Contact: Laura Johnson, 410-300-6468
U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona Cites Summer Learning as a Key to Addressing COVID-19 Learning Losses and Educational Inequities at National Summer Conference
(WASHINGTON, DC) Nov. 10, 2021 – Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, identified the power of summer learning, social-emotional learning, and professional development to address learning losses and educational inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, during the National Summer Learning Association’s (NSLA) Summer Changes Everything™ conference.
“We have an opportunity as educators that we’ve never had as long as I’ve been in education to reimagine education to make social-emotional learning a part of the learning,” Sec. Cardona said during a “fireside chat” interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan, to over 400 attendees representing school districts, summer enrichment programs, corporations and philanthropic organizations from across the U.S.
“I saw summer school programming this summer that I hope never goes away. I hope it influences what we do from September to June because it was better in many cases. I saw more robotics and STEM activities this summer than I’ve ever seen in the past. We’re changing the narrative of what it could be to learn through American Rescue Plan funds. That’s what we need to keep our eyes focused on.”
With $30 billion in new federal funding for summer and out-of-school time programs over the next three years for education recovery as a backdrop, NSLA’s national conference was among the most important convening for leaders to exchange best practices, and solutions to help America’s students and educators heal, recharge, and rebound from this pandemic. Sec. Cardona emphasized the importance of professional development to meet the increasingly complex needs of students.
“It’s not asking them to do more. It’s supporting them the way we know they need to be supported. “We need to invest in our educators so that they can have the tools to support our students,” Sec. Cardona said. “With the Rescue Plan, there’s a commitment to social emotional being. “It’s providing the right professional learning opportunities for teachers. Giving them pathways for continuous growth.”
Sec. Cardona also stressed the importance of reaching the most vulnerable students when developing summer learning and enrichment programs.
“These summer learning experiences are critically important as we address achievement disparities. So many of our students go home and they don’t have anything to do. Other students who are more fortunate have opportunities to go from one activity to another,” Sec. Cardona said. “We need to close that divide. We need to make sure that what we’re doing holistically is meeting the needs of our students and that goes from food insecurity, to housing insecurity, to extracurricular activities.”
With many families experiencing loss of life, jobs, and opportunities during the pandemic, Sec. Cardona highlighted the importance of investing in SEL and access to mental health resources.
“Let’s rethink things. Let’s invest in the things that work. Social-emotional learning and access to mental health supports need to be a prominent part of our schools moving forward,” said Sec. Cardona. “Our adults, our educators, our bus drivers, our cafeteria workers, our teachers. We have all experienced loss, and we have to be prepared to be an inclusive environment now for our students and for the adults that serve our students.”
“The need for summer learning has never been more severe and the opportunity has never been more rich,” said Aaron Dworkin, CEO, NSLA. “The challenges that we are facing collectively can be solved together. Together, we can make sure that every young person in America, especially the most vulnerable, have a great summer learning experience every year.”
Sec. Cardona applauded the summer program providers and educators for providing learning opportunities during these challenging times, and delivered a hopeful message.
“People delivered this summer. I was in Oregon and I saw a summer program that was twice the size of what it normally was. I saw kids outside, all safe, engaged, and happy to be together. They were doing hands-on activities, learning how to communicate effectively, how to share,” he said. “I’m filled with hope. I’m filled with optimism that we’re going to rise to the occasion.“