December 21, 2020
Dear Parents,

Last week, the New York State Board of Regents advanced its budget and legislative priorities and state aid request for the 2021-2022 school year. The Board outlined its State Aid Proposal that calls for ensuring level state funding over a two-year period to continue to address the needs of school districts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the Board advanced a comprehensive set of proposals to continue to allow districts to operate efficiently to focus resources on priorities that are vital to best meet the needs of all students.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for our schools, teachers, administrators, parents, and students, it has also given us the opportunity to rethink how we can improve education to meet the needs of all New York students. This year, we are focused on ensuring districts across the state have the flexibility to educate and provide the social and emotional supports our children need during these tumultuous times as we continue to work to bridge the digital divide and ensure all students in every part of the state have access to a high-quality education. We look forward to working with our partners at the state and federal levels to secure sufficient funding for all of the important programs outlined in the Board’s State Aid and Legislative priorities.

Also last week, the Board of Regents adopted New York State’s first-ever K-12 Learning Standards for Computer Science and Digital Fluency. These standards will ensure that every student knows how to live productively and safely in a technology-dominated world, including understanding the essential features of digital technologies, why and how they work, and how to communicate and create using those technologies. The new standards are the culmination of a two-year, collaborative process that included New York State teachers and statewide experts on computer science and educational technology.

Throughout the collaborative process of creating these standards, we listened to valuable input from an array of stakeholders, and we will continue to work with our partners across the state as the standards are implemented to ensure they are working for all our children. The standards support a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple expressions of diversity are recognized and regarded as assets for teaching and learning. The standards allow for engagement by all students and flexibility in how they may demonstrate proficiency.

Another way that NYSED is working to enhance student engagement is through a new initiative called Write on, NY! which promotes and supports student writing in New York State. The initiative utilizes the Lifelong Practices for Readers and Writers to encourage students’ engagement in writing. The Write on, NY! web page highlights each of these practices, then links to key elements for writing, as well as classroom resources. NYSED thanks the many teachers and educators who are part of this partnership and continue to assist with the work.

In an effort to promote the Write on, NY! initiative, we invite students statewide to enter our Logo Design Contest. The contest is open to all New York State students in prekindergarten through grade 12. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2021. Winning logo designs will be announced in March 2021. The student’s name, school, and district (if applicable) will be published with the design. You can find more information about the Write on, NY! initiative and the Logo Design Contest on our Write on, NY! web page.

I am also happy to share that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) nominated 25 New York State high school seniors for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The Presidential Scholar recognition is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students. Every year, one young man and one young woman from each state are named as Presidential Scholars.

These incredible students have shown determination and strength of character in their many successes, and their accomplishments are testimonials to their tremendous efforts. I know our legislators who recommended these stellar students are as proud of them as I am and join me in wishing each of them the best of luck in their bright futures.

Finally, I know COVID-19 has changed a lot about how we live our lives. Our daily routines at home, school, and work have been disrupted, leading to a wide array of challenges for families. Parents and other family members play an important role in helping children and teens find healthy ways to manage the stress caused by these challenges. A valuable resource is NY Project Hope, a program of the NYS Office of Mental Health. NY Project Hope provides information and resources for parents and caregivers to help children and adolescents cope with the pandemic.
NY Project Hope also offers free, confidential support to help parents navigate the challenges of COVID-19. If you need support as you and your children cope with COVID-19, call the NY Project Hope Emotional Support Helpline at 1-844-863-9314, 7 days a week from 8am-10pm. The call is always confidential, anonymous, and without charge.

I will be in touch again in the new year. In the meantime, I wish you all the best this holiday season.


Betty A. Rosa
Interim Commissioner