Newsletter - NYC Public Schools Plus You

NYC Public Schools Plus You newsletter logo
Chancellor Banks with students

The Big Apple Awards—Honoring Our Heroic Teachers

Dear New Yorkers,

I’m incredibly grateful to our dedicated, hard-working teachers, who not only educate our students but nurture and guide them along the path to their bright futures. As a proud New Yorker myself, I know the life-changing power of our great teachers. 

I will never forget the fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 161 in Brooklyn who transformed my life. Mrs. Mildred Scott was an inspiration. She taught me Black history. She saw me, and all of my classmates, and she helped me learn who I was and propelled me forward as a young boy. She also taught me about responsibility to community, and I took all her lessons with me as I became a teacher at P.S. 167 in my old neighborhood on Eastern Parkway.

I believe that all great teachers share Mrs. Scott’s devotion—borne out of love of learning and out of a deep caring for our children. Great teachers see their job as a calling and are passionate about lifting their students up... not just academically but emotionally as well. Great teachers have high expectations for their students and give them the confidence to soar.

Now, you have an opportunity to help recognize and thank teachers for their service and great work by nominating them for the annual Big Apple Awards. These awards celebrate New York City teachers who inspire students to be their best selves and help get them ready to chase their dreams. 

Students, families, colleagues, and community members can all nominate any New York City Public Schools teacher by visiting schools.nyc.gov/BigAppleAwards. The nomination period is open through February 28.

One very joyful part of my job is making surprise visits to notify winners in their classrooms! To see the faces of these often-unsung heroes light up truly makes my day. Winners get to participate in the Big Apple Fellowship, where they can hone their leadership skills and serve on the Chancellor’s Teacher Advisory Council and contribute to key policy decisions across our schools.

I encourage you to think about the great teachers in your child’s life and nominate them for a Big Apple Award: The teacher who gave your child extra help with a classroom lesson. The teacher who recognized a special talent in your child. The teacher who made your child feel seen, cared for, and uplifted. 

A Big Apple nomination is the single best way to show these educators that you recognize and appreciate all that they do—day in and day out—for our students. 

On behalf of all of us at New York City Public Schools, I want to thank our teachers for your talent, your dedication, and your unwavering belief in our kids. Like Mrs. Mildred Scott did for me, you are making a real difference in the lives of our children.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks

Chancellor

Celebrating the Lunar New Year 

On January 24, Chancellor Banks celebrated the Lunar New Year at P.S. 130 Hernando De Soto School in Chinatown, where students proudly took the stage to share what they’ve learned about different cultures and communities. The event marked the culmination of the successful Hidden Voices: Asian American Pacific Islander pilot program, which helped New York City’s students learn about and honor the numerous people, often “hidden” from traditional historical records, who have shaped and continue to shape our history and identity. The Chancellor also announced a new AAPI curriculum guide, which will be available for all educators to begin building their own knowledge around AAPI history and content.

Bright Starts...Bold Futures

September 19, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

As I visited schools across all five boroughs to ring in the start of the new school year, I was uplifted by the brightness and energy of our children and our educators. Thank you for being a part of the New York City public schools and for helping make it a great start to the school year. 

It was wonderful to see our students reconnect with their friends and teachers…and to see how ready and eager they are to learn. And I hope you enjoy seeing some of the images from our campuses and classrooms. 

We are focused on reimagining the student experience so that it better serves our children. Literacy––the building block of all learning––will be a major focus this school year. We are transforming how we teach reading by implementing a high-quality, phonics-based literacy program in all elementary schools.

This year, we are also offering more of the learning opportunities our families have requested, enhancing the way we serve all children. This includes an increase in pathways to great jobs and economic security through career-connection programs, more Community Schools, Gifted & Talented offerings, bilingual education programs, and enhancements to improve long-term academic results for students with disabilities. 

We are off to a bright start…and looking forward to a great year––working alongside all of you––that will launch us to the bold future we see on the horizon for our schools and our children. 

Soaring high, 

 Chancellor David C. Banks 

Simplifying Student Admissions

September 30, 2022

Dear New Yorkers: 

I’m excited to share with you today some of the improvements we’ve made to our admissions process for middle and high schools. This has been a priority for me since I started as Chancellor, and I wanted to ensure we first listened to our community about where improvements to the application system were needed most. Our Office of Student Enrollment last spring hosted an Admissions Listening Tour, which included more than 30 meetings with parents, students, school leaders, staff, and community groups. 

We then focused on improvements based on that feedback. 

I hope you find these changes to be helpful and responsive. The overriding priorities are: 

  • To simplify the process for families to apply to the schools they like. 
  • To start the process early and ensure families have the time and information they need. 
  • To ensure students who have performed well in the classroom throughout their education are given priority at those academically accelerated high schools that have an admissions screen, so that they can build on their success as high school students. We want to reward academic excellence through this part of the admissions process

I’m grateful to the families, educators, and community members who shared feedback and helped shape this new, streamlined process. One of our Four Pillars for Building Trust in NYC Public Schools is “Engaging families to be our true partners,” and that pillar is the foundation of this plan. We will continue to engage and listen, and we will keep working to make it easier for families to get information about our schools. 

The truth is, there are hundreds of high-performing, high-demand schools across our city that don’t get talked about enough in the debate over selective admissions for high schools. We want to talk more about the full range of high schools that are serving our families and help tell the stories of the unsung schools doing great work in connecting with families and students. I look forward to doing that with you over the course of the school year. To start, here is a list of schools––both screened and unscreened–– that represent just a slice of the diverse, high-quality educational settings available to New York City’s students. Although not comprehensive, we hope this list represents that in every community there are excellent options for young people.

We also are focused on creating more high-quality, high-demand programs in every neighborhood. And today, we announced that we will be opening three new accelerated-learning, screened high schools. They will open over the course of the next two years, in three underserved parts of the city: the South Bronx, Brownsville/East New York in Brooklyn, and Southeast Queens. We will be sharing more details in the coming weeks about these new schools. 

Thank you for being a part of New York City Public Schools. Together, we can make our schools responsive to and reflective of your hopes and dreams for your children. This is a step in that direction, and we’re excited for the journey ahead. 

Soaring high, 

 Chancellor David C. Banks 

Reimagining School Safety

October 7, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

This week, Mayor Adams and I were excited to announce the launch of Project Pivot, a new school safety initiative that gives students more academic and social-emotional support to make sure they have a clear path to the future they see ahead for themselves.

Nothing is more important than keeping your children safe and supported in our classrooms and schools. We know it’s your number-one concern, and there’s nothing more important to me.

We’ve invested $9 million in Project Pivot, and we’re excited to roll it out in 138 schools, which were selected based on school-culture factors such as attendance, discipline rates, and neighborhood safety.

In partnership with respected national and local community-based organizations, Project Pivot will offer these school services:

  1. Safety and violence prevention,
  2. Student leadership and career readiness,
  3. Student counseling and mentoring, and
  4. Enrichment programs through sports, recreational activities, the arts, and more.

Our goal is to engage students at a deep and personal level. For example, Project Pivot staff will work directly with young folks, using engagement strategies that have been shown to spur positive, long-term change.

These include offering social-emotional support, teaching violence-interruption techniques, and creating safe corridors to assist in keeping students safe to and from school. Our partners will also provide meaningful extended-learning opportunities to ensure students feel safe, supported, and empowered in their communities. These activities will be aligned with the five pillars of Project Pivot: purpose, integrity, voice, optimism, and tenacity.

This program will reach students at a pivotal point in their development, and I truly believe it will be a game-changer for them. I see this as a critical step in building strong connections between our kids and their school communities—and improving campus climate and culture, and classroom success.

I also believe that when we give young people the support, guidance, and nurturing they need, we put them on the pathway to a rewarding career. And we help get our students ready for what we all want them to do after graduation—chase their dreams.

Soaring high,
Chancellor David C. Banks

Welcome Back, Cardi B!

We were thrilled to welcome Cardi B back home to IS 232 in the Bronx recently, and we are so grateful for her generous contribution to her alma mater. Cardi B’s commitment of $100K for the arts will help the school’s kids soar to their highest heights. Thank you, Cardi!

High School Admissions: Happening Next

We encourage all 8th and first-time 9th grade students who live in New York City to participate in high school admissions this fall! Here's what to do, when:

  • October 11, 13, or 18. Join a virtual event to learn about high school admissions––find details on when and how to join at schools.nyc.gov/High.
  • October 6 – November 4. Interested students can register for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). Taking the SHSAT is how students can apply to the eight testing Specialized High Schools––learn more and find practice tests at schools.nyc.gov/SHS. Registered students will take the test in November or December.
  • October 12 – December 1. When the application period opens, you can build and submit your personalized high school application: this is how students apply to most of the city's 700+ high school program options. On your application, list 12 program choices in your order of preference. Some programs may have additional requirements, such as an audition, and some programs will make offers based on students' academic records. Interested students can also submit a LaGuardia High School application and audition for any of LaGuardia's six arts programs.

You can register and apply online with MySchools.nyc or through your current school counselor.

Creating Pathways to Bold Futures

A part of our Bright Starts…Bold Futures focus this year is creating meaningful Pathways to a great future for our students. Our Pathways work is marked by two signature programs: The Career Ready and Modern Youth Apprenticeship, and FutueReadyNYC. Both programs will ensure that — over the course of the next three years — students citywide will be able to engage in and benefit from career-readiness and college-readiness preparation before they leave high school.

Last month, Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David Banks announced the Career Ready and Modern Youth Apprenticeship, a historic expansion of career-connected learning opportunities for New York City public school students. CRYMA is made possible through public-private partnerships and in collaboration with the New York Jobs CEO Council and kicked off with an event supported by our partners at JP Morgan Chase. 

And just last week, Chancellor Banks announced FutureReadyNYC, which gives participating New York City public high school students access to career exploration in high-growth fields, including health care, technology, business, and education. Our incredible partners at Northwell Health have already stepped up and committed to be an anchor employer for this work, hosting 150 internships to 12th graders across four high schools, providing feedback on program curriculum to ensure it meets industry demand and will participate in in-person learning days to support student instruction.

Reimagining the School Experience 

October 14, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

As I travel throughout the city and meet with families, I often speak about how we are reimagining the school experience for our children. I believe that every child has unlimited potential, and I promise to deliver the kind of education that will help all our kids realize their dreams. 

I'm excited to share more about how we are reimagining New York City public school education. Our work focuses on excellence in five key areas: 

  • Literacy. The ability to read on grade level is the building block of all future learning. We’re shifting back to teaching the basics of phonics because it worked before, and we believe it will work again. We’re also identifying students who have barriers to reading, like dyslexia. Every student must be a proficient reader by the end of third grade; this is a key gateway to academic success. 
  • Safety. We know that when we have adults checking in on children, making sure they are coming to school every day and participating in activities that will build them up, those children feel safer and perform better in classrooms. Project Pivot, our new school safety initiative, puts caring adults from organizations that know their communities directly into schools to guide students to academic success and social-emotional well-being. This wonderful program offers services such as counseling, mentorships, mental health support, and violence prevention to help our children thrive. 
  • Student Pathways Initiative. We want every child in a New York City public school to walk off the commencement stage confident and ready to pick a pathway to the bold future they see ahead. The world of work has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, and we must change along with it. Through Student Pathways, we will offer career-connected learning that enables our students to graduate with real-world skills and experience in such fields as technology, health care, business, and education. We’ll also partner with our business and civic communities to offer paid internships and apprenticeships. Earlier this school year, we announced two career-connection programs, The Career Readiness and Modern Youth Apprenticeship and FutureReadyNYC.
  • Reimagining the student experience. We need to be better at the basics of core instruction—not only in reading but also in science and math. So, we will be piloting new programs to scale up financial and digital literacy next year. We will build on successful bilingual education by opening new programs across the City and working to ensure a pathway to proficient bilingualism for every student. We recognize the role of wellness in student success and will continue to create school environments in which all students are physically and emotionally safe. 
  • Reimagining the family experience. We want to ensure that every family gets clear information, expanded language access resources, and all the support they need. One way we are doing this is by reforming our enrollment and admissions process. After six months of engagement with families and community members, we recently announced changes to make the admissions process easier while expanding access to quality schools for all families. Most importantly, we will continue to listen to our families and engage them in their children's education. 

We believe that our young people have tremendous talents. What they can achieve truly is unlimited—if we help them discover what excites them and give them a sense of purpose. I am so excited to continue partnering with you to give all our students a chance to explore their interests and invest in themselves, their futures, and their communities.

Soaring high, 

David C. Banks

NYC Schools Chancellor 

NYC School Survey Results 

2022 NYC School Survey results are now available! You can view the results here. This survey gives families, students in grades 6–12, support staff, and teachers the opportunity to provide schools with feedback that help them reflect on the past year and understand what their communities need. We will use these survey results in combination with other data and knowledge from school communities to inform planning, improvement, reflection, and professional development for the 2022–23 school year. 

Welcoming Our Newest Students with Open Arms 

October 21, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

This week, I visited P.S. 16 in the Bronx, which has done an amazing job of bringing more than 30 new students in temporary housing into their school. New York is a proud city of immigrants, and we cherish our responsibility to welcome all students seeking a high-quality education.

Thanks to the City’s Project Open Arms, schools like P.S. 16 have been able to offer new students the supports and wraparound services they need to thrive inside and outside the classroom.

Here are just a few of the services we are providing through this initiative:

  • Enrollment. A family’s first interaction with our schools is when they enroll, so we have placed additional enrollment counselors at Family Welcome Centers and in selected temporary shelters to simplify the process. Since July 2, we have enrolled thousands of school-aged children living in temporary housing into our schools.
  • English Language Learners. We firmly believe that every student has the right to a high-quality public education in a supportive environment, regardless of immigration status. So, we are expanding access to academic programs for English Language Learners. These include Dual Language, Transitional Bilingual Education, and English as a New Language programs. We are also providing our teachers with more resources to better support their students who speak languages other than English.
  • Wraparound Supports. We now have more than 400 school- and shelter-based staff supporting the academic, social, and emotional needs of students in temporary housing. Every school has access to a social worker, school counselor, and in some cases has an on-site mental health clinic to provide mental health services for students and their families. As with all students living in temporary housing, new students will receive transportation to their schools. And we are connecting schools to food pantries to get certain pre-packaged, nonperishable foods left over from breakfast or lunch into the hands of the families who need them the most.

I am so grateful to our school leaders, faculty, and community leaders for stepping up over the last few weeks. I also want to thank our families for welcoming our new students and helping them feel comfortable as they adjust to their new home. Together, we are opening our arms to welcome and support our newest New Yorkers.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks

Chancellor

 
Honoring Our Big Apple Award Winners
Chancellor Banks hosted a reception on Tuesday evening, October 18, to honor the 20 outstanding teachers who received our prestigious Big Apple Awards last year. The Big Apple Awards recognize and celebrate New York City Public School teachers who inspire students, model great teaching, and enrich their school communities. By honoring these teachers, we recognize all those who go above and beyond to serve our students and families. The selection process for the 2023 Big Apple Awards will start later this school year with nominations from students, families, administrators, and community members.

Helping You Find the Right School

October 28, 2022

Dear New Yorkers:

We have a wide array of quality middle and high schools all across our city, and we want to make it as simple as possible for our fifth- and eighth-grade families to learn about them and find the best options for their children. Throughout the fall, we’re working together with our schools to roll out the red carpet and make it easier for families to see all we have to offer and to visit the schools that interest them. 

As part of the community-driven improvements we’ve made to the enrollment process, we created a centralized Events Calendar in MySchools. Right now, you can find information on more than 2,000 open houses, tours, fairs, and other events––all on the same website where you can learn about school options and apply. Schools are continuing to add events. When logged in to your MySchools account, you can add events to your personal calendar and RSVP to events directly. And if you Favorite a program or add it to your application, that school’s open house or tour dates will automatically appear in your MySchools account. 

I also want to share an update on the process for applying to middle schools, which opened this week. Each community school district announced decisions about whether any middle schools in their district will use classroom grades to screen applicants for admissions. As part of our strengthened family-partnership focus, we gave each Superintendent in each district the flexibility to make community-informed decisions about enrollment and admissions screenings for their schools. If your child is applying to middle school this year, you can learn about the school’s admissions process by going to its MySchools page. 

If you have a younger child, we’ll be sharing information and hosting virtual events about elementary and early childhood admissions by early December.

I’m proud of the range and quality of schools that we offer to our children of all ages, and we’re committed to making further improvements—driven by our engagement with you. That’s absolutely essential to living up to our responsibility to our city, strengthening our system, and bringing more families back to our schools. 

Soaring high,
David C. Banks

Chancellor

Admissions | Key Dates

For families applying to middle or high school

  • Check our calendar to see when schools are hosting open houses or other events.
  • October 27, October 28, or November 1. Attend one of our virtual information session on middle school admissions: learn when and how to join.
  • November 4 at 11:59pm is the deadline to register for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT): schools.nyc.gov/SHS.
  • November 9, 15, or 28. Join us for Part 2 of our High School Admissions Virtual Information Sessions. We’ll cover how to build a balanced high school application, how offers are made, how applicants will be evaluated for screened programs, and how to audition for arts programs. Learn more at schools.nyc.gov/High.
  • December 1 at 11:59pm is the deadline to

Need help accessing your MySchools account or applying? Talk to your child’s school counselor––they are your best guide through the admissions process––or visit a Family Welcome Center.

Making Diwali a School Holiday

On October 20, Chancellor Banks joined Mayor Adams to announce support for changing the school calendar to add Diwali as a school holiday. We are supporting legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar that helps make the required adjustments to our school-year calendar. Under this proposed change, Diwali would replace Anniversary Day as an observed school holiday, beginning next school year. 

As our city has grown and evolved, we are updating our commemorations. The diversity of our city is what strengthens us, and we are re-affirming our commitment to be reflective of the many communities we serve.

What I Learned from Our Student Journalists

November 4, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

As a student at Hillcrest High School in Queens many years ago, I wrote for the school magazine and learned the power of journalism to create real change. Since then, I have always believed in the importance of student journalism. For me, it represents the ability to think critically, to understand what’s going on in the world, and to know how to speak up for what’s right. It’s also a way for young people to both celebrate their communities and hold those in power accountable.

This week, I relived the joys of my student journalism days by sitting down with about 20 high school journalists at Tweed. These sharp, aspiring journalists from schools throughout the city peppered me with tough questions on a broad range of topics. For example: “What would you, as Chancellor, do to protect student journalists from censorship?” And: “How do you intend to increase access to journalism programs for students in predominantly black and brown schools?”

They asked for my views on: First Amendment rights for student journalists; how I would get schools the right extracurricular activities to keep students connected to their school and out of trouble; and even about the book I’m currently reading (“Savage Inequalities,” which I’m re-reading).

I was impressed and inspired by how knowledgeable these students were about the important issues affecting their education and how eager they are to explore career opportunities with professional journalists.

This is exactly what I have in mind when I speak about the bold futures I see ahead for all of our students. By nurturing student journalism programs, we give our students an education that extends beyond the classroom and makes a real connection to a great career.

We’re already exploring some of the great ideas that came out of this meeting, including bringing together students and adult reporters and creating partnerships with higher education to support school journalism programs. I want to give all of our young people as many opportunities as possible to do the things that really matter to them. This is what gives them purpose and brings their future into focus.

And as a lifelong educator, I couldn’t help but offer the students some advice. I encouraged them to keep expressing their voices; that’s the power of being a journalist. That’s the power of the pen, the power of the microphone. And I encouraged them to always do their research and to never stop asking tough questions. Elevate the truth; make your voice matter.

Our conversation was the highlight of my day and filled me with such hope and optimism for the future of our city. I am so grateful to our journalism teachers, advisors, and principals for supporting this work. And I look forward to meeting with more of our students to hear what’s on their minds and to remind them of the critical role they play in our society. The students I met with this week clearly understand the world around them and appreciate the power and promise that come with being a journalist. I could not be prouder of them.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks

Chancellor

Clean School Buses

This week, NYC Public Schools announced an EPA grant for more than $18 million dollars to put 51 new clean-energy school buses on New York City streets. These buses will run entirely on electricity; no more fossil fuels. We hope to have a fully electric school bus fleet by 2035. The transition to clean buses is another way we are protecting our environment, our children, and our city’s future.

An Investment in Keeping Our Schools Strong

November 11, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

The best part of being Chancellor is the time I get to spend in the 1,600 schools and communities that make up New York City Public Schools. I’ve been so energized by the work our educators and support staff are doing to keep our schools strong and to keep caring for and lifting up our children.

On behalf of myself, Mayor Adams, and all New Yorkers: Thank you. It’s critical that we continue to invest in you and in our children. The pandemic took a lot from our community and from our schools. We need to stay strong. We need to keep our schools fully staffed to educate, care for, and support our kids.

That’s why this week we announced that—thanks to the support of the Mayor and his budget team—we are investing approximately $200 million in stimulus funds to keep our schools strong.

This is the time of the year when school-based funding is normally adjusted if the school’s enrollment is lower than projected. In the past, this meant that schools could lose dollars, and potentially staff, if they saw a drop in enrollment compared to initial projections.

This year, we’re using a portion of our stimulus funding to keep schools fully staffed and to protect them from funding cuts. This investment will help schools that face continued enrollment challenges recover from the effects of the pandemic, and this is the third consecutive year we’ve been able to protect school budgets in this way. But it’s important to note here that with federal stimulus funding winding down, this will be the final year that we’ll be able to take this step.

As we look ahead, we need to win more families back to our schools. We can no longer be passive in the face of enrollment declines. Our school leaders are doing great work to reverse the enrollment declines we’ve seen in the past few years by increasing quality, offering new programming, and marketing the great work happening in their schools.

We are here to support that work, to build trust with our families, and to lift up our students and schools to new heights.

Soaring high,
David C. Banks
Chancellor

Field Trips Are Back! Giving Thanks for the Splendor of Our City as a Classroom

November 18, 2022

Dear New Yorkers:

I had the joy on Tuesday of joining second- and third-graders from PS 46 in Brooklyn for a field trip to our wondrous American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West. We spent the morning hanging out with the big blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and checking out the exhibits on the northern sea lion, the harbor seal, and the diving birds—which seemed to be the kids’ favorite because, as a couple of second-graders excitedly shared with me, “They’re birds that both fly in the air and swim in the water.”

I’m tremendously grateful that we have institutions like the Museum of Natural History to expand our classrooms and our children’s learning out into the splendor of our city. Those opportunities were among the many that were lost during much of the pandemic. But field trips are now back! And PS 46 Principal Adam Braverman and our school leaders and educators across the city are again opening their school’s doors…and igniting our children’s imagination and the spirit of learning through active exploration and discovery.

During my time as a teacher and principal, I loved to take full advantage of field trips to help make learning more fun and exciting—to get the kids out from behind their desks and into the dazzling diorama of culture, science, history, and arts that is New York City.

It’s wonderful now for our schools to be able to do that again, and we’re so lucky to have programs like Urban Advantage available to our schools and families to make it easy to enjoy many of the cultural institutions—like the American Museum of Natural History—that make this such a special place to live and raise a family.

Having the chance to go on a spectacular field trip with our students—to see their faces light up with a sense of wonder and curiosity—reminded me, again, of the inspirational power of our city…and of the brilliant promise of our children. And as we head into the week of Thanksgiving, I want to say how thankful I am to do this work…and to do it as part of a community with such a strong commitment to our children and their education. Thank you for being a part of the New York City Public Schools, and I send along to all of you my holiday blessings and well-wishes.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks,

Chancellor

Reimagining Special Education

December 2, 2022

Dear New Yorkers:

I am so grateful to our teachers and staff who work hard each day to serve our students with disabilities. Across our school communities, I see so much great work happening; and I see the need to make dramatic improvements to completely reimagine special education. Under the current structure, far too many families face difficulties obtaining basic services or have to look elsewhere for a school that works best for their child. While we have made improvements in special education over the years, we need to do better for the families of our 200,000 students with disabilities. 

That is why, yesterday, I stood alongside families, advocates, and educators to launch an outreach process that will help sharpen our vision for transforming and rebuilding trust in our programs serving students with disabilities—and to create a truly inclusive public school system.

At the center of this vision are three major improvements that will ensure that all our students with disabilities have access to the programs, supports, and services they need to soar:

Expanding Programs That Work 

We are expanding four of our successful programs for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs—the student-specific plans that each student with a disability has) to communities throughout the city.

  • Our ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Nest and Horizon programs work toward strengthening the academic and social skills of our students with autism. This year we have added 15 new programs, for a total of 49 ASD Horizon and 69 ASD Nest Programs across the city.
  • Our SEED (Sensory Exploration, Education, and Discovery) Pilot Program serves students who display intensive sensory needs that can impact their academics, social-emotional learning, and behavior. We will expand SEED to 70 additional sites across the city by the end of the school year and work toward opening between one and four SEED sites in every district. 
  • The Path program, which serves students with significant emotional disabilities, will expand to seven classrooms at six schools by the end of the year.

Building Pathways to Careers for Students with IEPs 

For the first time, high school students with a current IEP will be able to apply to participate in a paid internship on Saturdays in the field of related services. The internship will allow them to explore careers in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. This will be an invaluable experience for our students and create a pathway to careers after high school. 

Empowering Families to be Partners in Building a Better Special Education System

Our re-imagining of special education wouldn’t be complete without our brand-new Special Education Advisory Council, which will include parents, local leaders, university partners, advocates, students, and educators. We have empowered the Advisory Council to help identify gaps in instruction and programming and to make bold, meaningful recommendations for improving the way our schools serve students with disabilities.

I look forward to working alongside our entire community to reimagine special education and to offer dramatically better, brighter programs and services to our children and families.

Soaring high, 
David C. Banks 
Chancellor

Honoring International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Dec. 3 is the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities,” the UN’s website states.

We join in this recognition, as we work to reimagine and dramatically improve the programs we provide to students with disabilities.

This series of videos spotlights some of the ways we’re working to enhance the quality of education and scope of opportunities.

A Day in the Life of a New York City Speech Pathologist

New Lunch Program at Lillian Rashkis High School

Work Programs at Lillian Rashkis High School

Connecting Our Kids to Great Careers

December 9, 2022

Dear New Yorkers, 

The best part of my job is spending time in schools with our students, seeing first-hand what they’re learning, hearing what excites them, and even occasionally joining them in class activities. This week’s visit to Aviation High School in Queens reinforced again my belief in our kids and in the power of our schools to connect them to a great career...and a great future.

As you might guess, Aviation High School prepares students for careers in aviation maintenance and the aerospace industry. On Monday, I got to celebrate the school’s exciting new partnership with Joby Aviation, a leading air-taxi service for the New York City area. Through this partnership, our students will develop real-world, industry skills, and it will open up a vast frontier of opportunities in the field of electric flight to them.

Students participate in Joby’s pilot-training school, a rigorous academic program, and learn from a technical curriculum that’s aligned to Federal Aviation Administration standards. But that’s not all. Joby has provided the school with virtual reality (VR) flight simulators, and I got to try one!

Outfitted in a VR headset, I slid into the pilot’s seat, wrapped my right hand around the remote control, and off I flew (guided by a student, of course). It was extraordinary! This state-of-the-art technology allows students to experience what it’s like to fly the Joby S4, one of the company’s electric aircraft.

Our partnership with Joby is another way we are reimagining the school experience and putting our students on pathways to bold, uplifting futures. Our educators help students find their path—their dream job. And then we need to get them firmly on that path, with all the skills and confidence they need to go after that future they see ahead. Aviation High is doing a terrific job of putting its students on the runway, getting them ready to soar.

The best part: We can use high-quality Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs like this as a blueprint for other schools and pathway programs across the city. If this type of program feels like it might be a good fit for your child, please visit our website to learn more about career-connected learning and how we put students on pathways to rewarding careers.

None of this innovative programming would be possible without dedicated educators in the cockpit, so let me close with a shout-out to Principal Steven Jackson, Superintendent Hoa Tu, and Aviation’s remarkable teachers, many of whom are graduates of this very school. And best of luck to the remarkable students I met this week; it’s all systems go...with a limitless future on the horizon. 

Soaring high,
David C. Banks 

Chancellor 

Inspiring Student Leadership at M.S. 390 in the Bronx

Chancellor Banks enjoyed a wonderful visit this week to M.S. 390 in the Bronx, where he met with student leaders. The M.S. 390 school culture emphasizes student social-emotional development and leadership, and students are empowered to make positive decisions through the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People-Leader in Me process.

Grieving the Loss of a Beloved Teacher
Our community lost a beloved teacher in a tragic car accident that happened last week. Shelly Vilsaint was a special-education teacher at Frederick Douglass Academy III in the Bronx. She was also co-chair of the school’s Special Education Department and the coach of the girls' basketball team. Chancellor Banks visited Frederick Douglass Academy III this week to express his condolences and to support the school community. “My thoughts are with Ms. Vilsaint’s loved ones,” Chancellor Banks said, “and I grieve this devastating loss alongside the entire school community.

It Warms My Heart Every Morning… A Pre-K Vision that Sees All Children

December 16, 2022

Early education is key to the success of our children—in school and in life. Unfortunately, for far too long, our young children with disabilities and their families have been overlooked by a system that was not built with them in mind.

Our vision for Early Childhood Education truly sees all children. This week we unveiled a historic expansion that will open enough seats to serve every single preschool child with disabilities across the five boroughs.

On Tuesday, Mayor Adams, Deputy Chancellor Kara H. Ahmed, and I visited ABC Graham School Echo Park, an early childhood provider in Harlem, to announce(Open external link) a $130 million investment to enhance 3,000 early childhood special education seats across 65 providers.

Under the leadership of Dr. Ahmed, who heads our Early Childhood Education office, we are opening 400 new seats for preschool children with disabilities, and we will add 400 more new seats this spring. With this expansion, for the first time, every child with a disability who wants an early childhood seat will have one in a classroom equipped to meet their needs.

Another first: instead of a five-hour school day, children with disabilities in early childhood will now be in school for six hours and 20 minutes—the same as their general-education classmates, which provides more learning support for the child and extended childcare for working families.

We will also work hard to keep the absolute best teachers in the system by increasing pay for Early Childhood special-education teachers. They deserve to earn pay in line with other teachers working for community-based providers.

We are doing all of this because we know—families know—that any truly universal program must see and properly serve every child, every day.

I was so touched listening to Ms. Baez, whose 3-year-old son Ryan has autism, speak about how well he’s doing at ABC Graham School in Echo Park. With the right instruction, care, and support, Ryan is now thriving in school.

“It warms my heart every morning, walking Ryan to the front door to drop him off,” Ms. Baez said. “Ryan is so excited to see his school. He actually runs into the school and sometimes forgets to say goodbye. But that says it all.”

It sure does, Ms. Baez; it’s what all of our families want for their child, and it’s exactly what we’re striving to give every family in New York.

I promise to continue to listen to and learn from our providers, community members, and parents like Ms. Baez.

To everyone who devotes so much of their lives to our youngest learners and to our children with disabilities, thank you for your heart, your dedication, and your talent. Together, we are building a high-quality Early Childhood Education system that sees all children and that will serve as a strong foundation for generations of New Yorkers to come.

Soaring high,
David C. Banks
Chancellor

Wishing You a Wonderful Winter Recess!

December 23, 2022

Dear New Yorkers,

Thank you for choosing New York City Public Schools and for trusting us to do right by your children. As I complete my first full year as Chancellor, I want you to know how much I’ve been energized by your involvement and input and by the strong connections I see our schools building between our educators, students, and their families. 

Every day I’ve been in our schools this year has reinforced the brilliant promise of our children. I see the light in their eyes, the warmth of their smiles, and the strength of their spirit; it never fails to uplift and inspire me. I will take their promise and their energy with me into the new year, as we keep a sharp focus on our mission: to ensure that each student graduates on a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security, equipped to be a positive force for change.

As Winter Recess approaches, I hope we all take some time to reconnect with the people we love, to appreciate all that is good in our lives and, of course, to reflect, relax, and celebrate.

I wish you a joyful holiday season, a healthy, prosperous new year, and a wonderful winter break. I very much look forward to seeing you and your children in the new year. 

Soaring high,
David C. Banks
Chancellor

Reimagining the Student Dining Experience

January 6, 2023

Dear New Yorkers,

I’m so excited to welcome your children back from Winter Recess, and I hope that they’re just as excited to be back in school with their classmates and teachers.

We know that when you entrust your children to us, you expect them to not only receive an outstanding education but also the wraparound supports and services that can help them thrive, including free breakfast and lunch every single day.

Our schools are not only places of learning but of care and comfort—and a tasty and nutritious meal is a critical part of that. When our students have a nourishing, healthy and culturally reflective meal each day, they perform better in the classroom and they are more likely to make healthy decisions in the future.

I know many of us have an image of what school food is—from decades ago when we were in school. Today in our school cafeterias, we serve fresh salads, local produce, and a variety of nutritious menu items that reflect our students’ culture.

To encourage our students to take advantage of these meals, we are expanding the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience—and reimagining the way our students dine. This expansion is kicking off with a $50 million investment to transform more than 80 cafeterias into warm and welcoming spaces for students to dine. Here’s what your children can expect:

  • Student choice: a variety of ways to eat breakfast, lunch, whole fruits, vegetables, and fresh-cut produce from salad bars.
  • Fast service: Students won’t have to wait in a long line for meals, leaving more time to relax and unwind with classmates.
  • Modern style: Redesigned cafeterias with an emphasis on creating a warm and welcoming environment.
  • New furniture: Comfortable tables and chairs will welcome students to their new space.

As part of this enhancement, we’ll be expanding access to halal options in schools across the city. So far, we’ve certified 78 of our kitchens for halal meal service. This allows our kids to experience meals in an equitable way: with no separate lines, no separate meals, and options for every student.

None of this would be possible without the tireless work of our food-service teams. These are the caring adults who interact with your children every day and ensure that they have the nutritious and delicious meals they need to power through their school day. I am so grateful for their dedication and hard work.

I hope the new dining spaces whet your children’s appetite and have them looking forward to the chance to get some good, tasty food and unwind with their friends.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks

Chancellor

Take a Leadership Role in Our Public Schools

January 13, 2023

Dear New Yorkers,

One of our core pillars is to engage families as our true partners. You are the experts on your children and their education, and your involvement can help them thrive inside and outside of school. That is why I am encouraging you to take a leadership role in our public schools by applying to run for a seat on one of the City’s 36 Community or Citywide Education Councils (CCEC).

The Councils are made up of elected and appointed parent volunteers just like you. If you win a seat, you will play a vital role in shaping important decisions in your school district. For example, you could approve zoning lines or review improvements to your child’s school building. These are the kind of changes that make a real difference in the lives of our children.

To bring even more diversity to our Education Councils, I’m excited to share that for the first time ever, families with a child in a District 75 school or program can vote for a District 75 representative to sit on each local Council. This is a big win for our families, and I encourage eligible parents to run for a designated District 75 seat.

Our Family and Community Engagement team is providing a host of resources to walk you through the election and voting process. These include information sessions via Zoom in different languages and more details on the structure and roles of the Education Councils, eligibility guidelines, key dates, and Frequently Asked Questions. You can access all of this and submit your application at schools.nyc.gov/elections2023 through February 13.

As parents, I believe we all share a loving mission: to help young people flourish and succeed. When you run for a seat on an Education Council, you commit to being a voice for change in your child’s education. When you lend your voice to the important issues affecting our schools by voting and sharing your opinions with your CCEC representatives, you show your communities that you are part of the solution.

Please consider running for a Council seat and help put all our students on a path to the bright futures they deserve.

Soaring high,
David C. Banks

Chancellor

Apply to Kindergarten!

The kindergarten application for NYC children born in 2018 is open now, and the deadline to apply is January 20, 2023. This year, you can apply to all kindergarten programs––including Gifted and Talented (G&T) options––on the same application. Families can apply online at MySchools.nyc. Learn more at schools.nyc.gov/Kindergarten.

Stay Connected: New York City Schools Account

We strongly urge all families to set up a New York City Schools Account (NYCSA) to stay connected with your school, keep track of your child’s grades, and receive other important news and information such as alerts regarding building closures. Also, you can participate in the Community and Citywide Education Council elections through NYCSA. If you do not yet have a NYCSA account and want to learn more, visit schools.nyc.gov/nycsa.

The Voice—and Light—of Our Future

January 20, 2023

Dear New Yorkers,

I couldn’t have been prouder as I watched 11 brilliant elementary, middle, and high-school students take the stage at the New-York Historical Society last week as part of SoapboxNYC—an annual student-voice showcase. Our students spoke passionately and eloquently on serious topics such as gun violence, women’s rights, equal pay, and the decline of the American education system. 

When Jose Ortega, a fourth-grader from P.S. 205 Alexander Graham Bell in Queens, spoke about the need for adaptive changes to playground equipment to make parks more accessible to students with disabilities, I vividly saw the profile of a future mayor of New York City—and only partly because he was dressed in a three-piece suit.

Thousands of students participated in SoapboxNYC this year, a partnership between our Civics for All program and Mikva Challenge—an organization that helps young people use their voices to become empowered citizens. Using the Project Soapbox curriculum, students from every grade identify and learn about an issue that matters to them. They then share how it affects the greater community, and they deliver a call to action and a plan to address the issue. Students from 144 schools delivered their original speeches at the SoapboxNYC culminating event last week.

Being a part of this year’s SoapboxNYC event may have been the best two hours I’ve spent so far as Chancellor. The program represents so much of what I think public education is missing. It brings school to life for our kids, shows them how their learning, their thinking, and their voice have the power to solve problems, bring a great sense of fulfillment, and make our world a better place. We need to do a better job of showing our kids the real-world connections to what they’re learning at school. Getting students fired up about learning and its relevance to their lives, while also giving them the chance to express themselves, shows them the power of a great education…and gives them a clearer view of their future.

Every single speaker blew me away, and I also want to shout out all of the 174 students who participated; their teachers said each student delivered a powerful and convincing speech. 

It means so much to me as Chancellor to spend as much time as possible with our students--seeing their brilliance firsthand, feeling their energy, and listening to their ideas and convictions. 

They may not know it yet, but our city needs them. Our future needs them. They are the leaders of tomorrow…and of today.

As always, my gratitude to every single teacher, coach, and family member who supported our young firebrands, as they blaze a brighter future for us all.

Soaring high,

David C. Banks
Chancellor