Today, the U.S. Department of Education held the first installment of its Equity Summit Series, “Building Equitable Learning Environments in Our Schools.” The program featured First Lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, leaders and educators from across the country, and student performances. During the summit, participants highlighted the Biden Administration’s historic commitment to advancing equity in school reopening, recovery, and long-term investments in education, including:
Through the American Rescue Plan, ensuring that schools not only have the resources to re-open for in-person instruction quickly, but also ensuring that schools are focused on investing in meeting the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of the students most impacted by COVID-19—who are often the same students who were furthest from opportunity before the pandemic, and doubling the number of school counselors, social workers, and school psychologists.
Through the American Families Plan, expanding access to pre-K and free community college, and investing in our educators, and building a diverse pipeline so every student from every background can be supported by teachers, mentors, and staff who share and understand their experiences.
- Through historic investments in the President’s FY2022 Budget, more than doubling funding for Title I schools through new equity grants that will incentivize states to address inequitable school funding systems.
- Working towards fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Highlights from the summit included remarks from educators, leaders, students, and Biden Administration officials discussing the opportunities to reimagine our schools so they work for all students, particularly those in historically underserved communities. See excerpts of the conversation below:
First Lady Jill Biden: "For many years schools across the country have grappled with issues of inequity, especially our students of color, those from low income homes, students with disabilities, and English language learners. As we recover from this pandemic, it's on all of us to ensure we don't return to the same broken systems of the past, but build back better than before. And that’s exactly what our administration is committed to doing."
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona: "Equity in education is about providing all students, from all backgrounds and all parts of the country, with the resources and supports that they need to succeed and thrive in our society. It’s about providing them pathways to contribute to their communities, and to make the world a better place. Equity is not a passing buzzword, but an ongoing, continuous effort to make sure that every student feels supported in their classrooms and in every educational environment. That’s why this summit isn’t a one-time event for us – but something that will be infused in all of our work at the department and across the Administration for the next four years."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten: "As we work to reopen schools this summer and fall, we have an opportunity and responsibility to reflect on teaching and learning, best practices, and what did and didn’t work when we all had to rethink what it meant to be a student, teacher, principal, and more, and we had to do this at a moment’s notice, almost a year and a half ago. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, and the luxury of foresight, we will build back better, with urgency, intentionality, and joy, in the service of every student."
Dean of USC Rossier School of Education Pedro Noguera: "Many of us have come from low income backgrounds, faced adversity and challenges but we used education to improve our lives, so we know it's possible. The real challenge that we face is how do we make that happen for more kids, and while the pandemic set us back, there's no reason why we have to stay back. If we can think holistically about the needs of children, and recognize how their social, emotional, and psychological needs are related to their academic and intellectual. There's no reason why we can't produce better outcomes, for all kinds of children across the country, and this should not be a controversial issue. This is really at the core of why we have public education"
2021 DC Teacher of the Year Alejandro Diasgranados said this of increasing and retaining teachers of colors: "Especially right now I'm afraid that the teaching profession might be at risk of losing a lot of great teachers of color, and right now that's not something that we can afford. For me it's personal because I only joined the profession after having an inspiring teacher of color who introduced me to the field of education. So I think that if we want to retain the teachers that we have, I think it starts with listening to the great teachers that we already have in classrooms. Also, pairing new teachers with veteran mentor teachers and, in order to prevent them from feeling isolated, creating different affinity spaces for teachers just so they can discuss different challenges and offer ongoing support mentorship and encouragement."
Sonya O. Hunte (@HunteSonya): This first installation of the #EquitySummit was amazing! insight is: Equity is giving each student what they need, when, how, and where they need it. Another takeaway is parent/caretaker & student voice.
Silvina Jover (@LatinaComm): The #EquitySummit organized by the @USEducationDept this morning was rich in content, shared experiences. White Plains District in #NY brought their #DualLanguage IC as a pivotal member of the conversation surrounding Equity and Inclusion.
To my point... always.
holdorf_audra (@holdorf_audra): “We can’t let equity become a slogan” excellent summit today!!
TJ Rumler (@tjrum): Dear @usedgov @SecCardona @FLOTUS today's #EquitySummit has been OUTSTANDING.