Last week, I had the pleasure of giving the keynote address at a graduation ceremony in New York City for some extraordinary students, ages 18 to 21, who earned the New York State High School Equivalency Diploma by passing the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC. The TASC is no easy exam: it is an eight-hour assessment that covers five subject areas (Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies) and is aligned to rigorous college and career standards. The gradation was one of the best that I've experienced in my more than 40 years in education. I am so grateful to have been a part of it.
Like most graduates, the students graduating that day were energized, excited, and proud of their achievement. But what made this group special was their perseverance. Among the graduates were student parents; individuals who live in or have lived in temporary housing; and young people who have experience with foster care or who have been involved with the court system. The students were in the New York City Department of Education's Pathways to Graduation program. For them, the traditional high school setting didn't work. Fortunately, Pathways to Graduation gave them a second, or in some cases a third or fourth, chance to earn a high school diploma and enter college or begin a fulfilling career.
This year, more than 1,400 students graduated from the Pathways to Graduation program. The graduates illustrate the rich diversity of our State - they came from 107 different countries and 37 states. Many were newly arrived immigrants or students with disabilities. What they accomplished wasn't easy but they didn't give up - and their teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors didn't give up on them.
This graduation story isn't front page news for most media outlets. However, for me, it is. These graduates show us what kids can do when they have the right supports, the right programming, and are given a second chance. These students - and all 2.6 million New York public school students - are at the heart of our work. We make policy decisions with their best interests in mind. It's not about politics or about doing what's popular. It's about doing what's right for kids so they graduate from our schools and programs ready and prepared to pursue their dreams.
Best wishes to all of the 2017 graduates, those who finished high school and those who completed college. Your hard work and dedication has paid off. Congratulations!
On another note, I am pleased that Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Flanagan have reached agreement on mayoral control. This agreement provides New York City's more than one million schoolchildren with certainty and stability for the upcoming school year, which is vital to fostering positive learning environments.
Before closing, I want to remind you of two important programs happening this summer - Summer Reading at New
York Libraries and the Summer Food Service Program. Summer Reading is going on now at your local library. Stop in today to sign up your child. We are aiming for 2.5 million participants this year. Find out more
The Summer Food Service Program is also now up and running at more than 3,000 sites across the State. Each day this summer, approximately 400,000 free meals will be served to children. The interactive
USDA online map
has been updated this year to provide an easy-to-use tool for families to find a meal site by address, city, or zip code. You can read more about free summer meals
Thanks for all you have done to make this school year a success. Our schools are stronger because of you. I hope you and your children will take some time this summer to relax, recharge, and enjoy the warm weather.