This week, we announced a new partnership with the New York State Optometric Association, VSP Global and the New York State Society of Opticians to provide access to no-cost eye exams and glasses to students at seven schools across New York as part of School Vision Health Month. In June 2017, the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate passed resolutions proclaiming October 2017 as School Vision Health Month to raise awareness about providing accessible visual care and resources to those who are in need.
Given the important role clear vision plays in children's physical, cognitive and social development, it is imperative that children who need glasses have access to the vision care they need regardless of their families' ability to pay. I want to thank the State Assembly and Senate for highlighting this critical issue and VSP and the licensed eye care professionals who donated resources and time to make these free exams possible.
There was another announcement this week that was related to the health and wellbeing of our students. On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced that $1 million is available to eligible school districts to grow Farm-to-School Programs, which help school districts buy food for student meals from New York farms. Since good nutrition is necessary for academic success, this effort to provide fresh and local food to our schoolchildren is a win for all involved: students get healthier meals, farmers receive new business, and you are assured that your child is eating well at school.
Our staff at the State Education Department created a New York Farm-to-School Map to help schools locate local farms. We have also developed a
Farm-to-School section on our Child Nutrition website
for schools to access resources, best practices and grant information.
At last check, 87 percent of school districts, charter schools, and BOCES that completed our Farm-to-School Survey (about 540 respondents) indicated that they are already purchasing food from New York State farms. That's a great start, and the percentage is sure to climb higher with additional funding.
Also this week, I had the pleasure of attending a dedication celebration for a $25 million renovation and expansion at Middletown High School in Orange County. Middletown is a diverse district where nearly 80-percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunch that is achieving great things. Last year, the 4-year graduation rate approached 80-percent and nearly 40-percent of students graduated with college credits. As Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood said during my visit, the district is poor on paper but rich on opportunity.
The recently completed renovation makes Middletown High School very high tech - there are classroom walls made of active glass HD LCD panels that are similar to phone screens; big screens at the front of classrooms where teachers and students can view multiple computer screens at once; and a "Capstone Room" where faculty and students can videoconference with others from all over the country and the world!
These improvements don't just look nice - they will strengthen student learning as well. The new classrooms will help teachers move from traditional to collaborative, project-based instruction. Making this shift is critical not only to preparing students with the knowledge they need to be successful at the next level but also to giving them the opportunity to acquire and refine the practical skills that they'll need in college and in the workplace.
I look forward to visiting more schools very soon to see what other incredible things are happening in your classrooms. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to meet you too!
Thanks for your continued support of education in New York.