February 26, 2021
Dear Parents,
Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa
Earlier this month, 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) informed states that it will not grant a blanket waiver for state assessments. While we are disappointed by this decision, we are examining all possible options. Further, USDE made the right call in affirming that no child should be made to come to school to take a state assessment. In addition, USDE agreed to uncouple state assessments from ESSA accountability requirements so that results solely will be used as a measure of student learning. Given these circumstances, NYSED will propose a series of regulatory amendments at the March Board of Regents meeting so Regents Exams would not be required to meet graduation requirements and to cancel any Regents Exam that is not required by USDE to be held. We continue to have discussions with USDE regarding this matter to find a path forward that is best for the health and safety of all New York’s children.

Also this week, Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr., the Board of Regents, and I expressed our deep concern about the rise in violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We condemn these acts of violence and the hatred that drives them. We will not be delayed or deterred in our work to lift up every one of New York’s 2.6 million students, confident in the knowledge that the way to a better world is through education, respect, and compassion.

New York State is committed to ensuring that all students succeed and thrive in school no matter who they are, where they live, where they go to school, or where they come from. NYSED and the NYS Office of the Attorney General recently released guidance to assist local education agencies in their obligations to students experiencing homelessness to help ensure that these children are connected to education and other supports.

While the number of homeless students has likely increased due to the COVID pandemic, identifying children experiencing homelessness has become more difficult because many schools across the state are delivering instruction remotely. I thank Attorney General James, her staff, and our educators for their efforts on this issue which is especially important during these challenging times.

Finally, in honor of Black History Month, the New York State Museum and the New York State Writers Institute have partnered to bring the First Step to Freedom exhibit to the University at Albany campus. The historically remarkable exhibit includes a display of the only surviving version of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in President Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting. The First Step to Freedom also includes the only known audio recording of a speech written and delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in New York City in September 1962 for the Proclamation’s centennial. The exhibit is open to UAlbany students, faculty, and staff through March 15.

This historic document and recording, along with other powerful portions of this exhibit, present a unique learning opportunity for adults and children to reflect on our nation’s past, celebrate the progress we have made, and remind us that our work to achieve equity for all remains. These documents stand as important markers in the path to freedom and equality for African Americans and are among New York State’s greatest treasures.

If you would like to experience the exhibit, photos and a transcript of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation are available on the State Library’s website. The audio of Dr. King’s speech, as well as a transcript and information on how he came to speak at the celebration dinner, may be found on the State Museum’s website.

I appreciate your continued support, and I hope you encourage other parents to subscribe to our parent email list to receive updates.


Betty A. Rosa