Five Takeaways From Dean Noguera’s Interview With US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona

By Brian Soika

April 22, 2021

Official portrait of US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona who was interviewed by USC Rossier Dean Pedro Noguera about the American Rescue Plan

In an event streamed live for EDTECH WEEK, USC Rossier Dean Pedro Noguera interviewed US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

The conversation spanned a variety of topics related to how schools can leverage funds from the American Rescue Plan to support students and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted some of his priorities as the nation’s top educational leader. 

Here are some key takeaways from Cardona’s comments:

1. Recovery Requires Bold Action

Cardona acknowledged that the pandemic has exacerbated inequities in education. Low-income schools and students of color have been disproportionately affected by school closures and remote learning.

Going forward, leaders should think big when it comes to addressing the needs of marginalized students, rather than taking incremental steps. “If you’re not leading with the unapologetic belief that all children can succeed at high levels, you’re in the wrong profession,” he noted.

2. Equity Should Be Integral to School Policy

Too often, schools address issues of equity through small gestures (e.g., having an assembly or assigning a book by a Black author). “Equity’s not a thing you do, it’s a mindset,” said Cardona. Equity needs to be embraced at the leadership level and incorporated into policies and practices.  

3. Internet Access for Students Is Essential  

Low-income households and students of color who lack reliable Internet have particularly struggled throughout the pandemic. To address the problem, The American Rescue Plan provides funding to improve online access for students and their families, noted Cardona. 

Access will only become more vital going forward. After exploring the potential of technology over the past year, some schools are considering how else they might use it to enhance instruction.

4. Civic Education Has Renewed Importance

The US Education Secretary suggested that the nation’s education system should focus on becoming more well-rounded. In addition to prioritizing the mental health needs of students and staff, schools might consider enhancing or expanding their civics curriculum.

Education can help resolve the country’s deepening divisions, and civics may provide tools to help students navigate confusing or false information about politics and the role of government. 

5. Community Colleges Are Key to Rebuilding the Economy

President Biden has pledged support for community colleges, and Cardona also expressed enthusiasm for their benefits. “Community colleges are going to be the backbone of economic growth in our country,” he said. 

His comments come amid plummeting enrollment in California, the country’s largest community college system. To strengthen the pipeline between secondary and postsecondary schools, he suggested that the two education systems need to improve their coordination, and give younger students the opportunity to think of themselves as college students early on.  

EDTECH WEEK

The interview was a leading event for EDTECH WEEK, an annual educational technology conference. This year the conference featured shark tank-style pitch sessions, as well as panels with leaders from technology, business and education. Several USC Rossier faculty members lead discussions. 

Related content:

  • A New Vision for Schools (and Why Now Is the Time)
  • Community college reform is working, but there’s much to do
  • Survey: Low-income families strained by distance learning