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Parents and Families

Welcome Back!

September 2013

Dear Parents and Families,

We are excited to welcome your child back to school after a particularly busy summer full of preparations. During my visits to schools throughout the summer and over the last few days, I have seen teachers and school leaders working tirelessly to ensure that your child’s school year is full of engaging and challenging lessons.

As you may know, over the past two years schools have engaged in extensive work to shift our instruction to the Common Core standards. The Common Core standards establish the skills and knowledge all students, from pre-K to 12th-grade, need in order to be on track to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Last spring, students took the brand-new and more challenging State Common Core tests, which for the first time measured where students are on the path for success after high school, not just whether they are on track to graduate. As a result, proficiency rates (Levels 3 and 4) were lower than in the past. It is important to remember that these test scores set a new benchmark for measuring student progress, and help teachers know the areas where your child needs support. The Common Core standards and the new State tests ask more of our students than ever before, and I am confident that with support, our students will rise to meet these expectations.

I am also excited about another step forward for our schools: new principal and teacher evaluation and development systems. For the first time in nearly eight decades, teachers will have a more in-depth and consistent way of receiving feedback and support. This new system, known as Advance, will help us ensure that each one of our schools has a high-quality teacher in every classroom.

Even with the progress we have made over the last decade, we have more work to do to meet our goal of preparing all students to succeed in college and careers. This school year, schools will continue to adjust their instruction toward the Common Core standards by introducing new curriculum, and teachers will continue to receive support. To make sure all New York City educators are prepared for Advance, the Department of Education is providing many training opportunities for teachers and administrators. Your child may notice some changes at school, such as school administrators visiting classrooms more often, more opportunities to show what they are learning, and an opportunity to voice their opinions about their classroom experience.

A student’s learning doesn’t stop in the classroom—almost every interaction with a child can be a learning opportunity. Families can use the world around them to constantly push their child’s thinking and help further their child’s skills: from asking them to use evidence to support an opinion about a favorite activity, to challenging them to use the listed wait times for trains to solve a math problem on the subway platform.

Parents and families play a key role in their child’s success. As always, I encourage you to be in touch regularly with your child’s teachers and principal about your child’s progress. Our continued partnership between the home and school is integral not just to student success—but to the vitality of our City.

I wish you and your family the very best this school year.


Dennis M. Walcott

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