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“Press the Pause Button” March 30 letter to the US Secretary of Education Cardona from the Coalition for the Future of Education

Executive Summary 

Many students, teachers, and other school staff around the country are suffering right now. Since the return to in-person schooling in the fall of 2021, many schools appear to be trapped in cycles of chaos. We have all experienced trauma during the past two years; in light of this trauma and our sometimes less than satisfactory in-person experiences in schools this past six months, what are the next steps for schools? 

Recently, Secretary of Education Cardano (2022) addressed many of the concerns that we have. He not only conducted a Youth Listening Tour, but in a January 27, 2022 spelled out a vision that has much in common with our recommendations for schools, saying “This is our moment to truly reimagine education.” 


The Center for Educational Improvement in conjunction with the Coalition for the Future of Education, which we established in 2021, has sought schools and communities where students and staff are thriving. 

Through our work with the Collaborative to Alleviate Childhood Trauma, we have uncovered many examples of excellence, where students and staff have found strategies to bolster not only the education of students, but the mental health and well-being of students and staff. In these schools, educators did not attempt to “return to normal,” but rather listened to students, addressed student interests, and strengthened social-emotional learning supports. 


To move forward, we recognize that not every school community is ready to implement radically different strategies and practices. Yet, if ever we were to engage in major educational reforms, this is likely the right time. How should schools proceed? We believe that one of the most profound — and practical — ways to advance is to first take time to dialogue, to listen to youth and staff, and to plan and implement pilots. 


In this paper, we present a proposal for how to guide this course of action in ways that can be customized to ultimately meet the needs of local communities and advance the education, learning, and well-being of each and every student, in every school, in every district in the United States and around the world.


Download a PDF of the entire document.

We launched our Coalition for the Future of Education to lend our voice, networks, and compassionate school model to learning communities striving toward equitable access, opportunities, and resources for all students and families.


Our Coalition highlights our commitment to diversity and inclusion and is the embodiment of our Heart Centered Learning framework. 

The Coalition for the Future of Education represents a diverse group of individuals and organizations dedicated to supporting and positively impacting the future of education in the United States and globally.


We envision a world that leans in with heart and compassion for self, others, and our environment, where people and institutions are dedicated to expanding conscious acts of caring, building resiliency, and advancing learning, equity, and justice.

We envision safe and equitable schools with education that serves as the foundation for our humanity; it is flexible and empowering. There is room for adventure, students drive their own learning, learning and self-understanding are celebrated, and communities support their individual and collective self-care, and well-being.

To learn more about our Coalition for the Future of Education, check out our Flipbook.

View our listing of individuals and organizations who have joined our Coalition.

Coalition Leaders
Dr. Chris Mason, Executive Director, Center for Educational Improvement (VA)
Paul Liabenow, Executive Director, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MI)

Dr. Melissa  Patschke, Coalition Director and Principal, Upper Providence Elementary School (PA)

Coordinating Committee Members 
Brian Aikens, Teacher, Upper Providence Elementary School (PA) 
Dana Asby, Director of Innovation and Research Support, Center for Educational Improvement (CT) 
Dr. Matt Bergey, Dean of Social, Emotional and Academic Learning, Boyertown Area School District (PA) 
Mehir Badlani, Junior, CB South High School, Central Bucks School District (PA) 
Whitney Becker, North Carolina State University, Doctoral Student Applied Social and Community Psychology (NC) 
Liza Caraballo-Suarez, Principal, Magnet School of Architecture, Engineering & Design, P.S. 120 (NY) 
Aiden Cardwell, Student, Alpena Elementary School (MI)
Eric Cardwell, Retired Elementary School Principal (MI)
Cristine Chen, CEI Intern, Pepperdine University (CA)
Sue Choi, Principal, Spring City Elementary Hybrid Learning Center (PA) Audrey Choi, Student, The Hill School (PA)
Jillayne T. Flanders, Early Childhood SEL Consultant (MA)
Dr. Kevin K. Green, Engineer and Founder, Akasha Learning Systems (VA)
Dr. Robyn Hansen, Professor of Practice, College of Education, Northern Arizona State University (AZ)
Kahlil Kuykendall, Gender Economist & Mindfulness Educator, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University (DC)
Alfonso Lopez, Principal, Lewis & Clark Elementary School(WA)
Julia Murphy, Student, Providence College (RI)
Dr. Michele Rivers Murphy, Associate Director, Heart Centered Learning, Center for Educational Improvement (MA)
Bria Nartey, Student, Avon Grove High School (PA)
Dr. Renee Owen, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership, Southern Oregon University (OR)
Kaya Payton, Student, Riverhead High School Student (NY)
Thomas Payton, Principal, Roanoke Avenue Elementary School (NY)
Dr. Nancy Phenis-Bourke, International Educational Consultant (FL)
Kevin Simpson, Managing Director KDSL Global (TX)
Mark Terry, Deputy Director, Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TX)
Karin Tulchinsky-Cohen, Vice Principal, Montgomery County Public Schools (MD)
Carrie Vieira, ELA Specialist, Montgomery County Public Schools (MD) 

For more information on our Coalition for the Future of Education, Contact CEI's Coalition Director 
Dr. Melissa Patschke

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