images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) hosted the 2018 New York State My Brother's Keeper Symposium on April 27-28 in Albany. More than 600 students, parents, educational leaders, and citizens came together to discuss successful strategies, share resources, and hear directly from students about the impact that MBK has had on their lives. The event also included national experts in the field of human and child development who focused on how to ensure boys and young men of color are given opportunities to succeed in school and life.

Members of the Board of Regents with NYS Assembly Speaker Heastie and the inaugural class of My Brother's Keeper Fellows
At the Symposium, NYSED named the inaugural class of the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Fellows Program. The MBK Fellows will be provided with authentic leadership opportunities in government, education, and business. The 36 Fellows represent 18 New York State school districts and attended the Second Annual NYS MBK Statewide Symposium held in Albany with their mentors.

The Fellow program complements all of our work over the past two years to establish the MBK program as a valuable resource for boys and young men of color. More than 20 communities are now part of the MBK network, improving the future for thousands of children. The Fellows will be a part of a statewide MBK Fellows Workgroup, which will give them the chance to offer input on the creation and implementation of a statewide MBK Mentoring Network.

This video, featuring My Brother's Keeper students (including several MBK Fellows), school administrators, Chancellor Rosa, Vice Chancellor Brown, Regent Young, and Commissioner Elia, highlights the positive impact of the New York State MBK initiative.

This week, the public comment period began for proposed regulations to prepare for implementation of New York's approved Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and will continue through July 9. These amendments are an important first step in implementing New York's ESSA plan, but it's important to remember that this is a living, breathing document and that we will continue to work with teachers, district leaders and parents to gather feedback and make improvements to it as needed. We are committed to ensuring that all students succeed and thrive in school by advancing equity, access and opportunity across New York State. The final approved ESSA plan is posted on the NYSED's ESSA web page.

young students sitting on the floor and raising their hands
At the Board of Regents meeting this week, NYSED presented new guidance and resources that will soon be available for school districts to support implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) benchmarks, policies and programs. As a strategy to promote equity in education for all children, social emotional learning is a key component in the Board of Regents and NYSED's work through participating in the New York State Safe Schools Task Force, implementing New York's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, developing a School Climate Index, and providing resources to support mental health education in schools. 

Studies show high-quality, evidence-based social emotional learning programs can help children reduce emotional distress, decrease disruptive behavior, increase commitment to school, and bolster academic achievement. Our ESSA plan recognizes the value of supporting students both on a social emotional level and an academic level. We hope schools will use these resources to expand student learning to interpersonal skills and well-being.

high school students in front of school lockers
Also this week, the Board of Regents acted to amend the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) regulations to include examples of types of incidents of harassment, bullying or discrimination to be reported and investigated as possible violations of DASA. The amendment is intended to provide further clarification to school administrators, employees and students on the types of incidents of harassment, bullying and discriminations to be reported to administrators and investigated by the school Dignity Act Coordinator. Public comments will be accepted May 23 through July 23.

Schools should be safe havens for all students, where they have opportunities to thrive in an environment free of bullying, harassment and discrimination. With this regulation change, we are continuing to provide support to district administrators and school staff as they work to create a positive school culture and climate in which students feel safe, supported and fully included.

The Board of Regents' final action at this week's meeting was presenting Southern Cayuga Central School District teacher William Zimpfer with the Louis E. Yavner Teacher Award for his outstanding contributions to educating others about the Holocaust. The Board of Regents established the Yavner Teacher Award and the late Regent Emeritus Louis E. Yavner of New York City, who served on the Board from 1975-1981, funded the award, which recognizes teachers who have made outstanding contributions to teaching about the Holocaust and other human rights violations.

As a former social studies teacher, I know how challenging it can be to teach children about the Holocaust. But we have a sacred duty to teach every generation about that awful period of history, so that we never repeat the mistakes of the past. Mr. Zimpfer has embraced that responsibility, and he continues to teach and inspire his students to learn about the Holocaust.

student data privacy webinar
View this informational webinar about student data privacy and the public forums
Finally, I want to remind you that NYSED is holding a series of public forums to help us engage with the public and stakeholders. The forums are underway and will continue in locations across the state through June 18. The complete schedule of public forums is available here.

In addition to participating in the public forums, individuals may also submit written comments electronically through June 18 to

Thank you for taking the time to read about what's happening at NYSED. I appreciate all you do to support strong family and community involvement in our schools.


MaryEllen Elia