images of parents with their children
February 8, 2019
Dear Parents,

Every February, the nation celebrates Black History Month by recognizing the innumerable contributions that African Americans have made to our country. This week, the New York State Museum opened a poster exhibition, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, detailing the national story of the struggle for black equality after the end of slavery and through the Jim Crow era. Artifacts from the Museum's African American history collection will also be on display through March 3. In addition, the Museum's Office of State History is compiling a listing of Black History Month events taking place at cultural education organizations across the state. We will also highlight our My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative throughout the month on social media. I provide more details on the social media campaign later in this letter.

As I mentioned in my last letter, NYSED recently proposed regulatory changes to increase information security measures to safeguard the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of students and certain school personnel. The proposed amendments outline requirements for educational agencies and their third-party contractors to ensure the security and privacy of such protected information and were developed in consultation with stakeholders and the public. A 60-day public comment period is open through March 31. I encourage you to visit our Student Data Privacy website, which includes a Fact Sheet for Parents and instructions for submitting comments.

This week, NYSED awarded $1.6 million in Safe and Supportive Schools grants to 16 school districts. The funds will be used to support initiatives to improve school climate in economically disadvantaged schools identified as being in the greatest need of assistance in building healthy, supportive, and safe learning environments. The 2018-19 enacted State Budget included $2 million to establish the Supportive Schools Grant Program. The remaining funds will be used to establish a Safe and Supportive Schools Technical Assistance Center.

The Board of Regents and NYSED have made Social Emotional Learning a priority. We know a positive school climate has a positive impact on school safety, student social and emotional well-being, and mental health. When our children feel safe and accepted, they are better prepared to learn.

Last week, NYSED released graduation rates for the 2014 cohort, those students who first entered 9th grade in New York's public schools in 2014. The overall graduation rate increased slightly to 80.4 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from 80.2 percent for the 2013 cohort. The 2014 cohort graduation rate is 9.5 percentage points higher than it was a decade earlier, when the 2004 cohort graduation rate was 70.9 percent.

When August graduates are included, the 2014 cohort graduation rate improved to 82.6 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage points over last year. Despite these overall gains, significant gaps in achievement persist.

You can find much more information in our news release on high school graduation rates. Individual school district data may be found on our interactive data website.

Also last week, NYSED submitted comments detailing serious concerns with changes to Title IX that were proposed by the U.S. Department of Education. Congress enacted Title IX both to prohibit the use of federal resources to support discriminatory practices in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against such discriminatory practices. NYSED is concerned that the proposed rulemaking will have the opposite effect by discouraging the reporting of incidents of sexual harassment in elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education. NYSED is further concerned that the proposed rulemaking would result in bifurcated systems for reporting, investigating, and resolving employee and student disciplinary matters involving the same incident. Read more of my comments on the proposed changes to Title IX in my letter to the U.S. Department of Education.

Finally, last week, State Monitor Charles A. Szuberla, Jr. and former Monitor Dr. John W. Sipple released their 2017-18 report on East Ramapo Central School District's accomplishments and progress. The report also cited concerns and made recommendations to improve the financial stability, academic opportunities, and outcomes for all students in the East Ramapo Central School District. You can read the 2017-18 Report on the East Ramapo Central School District here.

Before closing, I'd like to encourage you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Not only can you find information on our social media pages related to the items above, but we participate actively in many social media awareness campaigns that could be of interest or helpful to you. This month, some our campaigns include:
  • Black History Month
    Today's students will write the next chapter of Black history, so we asked them what they envision the future looking like. This month, we will highlight New York State My Brother's Keeper schools and gather inspiring quotes from their students. Follow the hashtag #MyHistoryMyFuture throughout the month to find out what they had to say.
  • Take Your Family to School Week
    Next week (February 10-17) is the National PTA's Take Your Family to School Week, complete with daily themes to encourage family engagement. Find out if your child's school is planning an event and get involved!
  • Career and Technical Education Month
    Career and Technical Education Month, or CTE Month, celebrates the value of CTE. Throughout the month, NYSED will highlight the successes of the wonderful CTE programs across the state.
  • National School Counseling Week
    This National School Counseling Week, we have been recognizing the hard work of school counselors and the tremendous impact they can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.
  • Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month
    The Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention website from the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence provides helpful resources and information for parents, advocates, and schools to raise awareness and help prevent teen dating abuse.
  • National Children's Dental Health Month
    During this campaign, dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators promote the benefits of good oral health to children and their caregivers.
As always, thank you for reading and for your continued involvement in your children's education.
MaryEllen Elia