data… Many teach in overcrowded classrooms and fewer resources at our disposal….

How will the Politics of Today play out? …Thanks to President Obama Passing…The Every Child Succeeds Act, no child will be left behind

Some of the rhetoric has been ecouraging fewer tests and even giving recess back to children….

I feel this can be a fresh start, and we may be going  back to a time in History… the politics of the Seventies when all our children were important…We must prioritize funding Public Education for all our children…