images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

Happy Holidays! In the spirit of the season, I'd like to express my appreciation for the work you do to support New York's schools and communities. I'd like to thank the Parent Teacher Associations across the state, including Kyle Belokopitsky and her team at New York State PTA, for all they do for students every day. PTAs provide immeasurable support for schools and children by donating time and resources to create a true school community. Thank you for your continued commitment to ensuring a high-quality education for your children and all our students in New York State. I hope you will be able to take some time to relax and enjoy this special season with family and friends.

As we wrap up the year, I would like to share several updates from the last couple of weeks:
  • Proposed One-Year Extension of Transition Period for Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR);
  • 2019 Budget and Legislative Priorities and State Aid Request;
  • Webinar to Support School LGBT Inclusion Efforts;
  • Vast Majority of Schools in Receivership Make Demonstrable Improvement; and
  • 2019 New York State Summer School of the Arts.

This week, under the direction of Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) proposed to extend the transition period for Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) through the 2019-20 school year. This additional year is necessary for NYSED to fully implement the Common Core Task Force's recommendations while working with educators and stakeholders to develop an evaluation system that better supports teaching and learning. Meaningful evaluations can provide teachers and district leaders with valuable insight and are a foundational element of ensuring that all students in New York have access to quality educators. A 60-day public comment period will begin December 26.


Also this week, the Board of Regents advanced its 2019 budget and legislative priorities and state aid request for the 2019-2020 school year. The Board called for a $2.1 billion increase in Foundation Aid for the 2019-2020 school year to support English Language Learners, career and technical education programs, and universal prekindergarten programs. In addition, the Board advanced a bold and comprehensive set of funding proposals to best meet the needs of every student in New York by achieving equity, implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, supporting early childhood learning and English language learners, and enhancing efficiency. 


As NYSED continues to work toward ensuring that every student in New York receives the best education possible, this agenda will allow us to work with schools across the state to provide students with a quality education in a productive learning environment. An investment in our education infrastructure is an investment in our future, and I look forward to working with the Legislature and the Executive as we build on the promise a of brighter future for New York's students.


In our continuing effort to best meet the needs of all students, NYSED announced a webinar last week entitled "Creating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Schools." Created in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute, the webinar is available for parents, students, schools, school districts, BOCES, and the entire school community to support the goal of providing all students with a safe and inclusive learning environment.


When our students feel safe and included, they are better positioned to succeed in school and ultimately in life. New York will continue to take steps to make sure that all students have the opportunity to attend school in an environment free of discrimination and harassment. This webinar is a significant resource in reaching that goal.


NYSED also recently announced that the vast majority of schools in receivership, 49 out of 52 schools, made demonstrable improvement in the 2017-18 school year. These schools showed progress on performance indicators jointly selected by NYSED and the districts in which the schools are located. Three schools in the Syracuse City School District - Danforth Middle School, Dr. King Elementary School and Westside Academy at Blodgett - did not make Demonstrable Improvement and will now be placed under an Independent Receiver.


I have visited many of the schools in receivership and know the administrators and educators are working diligently to improve instructional programs. However, we must acknowledge that in many of these schools, levels of performance remain low and much more intensive efforts must be undertaken to ensure that more students reach higher levels of achievement. School accountability is one strategy under ESSA to promote educational equity to ensure that every student succeeds. With our upcoming identification of schools for comprehensive support and improvement and targeted support and improvement, schools will be able to better identity strategies to drive improvement.


Finally, NYSED has announced that applications are currently being accepted for the 2019 New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA). NYSSSA provides approximately 400 of New York's most talented students the opportunity to study with professionals in the visual and performing arts. Students in grades 8-12 throughout New York State are encouraged to apply to one of seven schools: Theatre, Ballet, Modern Dance, Orchestral Studies, Choral Studies, Visual Arts, or Media Arts. Auditions begin in January and will be held across the state. A schedule of audition sites and application materials are available on the NYSSSA website.


We're proud to provide students the unique opportunity to study with professional artists and further their artistic skills through the Summer School of the Arts program. The longevity of this exceptional program is a testament to the talent and commitment of students across the state. 


Best wishes to you, your families, and your school communities for a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.

MaryEllen Elia