News and Notes

September 2023

Dear Colleagues,
Commissioner Betty A. Rosa

I hope your school year is off to a wonderful start. Here at the New York State Education Department (NYSED), we are committed to supporting our teachers and school leaders as you provide world-class instruction and supports for all students. We look forward to working in partnership to prepare all New York students for college, career, and civic readiness in the 21st Century and beyond.

Please take a few moments to watch our Welcome Back Video Series, in which state leaders share their favorite school memories and advice for students, and read our letter to educators to welcome you back to a new school year.

In this edition of News and Notes, I am thrilled to introduce the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year, Zachary Arenz, a music teacher at Flower City School Number 54 in Rochester. Mr. Arenz inspires students and positively impacts their social emotional development as well as their academic skills by ensuring his students enjoy learning through music. I am proud to honor Mr. Arenz as our Teacher of the Year. Congratulations!

Thank you for all you do for your students every day. I wish you the very best for a healthy and happy school year.


Betty A. Rosa

NYSED Announces Rochester Music Teacher Named

2024 New York State Teacher of the Year

Zachary Arenz

Congratulations to Zachary Arenz, a music teacher at Flower City School Number 54 in Rochester, the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year.

Teacher of the Year is the oldest and most prestigious teacher recognition program in the nation. Each year, New York selects an exceptionally skilled and passionate educator to be an ambassador for New York State teachers and to serve as New York's nominee for the National Teacher of the Year Program.

Mr. Arenz embodies the power of the arts. In addition to his traditional music classes, he also teaches ensembles and instrumental lessons and has developed a music enrichment program for students who are experiencing grief. Mr. Arenz is not only a model leader for his students but also a dynamic example of excellence and motivation for his colleagues.

Before teaching at Flower City School Number 54, Mr. Arenz taught classroom music in Sweden to students in grades 7-9 and mentored students in grade 9 to prepare for high school and career opportunities by creating academic and social goals. He holds several music and arts certificates, as well as a certificate in therapeutic crisis intervention for schools.

Watch this inspiring video from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to learn more about 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year Zachary Arenz!

2024 Teacher of the Year Zachary Arenz

Congratulations to the finalists for the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year who were also honored. They are as follows:

  • Jonathan Clemmons, Minisink Valley Middle School, Minisink Valley School District, Slate Hill, NY;
  • Ellen Foley, Wheelock Early Childhood Center, Fredonia Central School District, Fredonia, NY; and
  • Nichole Hantsch, Chenango Forks Middle School, Chenango Forks School District, Binghamton, NY.

2023 Louis E. Yavner Teaching and Citizen Awards

At its September 2023 meeting, the Board of Regents presented Louis E. Yavner Teaching and Citizen Awards commemorating outstanding contributions in teaching about the Holocaust and other human rights violations.

Karen Feldman

Ms. Karen Feldman, a middle school social studies teacher at Robert F. Wagner Middle School in Manhattan, was presented with the Louis E. Yavner Teaching Award for her exceptional efforts to educate others about the Holocaust. 

Dr. Vladimir Munk

Dr. Vladimir Munk, a Holocaust survivor and a retired professor of microbiology at SUNY Plattsburgh, was a co-recipient of the Louis E. Yavner Citizen Award.

Elliott Saiontz

Mr. Elliott Saiontz, a student educator in his senior year at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, was a co-recipient of the Louis E. Yavner Citizen Award.

2023 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship

Leonard Mitchell

The Board of Regents and NYSED recognized the winner of the 2023 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship, which provides a $1,000 scholarship to a student enrolled in a graduate program in vocational rehabilitation counseling.

Congratulations to Leonard Mitchell, a graduate student in the Rehabilitation Counseling program at the University at Buffalo, for receiving the 2023 Marge A. Tierney Memorial Scholarship!

Elevating Student Voice Webinar Series

Elevating Student Voice Webinar Series

Elevating student voice is critical to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in school districts. This webinar series will highlight practices used by six school districts from across New York State that are engaging students as partners and leaders in DEI efforts within their schools. Students, educators, and educational leaders participating in these webinars will share the impacts of these initiatives to inspire additional efforts to elevate student voice across NYS. The webinar series will highlight the following school districts:


Session 1: Gates Chili Central School District and Ithaca City School District

Date and Time: September 27, 2023, 1:00–2:00 p.m. (ET)

Session 1 Registration


Session 2: Salamanca City Central School District and Peekskill City School District

Date and Time: October 18, 2023, 1:00–2:00 p.m. (ET)

Session 2 Registration


Session 3: Shenendehowa Central School District and Uniondale Union Free School District

Date and Time: November 8, 2023, 1:00–2:00 p.m. (ET)

Session 3 Registration


Please visit NYSED's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website for more information.

Public Comment Period on Accountability System Updates

NYSED is accepting public comment on amendment proposals to Section 100.19 and 100.21 of the Commissioner’s Regulations to align with the recently approved federal amendments to the accountability section of New York State’s consolidated state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the 2023-24 school year based on 2022-23 school year results and the 2024-25 school year based on 2023-24 school year results.

The United States Department of Education (USDE) approved the amendments to the accountability section of New York State’s consolidated state plan under ESSA on September 8, 2023. The USDE-approved New York State ESSA plan can be found on the NYSED ESSA plan webpage.

Comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted through November 27, 2023, and may be emailed to

U.S. Department of Education Honors 22 New York Schools as

2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools

The U.S. Department of Education announced that 22 schools across New York have been recognized as 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools, including nineteen public and charter schools and three nonpublic schools. A full list of the 2023 New York State National Blue Ribbon Schools is available on NYSED’s website. Congratulations to all the honorees!

U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools

Graduation Measures: A Review of Performance Assessment Implementation in Select States

The New York State Education Department has released the report, “Graduation Requirements and Measures: A Review of Performance Assessment Implementation in Select States for the New York State Education Department,” created by the Region 2 Comprehensive Center (R2CC) led by WestEd. 

R2CC, in consultation with NYSED, conducted deep-dive case studies into the use of performance-based assessments in seven states—Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont—to understand policies, implementation processes, successes, areas for improvement, and lessons learned.  

The report outlines the general themes that emerged from the case studies, followed by state profiles (which detail more information about the implementation of performance-based assessments) for each of the states and the consortium included in the data collection. These states each integrate performance-based assessments as a complement or, in some cases, an alternative to traditional, multiple choice tests.

The findings highlighted the array of testing requirements as well as the importance of multiple measures for graduation, based on the stakeholder analysis.  

Despite the different policies and varied approaches to implementing performance-based assessments utilized by the states studied, a common theme among them was that performance-based assessments are used to provide more opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of skills and content. 

The following themes emerged as the state interviewees discussed considerations and lessons learned for effective implementation of performance-based assessments. 

  • Intentional work should be done to align performance-based assessments with standards, curriculum, and instruction. 
  • Collaboration and involvement with teachers and administrators is crucial. 
  • States and districts need to invest in building the capacity of teachers and leaders to effectively design and implement performance-based assessments. 
  • Allow for flexibility and adaptability in implementation. 
  • Provide clear communication about what performance-based assessment is, what its purpose is, and how it will be used. 
  • Address inclusion and equity throughout the process. 
  • Build advocacy and support to demonstrate the commitment to performance assessments. 

New York State History Month

New York State History Month

The New York State Museum, State Library, and State Archives will commemorate New York State History Month in October by offering a variety of engaging programs and resources for children, families, and adults alike. These offerings, both online and in-person, will focus primarily on themes related to the approaching 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, explore the subsequent 250 years of continuing revolutions for all New Yorkers, and celebrate the rich and diverse history of the state. In addition, the New York State Library will host a new temporary exhibition, New York During the American Revolution which will open on Sunday, October 1 and be available until the end of the month. The exhibit will display documents from the collections of historical relevance to the American Revolution and New York State.

The State Archives provides many classroom resources to help teach about the American Revolution with compelling historical records. For example, full lessons and learning activities are available for the online exhibit, Treason in New York, including several primary source documents. Additional classroom and teaching resources from the State Archives, organized by era, are available on the Consider the Source New York website.

New York State Museum Opens Exhibition:

“Each One Inspired: Indigenous Art Across the Homelands”

“Each One Inspired: Indigenous Art Across the Homelands”

A new exhibition, Each One Inspired: Indigenous Art Across the Homelands, is now open for the public to view at the New York State Museum. The new exhibition, which features more than 60 original creations of Indigenous artwork by artists whose homelands lie within what is now New York, will be open through March 2024. This collection of contemporary art focuses on Indigenous histories, teachings, and communities and how they relate to and inspire our relationships and connections to our environment.

The exhibition is organized in interrelated themes that are central to Indigenous art and culture: Lands; Ancestors and Histories; Community, Nation, and Family; and Plants and Animals.


High-resolution photos of select art and artifacts in the exhibition are available here.


The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. For additional information, visit the New York State Museum website.

New York State Library Public Programs

NYS Library Online Public Programs

Join the New York State Library each month for a full slate of free programs, including onsite walking tours, trainings, webinars, and a presentation on picture books and activities to pair with them.

Check out the full calendar of upcoming programs on the New York State Library website

Help Families Maintain Their Health Insurance With NY State of Health


Having health insurance is critical for children to thrive at school and in life. Children with health insurance are more likely to complete high school and graduate college compared with their peers who don’t have access to care. Health coverage for kids benefits everyone.

Studies have shown that children with health coverage are less likely to miss school due to illness and are better prepared to learn, meaning fewer missed days of work for parents. Fewer missed school days may also allow kids and teens to stay involved with after-school activities like clubs and sports.

If a child doesn’t have health insurance, families can apply for coverage through NY State of Health today! Nearly 99 percent of NY State of Health enrollees qualify for free or low-cost insurance that covers important benefits, including doctor visits, immunizations, mental health services, prescriptions, and hospital care. Child Health Plus provides additional dental and vision coverage.

Consumers can enroll in a health plan by:

If a child is already insured through NY State of Health, families should be prepared for important changes. Starting in Spring 2023, New York State restarted eligibility checks for enrollees in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. This means enrollees may need to take action to renew their health insurance. If a family has health insurance through any of these programs, there are things they can do now to prepare for the upcoming renewal process. 

Families should:

  • Sign up for text alerts. To subscribe, text START to 1-866-988-0327.
  • Make sure their contact information is correct. Make sure NY State of Health or the local Medicaid office has a current mailing address, phone number, and email address so families can be contacted about their health insurance.
  • If a family has insurance through with NY State of Health, they should call 1-855-355-5777 (TTY: 1-800-662-1220), log into their account on the NY State of Health website, or contact an enrollment assistor
  • If a family has Medicaid through the county’s Medicaid office or through New York City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), they should contact the local office to update their address and contact information.
  • Take action. When it is time to renew their health insurance, families will receive a letter from NY State of Health or a renewal packet from their county’s Medicaid office. This letter/packet will provide instructions for renewing coverage. Families should follow the instructions right away.
  • Visit the NY State of Health website for regular updates to ensure they have access to the information they need. 
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