images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

Yesterday, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and I issued a statement to adamantly oppose arming teachers. While nothing is more important than the safety and security of our children, the way to ensure their safety is to focus on social emotional development and well-being and promoting a positive school climate. Putting guns in classrooms with students is misguided and dangerous. The U.S. Department of Education should not allow our federal education dollars to pay for weapons when that funding is intended for the teaching and learning of our children.

In order to help ensure that students receive the support they need, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) released new guidance and resources to implement Social Emotional Learning (SEL) benchmarks, policies, and programs for school districts. Research shows that students who receive social emotional instruction have higher achievement scores, improved attitudes and behaviors, and reduced emotional stress. The resources outline benchmarks and frameworks for educators to implement Social Emotional Learning practices in their schools and classrooms.

Using these new social emotional learning benchmarks and frameworks, schools can implement practices to help our students reduce emotional distress, increase commitment to school, bolster academic achievement, and decrease disruptive behavior. By supporting students both on a social emotional level and an academic level, we provide students with interpersonal skills and a sense of well-being that will help them succeed academically.

In addition to providing new guidance and learning resources for the classroom, NYSED recently awarded $15.9 million in grants to 185 school districts serving students displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria or the 2017 California wildfires. The grants, authorized under the Federal Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students program, will assist with the educational costs of more than 3,000 students displaced by natural disasters and enrolled in New York schools in the 2017-18 school year. A list of the 185 schools receiving a grant award is available on NYSED's website.

After 2017's horrific weather, many families relocated to New York State, and we provided guidance to schools so they quickly could enroll and support newly arriving students from these impacted areas. Even with no records, school districts across the state provided educational services, free meals, and individualized academic supports so students could return to stable learning environments as quickly as possible. Our schools welcomed so many students in need, and now these grants will help reimburse their costs and sustain services moving forward. We appreciate the effort of our schools to rise to the occasion and help our students.

NYSED also recently awarded more than $1.15 million in grants to five schools for the My Brother's Keeper Exemplary School Models and Practices program. Each of the five grant recipients will partner with a demographically similar Struggling or Persistently Struggling school in another district within its region to replicate exemplary practices that demonstrate cultural and linguistic responsiveness to emphasize the needs of boys and young men of color. 

Through My Brother's Keeper, we are better able to provide opportunities that support college and career readiness for all students. The importance of continuing support for this work across New York cannot be overstated.

Finally, I am pleased to share that five New York State mathematics and science teachers are state-level finalists for the 2017-18 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) at the elementary school level, grades K-6. In addition, the White House announced the 2016 PAEMST awardees from each state, including two awardees from New York, on June 25, 2018. The PAEMST is one of the highest honors in the nation for teachers of mathematics and science.

Teaching is a difficult job, especially when teaching complex subjects like mathematics and science. The teachers being recognized as PAEMST awardees and finalists have become masters of their craft. Our students are lucky to have these teachers and the countless others who do an outstanding job every day in our classrooms.

Back to school is right around the corner. Until then, get plenty of rest and enjoy the remaining days of summer!


MaryEllen Elia