images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

I would like to provide you with information about several recent noteworthy items, including President Trump's proposed spending plan; 21st Century Community Learning Center grants; and My Brother's Keeper grants for the Family and Community Engagement Program.

Last week, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and I expressed our deep concern about President Trump's  proposed drastic cut to the U.S. Department of Education's budget. The very programs he proposes to cut play a critical role in fostering equity and eliminating the education gap that exists across our nation. Further, eliminating federal funding for library, art, humanities, and public broadcasting programs would decimate essential community centers and non-profit organizations. The proposed spending plan demonstrates an irresponsible disregard for vital education programs and would be devastating to New York's children.

I will work with our federal representatives to fight for the funding we need to support our students. Just this week, I traveled to Washington, DC and met with staff of several of our senators and representatives - Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik - to express concern about the proposed federal budget. I encourage all of our educational partners to be strong advocates for our kids and to tell Washington that these budget cuts are unacceptable.

Earlier this week, NYSED awarded more than $78 million in grants to school districts, not-for-profits, institutes of higher education, and other community-focused organizations to expand or establish 21st Century Community Learning Centers
(21st CCLC). The funds will support 122 programs and will be used by the districts and organizations to provide supplemental services and enrichments in schools that serve students in most need of additional supports.

21st Century Community Learning Centers provide opportunities for academic enrichment, particularly for students attending low-performing schools; offer supplemental services such as youth development programs, after school activities, health and wellness education, and counseling; and help families of students served by the centers become more involved in their children's education.

It is imperative that the federal government continues to fund 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the coming years. We know that many of our students need support beyond the hours of the regular school day. We also know that many of them-and their families-need convenient and reliable access to programs and services that go beyond academics. This funding will allow more schools to reach even more of our young people, especially those who need it the most.

Last week, NYSED announced that it awarded more than $6 million in grants to 42 school districts for the My Brother's Keeper Family and Community Engagement Program
. These grants will support programs to increase the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color while fostering the development of effective relationships with families to promote the success of all students. We know the achievement gap exists as a direct result of the opportunities that are available to some students but not others, and an important part of closing that gap is to foster real change and provide opportunities for all students.

Finally, as you probably know, the 2017 Grades 3-8 Tests in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics will begin next week. The ELA tests will be given March 27-April 3, and the math tests will be given May 1-8. I want to be sure that parents are aware of the changes that we have made to the tests: the tests now have fewer questions; are untimed; were developed with greater teacher involvement; and have no official evaluation consequences for educators. These changes were first introduced for the 2016 tests and will be carried over to the 2017 tests. The following information for parents is available on the NYSED website:
In addition, we have translated the assessment resources for parents into 10 languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified), French, Haitian Creole, Karen, Nepali, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.

I appreciate your continued support, and I hope you encourage other parents to sign up for our parent email list to receive updates. I look forward to staying in touch.


MaryEllen Elia