April 9, 2021
Dear Parents,
Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa
Earlier this year, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) submitted two federal waiver requests related to state assessment and accountability requirements. This week, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) chose not to approve New York’s waiver request to forego state assessments this year. In the face of a worldwide pandemic, we believe cancelling state assessments would be the most appropriate and fair thing to do in the best interest of our students, and we are deeply disappointed in USDE’s decision.

We are providing as much flexibility as possible for schools to administer assessments within USDE requirements. Please read our full statement for more information about why we believe that “standardizing” this year’s assessments is unrealistic; the specific assessments that will be administered; the results of our survey on schools’ local assessment strategies; and the uncoupling of state assessments from ESSA accountability requirements. We remain committed to the physical and mental health, safety, and well-being of the children and adults in our schools.

Recently, Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr., the Board of Regents, and I expressed our deep concern about recent acts of violence in New York and across the nation. The Board of Regents and NYSED condemn, in the strongest possible terms, these abhorrent acts of bigotry, xenophobia, and racism. Most recently, we have seen a spike in hateful rhetoric, violence, and even murder directed at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Throughout America’s history, people thought to be different or somehow “not quite American” have been subjected to discrimination, bias, vile rhetoric, and violence. We cannot continue to let history repeat itself.

As the state’s education officials, we strongly urge all educators to help students understand the harm caused by racism and bigotry. The dangers are mounting, and we must all do more. The Board of Regents will soon outline the actions that NYSED is taking, as well as the steps we expect schools to take, to help create learning communities that are more diverse, equitable, and inclusive – steps that will advance a greater understanding and respect for all people. Now, it is vital that New York’s schools take the lead in helping their students look critically at the most recent incidents and at all hate-based violence they see around them and understand their role and responsibility as change agents.

The recently enacted New York State budget includes $29.5 billion in State funding to school districts for the 2021-22 school year, with approximately 75 percent of this increase targeted to high-need school districts. Achieving equity in education has long been the top priority of the Board of Regents and NYSED – and we are grateful that our legislative leaders have made it a priority, as well.

We have also long advocated for fully funding the Foundation Aid formula, and we laud the Legislature and Governor for committing to fully funding the formula within three years. We are also delighted that several of the Regents priorities are being addressed in this budget. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, children across New York are at an even greater disadvantage, and these funds are needed now more than ever.

We continue to review the details of the enacted budget. We thank the Governor, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for advancing several other significant initiatives to better serve New York’s children and adults.

I have previously mentioned SUNY's ​'Big Dreams, Small Step' campaign to provide assistance to high school students who are at risk of being left behind this year. SUNY’s campaign provides additional support, resources, and guidance to help students navigate the college admissions process, including designated Application Weeks featuring individual appointments and personal support on the SUNY application. Given the success of the Application Weeks in February and March, SUNY will be extending the program into April, May, and June with the following dates:

  • April 5-9, 2021
  • May 10-14, 2021
  • June 7-11, 2021

If you have a child applying to college this year, please visit the SUNY website to learn more.

Finally, I would like to share the good news that NYSED recently recognized 16 schools that were re-designated as 2021 Essential Elements: Schools to Watch, including five that were designated for a fifth time in the past 15 years. The designation is awarded to exceptional middle-level schools that meet rigorous criteria and are on a path of continuous improvement.

These Schools to Watch work each day to achieve positive and ever-improving outcomes for their students, continually building upon their accomplishments. The middle school years represent a period of personal growth and development for young adolescents. These schools and educators are helping the children they serve to prepare for success in high school and thereafter.

In other good news, three New York State students are among this year’s recipients of $40,000 scholarships through College Board’s Complete Your Journey Opportunity Scholarship program. The three New York City seniors are among 25 students in the class of 2021 from across the country to earn a total of $1 million toward their education by completing the steps in the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program—steps that help them plan, prepare, and pay for college. The students were recently surprised during an emotional announcement on Good Morning America.

On behalf of NYSED, it is my absolute pleasure to join in congratulating New York’s winners: Brianna, LaMia, and Nehemiah. This is a tremendous achievement for them, their families, and the teachers who have supported their journeys in education. I am confident we will be seeing great things from these very bright and ambitious students.

Thank you for your support. I hope you encourage other parents to subscribe to our parent email list to receive updates.


Betty A. Rosa