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Dear Parents,

Happy New Year! At the State Education Department, we are kicking off 2018 with announcements related to integrated classrooms and the New York State Summer School of the Arts. We are also participating in several awareness campaigns on social media this month, in addition to holding a public comment period on a possible change to high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities.

This week, the State Education Department (NYSED) announced $1.4 million in grants are available to support school district efforts to pursue integrated schools and classrooms. The New York State Integration Program - Professional Learning Community (NYSIP-PLC) Grants are intended to create school communities where all students have access to an equitable and high-quality education.

Too many schools in New York are home to troubling inequalities. For students to reach their full potential, they must have fair and equitable access to educational resources. This grant program will provide school and district leaders with training on effective strategies to support integration and culturally responsive practices. By providing training and working with educators at a local level, NYSED will support districts seeking to better provide equitable educational opportunities for all students.

The New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) was honored recently for its outstanding work within the School of Theatre by the New York State Theater Education Association (NYSTEA) at the annual NYSTEA Conference in Callicoon, NY. The award is granted in recognition for NYSSSA's commitment to furthering educational theatre and supporting the Student Conference. This honor is testament to the valuable, intensive experience that the School of Theatre provides for New York's students. NYSSAA staff truly provide the experience of a lifetime for these high schoolers by giving them the opportunity to spend weeks with professional actors, directors, and playwrights.

NYSSSA offers seven component programs: Theatre, Ballet, Modern Dance, Orchestral Studies, Choral Studies, Visual Arts, and Media Arts. Auditions begin this month across the state, and I strongly encourage students in grades 8-12 to apply. A schedule of audition sites and application materials are available on the NYSSSA website .

In addition to these announcements, NYSED is participating in several awareness campaigns on Facebook , Twitter , and LinkedIn for the month of January. These campaigns include:
  • National Mentoring Month
    National Mentoring Month celebrates the positive difference that mentoring can make in the lives of American youth. Throughout the month, NYSED will highlight the successful mentoring programs across the state and share videos, statistics, and events.

  • National Braille Literacy Month
    During this month-long campaign celebrating the birth of Louis Braille, we will promote Braille literacy by sharing resources and information, including a spotlight on the Braille Challenge competition for blind students.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    In order to honor Dr. King on MLK Day, we will encourage others to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and find opportunities to volunteer in the community. We will also share the New York State Museum's online exhibition of the only known audio recording of Dr. King's 1962 speech at the Civil War Centennial program in NYC. In addition, we will provide information about the New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Observance, which will take place at the Empire State Plaza on January 15. Finally, throughout the rest of the month, we will share examples of the great things going on with the My Brother's Keeper communities and schools across the state. Education is a civil right, and through our My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative, New York has taken a critical step to achieve educational equity and fairness. Our MBK initiative provides grant opportunities to help school districts, colleges and universities, and community groups join forces to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
Finally, the State Education Department is currently inviting public comment on amendments to the "superintendent determination" option to expand the criteria under which students with disabilities may be eligible to graduate high school with a local diploma. If you wish, please take some time to participate in this public comment period , which ends February 26.

I hope these updates are helpful. If you haven't already, please be sure to sign up for our parent email list to have these updates delivered directly to your inbox, and we'll stay in touch.


MaryEllen Elia