Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent, is expected to be recommended soon as the state's new education commissioner.
Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent, is expected to be recommended soon as the state's new education commissioner. courtesy of Neag School of Education, UConn

Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona on five issues.

  • On bilingual education:

Cardona says he remembers it being “tough” when he got to kindergarten, having only spoken Spanish at home. “It was another layer of trying to fit in.”

He said bilingual education is critical for students so that they can maintain their native language while learning a second language. The acquisition of a second language is easier, he said, when a student has a strong foundation in their first language.

While there are “strong pockets” of bilingual education around the state, Cardona said “I’m looking forward to working to make it better. I don’t feel that it’s gotten the attention that it needs. If you look at the demographics in our largest urban populations, we have Latinos that are growing. It’s a Connecticut issue — not a bilingual issue.”

  • On tying teacher’s performance evaluations to the state standardized test:

Cardona argued against this as a member of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council. Eventually, PEAC recommended that the state’s standardized test known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, not be included as one of the measures used to evaluate teachers, but said those scores could be used to help set goals for teachers.

 “Not reducing a teacher to a test score and bringing the voices of teachers and leaders into the process of professional leaning. Those are the two things I really felt like I had to champion.”

In Meriden, where he served as a performance evaluation specialist before becoming assistant superintendent, Cardona said the district did not use data from the Smarter Balanced Consortium test in evaluations, but did use data from other tests to measure a students’ academic growth.

  • On the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test:

“I think it’s better than the Connecticut Mastery Test — the version we had before.”

But, he said, he’d like to it become a better tool so that teachers can use it to spot where students need help.

“At this point I want to examine it a little bit further and look to help it evolve a little bit based on what Connecticut’s needs are.”

  • On the use of the Common Core academic goals:

Cardona said the standards are more rigorous than past academic goals.

“There’s always room for improvement. I could find flaws and in parts of them .. but at the end of the day having high expectations and high standards for kids is a good thing.”

  • On speculation about Dalio Philanthropies involvement:

Some have have speculated that the Dalio Philanthropies may have played a role in the administration’s last minute switch to Cardona because the foundation has invested funding and expertise in Meriden and three other communities in recent years to help improve the quality of education. And, earlier this year, the foundation pledged $100 million in a public-private partnership to improve the state’s schools. The plan is for the state to provide matching grants.

Cardona said Dalio had nothing to do with his appointment. While the foundation has been involved in Meriden, he said that he was not part of the group that worked with the foundation.

“They don’t really know Miguel Cardona.”

Kathleen Megan wrote for more than three decades for the Hartford Courant, covering education in recent years and winning many regional and national awards. She is now covering education and child welfare issues for the Mirror.

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