images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

I would like to provide you with information about several recent noteworthy items, including:
  • A new educational resource to help combat substance abuse;
  • Educational resources related to organ and tissue donation;
  • New Languages Other Than English (LOTE) 4+1 pathway assessment option for graduation;
  • Three newly recognized 2018 Essential Elements: Schools to Watch (EE:STW);
  • The New York State Library's bicentennial celebration; and
  • The New York State My Brother's Keeper Initiative.

Heroin and opioid use continues to grow at an alarming rate. Recent studies have shown that the percentages of high school students in New York State who have reported using heroin or who have injected an illegal drug have more than doubled from 2005 to 2015.


Education and healthcare leaders can increase awareness by talking about underage drinking, substance use disorders, addiction, warning signs, and how to access help.


NYSED partnered with the New York State Health Department and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to provide the New York State Addiction and Substance Use Disorder Educational Resource


This month, NYSED will notify schools statewide of the availability of flash drives loaded with materials in English and Spanish for coaches, teachers, school nurses, and other educators to use in personal conversations with students and in community forums. By raising awareness in our schools about prevention programs and the services and support available to those in need, we can help save lives.


In addition to providing educational resources related to substance use and abuse, NYSED has partnered with New York State Donate Life and other stakeholders to make classroom resources available to school districts, including model curriculum, useful lesson plans, and current instructional resources on the importance and value of organ and tissue donation. April is National Donate Life Month, and today is Blue and Green Day to support organ, eye, and tissue donation. 


NYSED has also been working to provide students with access to an increasing number of high school graduation opportunities. Last month, the Department approved five assessments (two in Spanish and one each in Chinese, French, and Italian) that may serve as the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) 4+1 pathway assessment option for graduation. Under the 4+1 pathway assessment option, students must take and pass four required Regents Exams or Department-approved alternative assessments (one in each of English, math, science, and social studies) and a comparably rigorous assessment for the fifth required exam to graduate. The Madison-Oneida BOCES and the New York City Department of Education submitted these assessments, which are approved for 2018.


These additional pathway assessments are an excellent way to promote the kinds of knowledge and skills that students need for success in the global economy. We hope and expect that this will encourage school districts to invest in high-quality world languages programs. 


Also last month, in collaboration with its New York State Essential Elements Schools to Watch partners, NYSED recognized three new schools as 2018 Essential Elements: Schools to Watch (EE:STW). The designation is awarded to exceptional middle level schools that meet rigorous criteria and are on a path of continuous improvement. Each EE:STW school is a model of academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, and social equity.


New York is proud to designate three new exemplary schools serving the middle grades:

  1. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Middle School (Verona, NY)
  2. Fieldstone Middle School (Thiells, NY)
  3. Starpoint Middle School (Lockport, NY)
In other good news, the New York State Library is celebrating its bicentennial this year. Created in 1818 at the urging of Governor DeWitt Clinton, the Library is the third oldest state library in the nation. The theme of the year-long celebration is 200 Years of Knowledge, Heritage and History.

To celebrate this milestone, the Library is hosting several events throughout the year, including a Speakers Forum with talks by renowned library experts, several open houses to highlight aspects of the Library's 200-year history, and special exhibitions to showcase some of the Library's collections. The events will take place at the New York State Museum and are open to the public, although reservations are recommended for the Speakers Forum talks. If you're able, I encourage you to attend one or more of the events being offered as part of the bicentennial celebration.

Finally, I would like to make you aware of NYSED's monthly My Brother's Keeper (MBK) newsletter, "Changing the Narrative." In each issue, we share news related to MBK, provide information about new grant opportunities, and highlight successful programs and strategies that have come about as a result of the funding from New York State's MBK initiative. In the latest edition of " Changing the Narrative," Chancellor Rosa and Commissioner Elia introduce Dr. Anael Alston, our new Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Access, Equity, and Community Engagement. We also provide details about the 2018 NYS MBK Symposium that will take place on April 27-28. Subscribe today!


MaryEllen Elia