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Aurora Institute

Center for Policy and Advocacy March 2021 Updates

Education Domain Blog

Federal Updates

U.S. Senate Confirms Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary – The United States Senate voted 64-33 in early March to confirm Dr. Miguel Cardona as the next education secretary. Dr. Cardona, the former Connecticut state chief, is the first elementary educator to become the U.S. Secretary of Education. He began a career in education in his hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, where he worked as a central office leader in an innovative district before he was appointed as state commissioner in 2019. Read More

Cardona Maintains Stance on State Tests as He Focuses on School Reopening – Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that the U.S. Department of Education does not plan to provide any new updates to the guidance issued on state summative assessments it published last month. The education secretary also said he fully expects schools to reopen for in-person learning in the fall. Read More

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Outlines his Five-Point Plan to Get Students Back to In-Person Full-Time – U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona outlined a five-point plan to get schools back open. Secretary Cardona intends to: (1) host a national summit on safe school reopening; (2) share current best practices for school reopening ; (3) release the second volume of its COVID-19 Handbook providing research-based strategies to meet diverse student needs related to the pandemic; (4) collect better data by administering a national survey to identify wide-scale school reopening status and learning needs; and (5) help secure additional financial resources to ensure schools and students receive the support necessary to return to in-person instruction. Read More

State Updates


  • Colorado District Uses High School Apprentices to Grow Its Own More Diverse Teacher Workforce – Leaders in Cherry Creek School District No. 5 in Colorado developed an educator career pathway for high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing a career in education. The program aims to diversify the district’s educator workforce to reflect the demographic makeup of the community and student body. Read More


  • Illinois State of Education Report Highlights the Impact of COVID-19 on Teacher Workforce – The third annual State of Education report by the Illinois Education Association was recently released, illustrating how the pandemic has made the state’s teacher shortage worse. The report found that teacher retirements spiked last summer and fall, and throughout the pandemic, teachers have been working 10–12 hour days teaching and preparing for in-person and remote instruction. Read More


  • One Year into COVID-19, Louisiana Schools Have “More Mobile Devices than Kids” – In a push to bring school districts to a one-to-one student-to-device ratio, Louisiana has surpassed that figure statewide, although not all individual school districts are there yet. The data comes from the Louisiana Department of Education’s School Reopening Dashboard on technology and devices as of Feb. 24, 2021. The dashboard is still being updated to reflect the most recent and accurate numbers. Read More.
  • Louisiana Students Will Resume Testing Soon – The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met to decide whether public schools and districts will be assigned letter grades, or accountability ratings, this school year. The fact that yearly exams are moving ahead sparked some pushback, with the state branch of the NAACP calling for state tests to be canceled, and the Senate Education Committee Chairman called for exam results to be strictly advisory. Read More


  • MD Senate Committee Advances “Kirwan 2.0” with Amendments – A Maryland Senate Committee advanced a complementary bill to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a multi-billion-dollar education reform measure enacted into law this year. The updated bill, Senate Bill 965, expands career education for high schoolers, increases pay and career opportunities for teachers, and targets additional support to schools that enroll a high concentration of students from low-income households. Read More


  • Bill Requires FAFSA Completion Before High School Graduation – In Massachusetts, HD 2616 would require that students complete the federal application for financial aid before graduating high school. Lawmakers say that COVID-19 has exacerbated the gap between low-income and high-income school districts in completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and this law aims to remedy that and prepare more students to pursue post-secondary education after graduation. Read More


  • Why 2021 Might Be the Year Minnesota Addresses Its Teacher of Color Shortage – The Increase Teachers of Color Act has been proposed in the Minnesota legislature every year since 2017. Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats have championed the bill, but this year, for the first time, the bill received a hearing in both the Republican-controlled Senate and the DFL-led House. The bills, which propose $46 million in new spending for K-12 education and $35 million for higher education, have passed through committees but still have a long way to go before they become law. Read More
  • House Committee Approves New Investments in High-Speed Broadband – The Minnesota House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee today approved a bill to invest $120 million to expand access to high-speed broadband across the state. The Legislature has set a goal for all Minnesota businesses and homes to have broadband access, with minimum download and upload speeds. Read More


  • New Bill Seeks to Create New Educator Corps – Senate Bill 272 proposes to create the Nevada New Educator Corps to provide tutoring services in schools. The Nevada Educator Corps would include retired and current teachers and college students studying education who have obtained a special license through the Nevada Department of Education. They would be paid using $5 million in federal pandemic emergency funds. The bill aims to make tutoring available both in-person and virtually to ensure that tutors are available to work with students in districts across the state. Read More.

North Carolina

  • North Carolina and Wake County Continue to Lead U.S. in “Gold Standard” Teacher Rankings – The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced that North Carolina leads the country with 23,090 teachers who have completed the board’s rigorous certification process. Wake County leads the nation with the most nationally certified teachers of any district. While the process to become certified costs almost $2,000, a bill filed in the N.C. House would forgive the loans of teachers who seek certification. Read More


  • DeWine Signs Emergency Education Bill on Graduation Requirements, State Testing – Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 67 into law which changes some requirements for high school graduation and state assessment tests for the 2020–2021 school year. It requires the Ohio Department of Education to seek a waiver from federal accountability and school identification requirements while also declaring an emergency. The bill went into effect due to an emergency clause that allows students in grades 11 and 12 to use the end-of-course grades instead of state tests for graduation requirements. House Bill 67 also extends the end-of-year state testing period. Read More


  • Gauging a Plan to Alter Education Funding in Oklahoma – There is a proposal to adjust the state school funding formula by removing the option to calculate the number of students enrolled in a district using data from two school years prior. The changes aim to cut out what some call “ghost students” because current law allows districts to calculate funding based on enrollment from the current year or the higher of the previous two years. Some argue this could potentially allow students who move to be counted by multiple districts. Some stakeholders argue that this legislation could strip millions from urban and rural districts and shift them to others, while others argue that that is misleading information. Read More


  • City School Board to Consider Development of K-5 Online School Option – The Greeneville City Board of Education will consider approval for the district to develop a permanent fully online elementary school program option. The district will use $700,000 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to develop the program. The board will also consider a consulting contract with Battelle for Kids to develop a “portrait of a graduate.” The “portrait of a graduate” is part of the district’s goal to move students and educators to look beyond the high stakes testing environment and visualize possibilities for students to develop skills that will lead to success in life, as well as the workforce of the future, the agenda says. Read More


  • In San Antonio, Teachers Hit the Streets in Search of Students Disappearing from Online Learning – At Rawlinson Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, teams of teachers visit the homes of students who have been chronically absent to their virtual classes or have completely stopped showing up to classes to find ways to reengage students. The visits have paid off; about half of the school’s 1,350 students are learning remotely, and the school averaged 99 percent attendance in the weeks after Christmas break, about eight percentage points higher than the district middle school average. Many districts across the nation are struggling with engaging students who have gone off the grid, and home visits have been a promising strategy for boosting attendance. Read More
  • State Lawmakers Push to Expand Rural Broadband Access in Texas – According to a 2019 study, nearly 68 percent of Texas households subscribed to a fixed broadband service. Texas is also one of six states that do not have a statewide broadband plan in place. To help remedy this, legislators have filed more than 25 bills in the Texas House and Senate to expand broadband access across the state, with strong bipartisan support. One bill, SB 5, would create a state broadband office to help map where more funding and infrastructure are needed. Read More

Washington State

  • Inslee Signs Bill Allowing COVID-19 Related Waivers of Some Graduation Requirements – Governor Inslee signed into law a measure that will permanently give the State Board of Education authority to grant school districts emergency waivers to graduate students who were on track for graduation but fell behind due to COVID-19. Last spring, the Legislature allowed the creation of a temporary waiver program for seniors after school transitioned to online, with 9,400 waivers issued in 2020. The new law allows districts to waive credit or graduation pathway requirements for students if their ability to complete them had been impeded by the pandemic. Districts are still expected to help students meet the standard requirements and use the waivers as a last resort. Read More


  • SBE Seeks to Define Graduates’ Needs – The Wyoming State Board of Education recently began creating a state Profile of a Graduate. Phase one of the three-stage process will focus on cataloging graduation requirements, college entrance requirements, and conversations with stakeholders. Phase two will focus on using data to craft the Profile of a Graduate. The final phase will develop possible approaches to graduation standards, gather additional public comment, and end with the approval of the profile by the State Board. The SBE also hosted two public listening sessions in March. Read More


Bills We are Watching*

  • IL SR 107 – This bill encourages high schools across the state to participate in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness program. (Introduced)
  • MO SB 152 – This bill establishes the “Show Me Success” diploma as an alternative pathway to graduation for high school students. (Passed Senate)
  • ND HB 1111 – This bill establishes a legislative management study of competency-based education initiatives implemented in districts participating in innovative education programs. (Enacted into law)
  • ND HB 1478 – This bill allows a school district to adopt a policy that allows students in grades six through twelve to earn course credit through opportunities outside the classroom, like work-based learning, apprenticeships, internships, industry certifications, and community programs. (Passed House and Senate)
  • ND SB 2304 – This bill requires all K-12 public and non-public schools in North Dakota to include curriculum on Native American history. (Passed Senate and House Committee)
  • NM HB 43 – This bill, also known as “The Black Education Act,” establishes an advisory council and requires anti-racism training for school personnel. The legislation also requires public education and higher education departments to develop curriculum and instructional materials that recognize and teach Black culture. (Passed House and Senate)
  • NV SB 83 – This bill temporarily waives certain requirements related to the statewide system of accountability and certain assessments, dependent upon waivers from the U.S. Department of Education. (Passed Senate and House Committee)
  • OK SB 619 – This bill allows the State Board to determine which apprenticeships, internships, and mentorships are eligible for academic credit toward graduation. (Passed Senate)
  • SC HB 3589 – This bill redesignates “Schools of Choice” as “Schools of Innovation” and clarifies that public school districts may establish multiple schools of innovation. (Passed House and Senate)
  • WA HB 1121 – This bill waives certain credit or graduation pathway requirements if a student’s ability to complete them was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Passed House)

* The status of the legislation reflects updates up until March 25, 20221.


For questions, comments, or technical assistance, contact:
Fred A. Jones, Jr.
Policy Director, Aurora Institute
[email protected]

Alexis Chambers
Policy Associate, Aurora Institute
[email protected]