February 12, 2021
Dear Parents,
Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has undergone several transitions and challenges in the past year and a half, which have allowed me to work more closely with the tremendous staff here at the Department. In this time, we have come together with the Board of Regents to face these challenges head-on. This week, I was honored to be appointed as permanent Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York. I am excited to continue our important work to benefit New York’s children and adults. Now more than ever, we must address the equity gaps our state faces, and I am eager to partner with the Board and the education community to further these efforts.

We are also working through some transitions on the Board of Regents. As I mentioned last month, Dr. Lester W. Young, Jr. was elected as Chancellor of the Board of Regents, and I look forward to our partnership. Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown will step down from the Board of Regents, on which he has served for nearly nine years in total and as Vice Chancellor for the past five years. Chancellor Young and I are grateful to Vice Chancellor Brown for his dedicated service to New York’s students and adults, and we wish him well.

Today, NYSED submitted two federal waiver requests related to state assessment and accountability requirements. The waivers would allow the state to forego testing in 2020-21. These waiver requests address the unique circumstances caused by the ongoing pandemic that have resulted in many students receiving some or all of their instruction remotely. The full text of the submitted waiver requests is posted on NYSED’s ESSA webpage.

Last month, NYSED made the draft waiver requests available for public comment, and we heard from educators and parents from across the state on this important decision. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and strengthens our resolve that our schools and students would be best served by waiving testing and accountability requirements. We continue to work with schools to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone in our schools during this challenging time.

Every February, the nation celebrates Black History Month by recognizing the innumerable contributions that African Americans have made to our country. This week, the Board of Regents and NYSED commemorated Black History Month at the February 2021 Regents meeting, including through reflections by members of the Board. In addition, a panel of national experts presented on Racial Disparities in Medicine and Ethnic Disparities in Health. The panel discussion was followed by a Regents discussion regarding an action plan focusing on the twin goals of providing equitable care for all and encouraging more young people of color to pursue careers in medicine. The meeting was streamed live and is available to be viewed on the Board of Regents website

To further commemorate Black History Month, the New York State Museum is providing virtual tours of some of the African American-related artifacts in the History collections via Facebook live, recordings of which will then be posted on the Museum’s website.

Additionally, the Museum offers an easy-to-use resource page for students, educators, and the public, which includes research, access to digital collections, virtual lessons, and activities for the classroom. The Museum will also use its social media platforms to promote the Emancipation Proclamation and 15th Amendment work that was done last year, and staff is working to develop a partnership webinar series with the Shirly A. Chisholm Center for Equity Studies about Black history and current events which will kick off this month.

The State Museum's Office of State History is also compiling a listing of Black History Month events taking place at cultural education organizations across New York State. The website will be updated often to keep the public informed of these events.

As in years past, NYSED and The Education Trust-New York are highlighting New York State My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) students throughout the month on social media (FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn). The #MyHistoryMyFuture campaign features inspiring quotes from outstanding students who are sharing how MBK has positively changed their lives and what their hopes and dreams are for the future. To introduce the campaign, read Board of Regents Chancellor Young’s reflections on Black History Month and the New York State MBK initiative.

Also at this week’s Board of Regents meeting, NYSED provided an update on the New York State Parent Dashboard. In October, NYSED launched the Parent Dashboard to increase transparency and make information about school performance and other school-level data easier for parents and the public to access. The Parent Dashboard increases data transparency by providing you, as parents, with valuable information about your child’s school, enabling you to make informed decisions about your child’s education.

We continue to seek feedback from parents and stakeholders to guide further enhancements to the Parent Dashboard. We will use this feedback to identify the data that is most useful to parents and the public and to make improvements to the website. We invite you to explore the Parent Dashboard and then provide feedback via an online survey, available in 17 languages. By completing the survey, you will help us determine how the Parent Dashboard can best provide you with information about your child’s education.

I know many of your children will be on winter break next week, and I encourage you to follow NYSED on social media (FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn) to get ideas for fun and educational family activities. In addition to providing daily ideas during winter break, we share tips, resources, activities, and events throughout the year highlighting daily themes like “Math Monday,” “Trivia Tuesday,” and “Wellness Wednesday.” If you don’t already, be sure to follow us for these tips and ideas and for our latest news.

I also wanted to remind you that if you have a college-bound student, winter break is a great time to submit your child’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you have questions about financial aid, the SUNY Smart Track financial literacy website has many great resources that can help you plan for the costs of college.

As always, thank you for reading and for your continued involvement in your children’s education.


Betty A. Rosa