Dr. Miguel A. Cardona was sworn in as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Education on March 2, 2021.
Secretary Cardona is one of three children, whose grandparents moved from Puerto Rico in the 1960s for better opportunities in the mainland United States. That experience, and his bicultural upbringing, have helped shape Secretary Cardona's passion to serve all students and improve their opportunities for success. Secretary Cardona's focus throughout his career on raising the bar for equity and excellence in education for all learners guides his leadership of the U.S. Department of Education in service of the nation's 65 million students, ranging from prekindergarten to adult learners, and their families.
Over the last two years, Secretary Cardona led the nation's efforts to safely and successfully reopen schools for in-person learning, going from only 46 percent of school buildings open when President Biden took office to nearly 100 percent open just nine months later, while distributing historic federal education funding for P-12 schools and colleges; working to increase higher education access, affordability, and student success; and leading unprecedented federal efforts to transform the country's student loan system.
Across all these areas, Secretary Cardona has highlighted the urgency of seizing this moment through intentional collaboration—particularly working in partnership with parents, families, students, and educators—and the opportunity we have, as a nation, not only to recover from the pandemic, but to reimagine a higher-performing and more equitable education system that works better for all.
In the year ahead, the Department will be focused on achieving academic excellence and accelerating learning for all students; delivering a comprehensive and rigorous education for every student; eliminating the educator shortage for every school; investing in every student's mental health and well-being; providing every student with a pathway to multilingualism; and ensuring every student has pathways to college and a career.
Secretary Cardona previously served as the commissioner of education in Connecticut, a position he held after being appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. In this role, Secretary Cardona faced the unprecedented challenge of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and led safe school reopening efforts in the state. The state was the first in the nation to provide equitable access to learning devices amid the pandemic, being one of the first in the country to safely reopen. Recognizing the increased importance of providing resources for the social-emotional health of students and staff, the state also collaborated with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and other public-private partnerships to provide free social and emotional learning courses for students.
Secretary Cardona's approach to leadership in Connecticut focused on partnerships: within his Education Department, between state agencies, and with local boards, educator unions, school administrator associations, child advocates, and most importantly, students and families. He attributes his success in Connecticut, in part, to those strong partnerships.
Secretary Cardona has two decades of experience as a public-school educator from Meriden, Connecticut, the same school system he attended as a child. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and went on to serve as an elementary school principal, leading a school that included outstanding programming for 3- to 5-year-old students with developmental delays, students with autism and other sensory needs, and students enrolled in the district's bilingual education program. Following that role, Secretary Cardona led performance and evaluation efforts for the Meriden Public Schools and became assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Secretary Cardona is the recipient of the 2012 National Distinguished Principal Award for the State of Connecticut and the Outstanding Administrator Award from the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education.
Secretary Cardona earned a bachelor's degree from Central Connecticut State University, a master's degree, two additional advanced leadership certifications, and a doctoral degree from the University of Connecticut. His greatest source of pride is his family. Secretary Cardona and his beautiful wife Marissa, an educator herself, are the proud parents of two children.