Introducing NYC Teenspace – Free Mental Health Support for Students Ages 13-17
Dear New Yorkers,
These days, walking through a school hallway or sitting in a classroom, the Covid-19 pandemic can feel like the distant past. Desks are no longer socially distanced. Masks are far less common. Yet the pandemic’s impact looms large in less visible—but still devastating—ways, especially when it comes to mental health.
For many students, feelings of grief, isolation, and anxiety are still fresh. And these social and emotional impacts can be especially pronounced for our older students, who also face the daily challenges of being a teen, from peer pressure to social media.
So I want to spread the word far and wide about NYC Teenspace, a groundbreaking new initiative offered through the city’s Health Department and powered by Talkspace. Through NYC Teenspace, any 13- to 17-year-old living in New York City can receive free, online mental health support, provided by licensed therapists in over 30 languages (and with translation available in many more). Once students are paired with a therapist, they can connect with them via unlimited text messaging and monthly video calls, along with accessing other mental health resources.*
Our city’s support for students’ social and emotional well-being doesn’t end here. Our schools offer a robust array of care options, including for students outside the NYC Teenspace age range. Specifically, every school has access to a social worker, counselor, school-based mental health clinic, or on-site mental health support from a community-based organization. (Families, to learn what’s available for your child, use our search tool to select your school, and then click the drop-down for Mental Health and Wellness.) And across all our schools, teachers have been offered mindfulness training—check out the video to see mindfulness in action at P.S./M.S. 108 in East Harlem!
While we now have a vaccine for Covid itself, addressing loss and stress in the wake of the pandemic is no simple fix. Healing takes time—and support. That’s why I’m grateful for the Health Department’s NYC Teenspace. Let’s work together to get this resource into the hands of as many kids as possible.
David C. Banks
*Families, please note: NYC Teenspace is not a crisis hotline. If a student is in crisis or danger, call 988 (Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) or 911 for immediate emergency support.
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.
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.
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:
- Safety and violence prevention,
- Student leadership and career readiness,
- Student counseling and mentoring, and
- 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.
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.
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
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.
David C. Banks
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
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.
David C. Banks
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
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.
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
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.
David C. Banks
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.
David C. Banks,
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.
David C. Banks
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.
David C. Banks
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
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.
David C. Banks
Wishing You a Wonderful Winter Recess!
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.
David C. Banks
Reimagining the Student Dining Experience
January 6, 2023
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:
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.
David C. Banks
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.
David C. Banks
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.
David C. Banks
The Big Apple Awards—Honoring Our Heroic Teachers
January 30, 2023
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.
David C. Banks
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.
Targeting Our Funding to the Needs of Our Students
February 6, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
I am truly energized by the progress we can make for our students when we partner with our families and communities. A great example is our recent proposal to improve our primary local funding stream for our schools, known as our Fair Student Funding (FSF) formula.
FSF funds on average, approximately two-thirds of our schools’ budgets, and it’s based on the number of students enrolled at each school and the students’ specific needs. It intentionally takes students’ needs into account, “weighting” students’ needs to determine how much each school requires to effectively serve its students.
Last year, I convened the Fair Student Funding Working Group to study the formula and make recommendations for ways to improve it. The group released its report in November of 2022, and last week Mayor Adams and I announced proposed improvements, with a focus on equity and targeting investments to our students’ needs.
These are the most important changes we are proposing:
- An additional weight for students in temporary housing to schools serving these students, including recent asylum-seeking students. This is a groundbreaking shift in how schools allocate resources to public school students. This change is expected to drive approximately $45 million in funding impacting students in temporary housing across all five boroughs.
- An additional weight for schools that serve higher concentrations of students with needs, including students in poverty, students with disabilities, and English language learners. This is expected to drive over $45 million in funding to schools in all five boroughs.
- A commitment to ensuring the budget-appeals process is responsive to special-education programming needs. We will refine the process that schools follow to request additional funding in order to prioritize staffing investments that allow students with disabilities to learn in a general education setting.
- Improving transparency in our budget and budget process. We received feedback that not just FSF, but our budget and our budget process are inaccessible and hard to understand. I’ve asked my team to work on increasing information and transparency in a variety of ways.
These changes are another way we are working to make community and families our true partners—and prioritizing the needs of our students. And I want to be clear that these proposed changes will not come from reducing other weights in the FSF formula.
I am so grateful to the Fair Student Funding Working Group for their thoughtfulness and dedication in taking on this important effort, and I want to shout out the co-chairs Dia Bryant and Jasmine Gripper.
As we move these recommendations forward, we’re another step closer to creating a school system that puts all students on the path to bright futures—by making sure we’re using our funding in ways that have the biggest impact where our needs are the highest.
David C. Banks
Ensuring Every Student Becomes a Skilled Reader
February 14, 2023
Dear New Yorkers:
Learning to read is one of the most critical milestones in a child’s education, and yet too many students have fallen through the cracks and have not received the support necessary to develop this foundational skill. We’re working hard to remove this barrier…and any barrier to learning to read well.
This school year, we launched a literacy pilot in classrooms across the five boroughs. This first-of-its-kind, comprehensive approach to addressing literacy challenges is designed to identify students who are at risk and provide them with the targeted interventions they need to succeed.
And on February 9, Assembly Member Robert Carroll and I announced a $100,000 investment in specialized programming for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities.
With these funds, PS 107 and PS 295 in Brooklyn’s Community School District 15 will join our innovative Structured Literacy Schools pilot. Educators at these schools will receive in-depth training on evidence-based reading instruction, as well as access to additional expert staff who will provide targeted, small-group instruction in standalone classes for students who are at risk for or diagnosed with dyslexia.
By building on our early successes and scaling our specialized-instruction pilot, our schools are giving our students bright starts…and preparing them for bold futures—as accomplished readers and confident learners.
David C. Banks
We Want to Hear from You
February 22, 2023
Dear New Yorkers:
One of our pillars at New York City Public Schools is engaging you—our families—to be our true partners in creating world-class schools. We want to hear from you on the best ways to make sure we are offering schools that are reflective of your hopes and dreams for the education of your children.
The annual NYC School Survey is a great opportunity for you to tell us how we’re doing and what more we can do. I strongly encourage every parent, student, and staff member to complete the survey.
The feedback captured by the NYC School Survey helps school leaders understand what members of their community think about the learning environment in their school, and it informs improvements to schools and programs.
The survey is available online in 10 languages, and it is open until March 31 to all families and teachers, as well as students in grades 6-12. Families can also request a hard copy of the survey from their school. Families can take the survey by going to NYCSchoolSurvey.org. Results of the survey will be shared with school staff in the summer to support planning for the coming school year. Results will be released publicly later in the year.
Thank you for being a part of New York City Public Schools, and please take a few minutes to share your feedback and help us keep lifting our schools and our students to new heights.
David C. Banks
Creating Pathways from School to Rewarding Careers
March 8, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
We want every child in the New York City Public Schools to walk off the commencement stage and feel ready to embark on the bold future they see ahead. The truth is, this can only happen if we help students see the connection between what happens in school and the 21st-century workforce they expect to join. This week, I am delighted to share an initiative that is doing just that.
March 6 kicks off the city’s second Career Discovery Week, an initiative that brings public high schoolers into workplace settings across the city for a day of career exploration. More than 2,400 tenth graders from approximately 70 public schools will get immersive, up-close exposure to potential professions through interactive day-long visits at some of the city’s leading employers.
Throughout the week, more than 85 corporations and other organizations will host students for a full day of programming that will include executive-led career panels, workplace tours, interactive technology demonstrations, work-based group challenges, and more. For example, students can participate in a coding session at Google, a resume writing workshop at Verizon, learn about personal branding and the business of basketball at NBA/WNBA headquarters, and attend a job application workshop at the National Grid.
Career Discovery Week is an example of what we can accomplish when we work collaboratively. I want to thank the Partnership for New York City and the city’s leading employers for bringing these life-changing opportunities to our students. This week’s events are also part of NYC Public Schools’ Student Pathways initiative, which is preparing students to work in high-growth, high-wage sectors like health care, technology, and business.
Through these partnerships, our students are making connections with professionals who can serve as mentors, provide recommendations when they apply to future jobs, and develop a broader network of relationships beyond school. When we make these investments in our students, we are not just investing in their future, we are investing in our city’s and nation’s future.
We are committed to making high school relevant and meaningful to our students—so they truly see it as a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security.
David C. Banks
Empowering Our Students to Change the World
March 15, 2023
Dear New Yorkers:
Your children have the power to change the world simply by sharing their voices and experiences. Now, more than ever, our democracy needs citizens who are active and engaged, and our public schools are a critical part of building the citizens of tomorrow.
That’s the message we shared with students in schools throughout the five boroughs as part of the City’s fifth annual Civics Week that began March 6. Civics Week not only celebrates youth voice and civic empowerment, it provides students with opportunities to engage face-to-face with the leaders of our city, explore careers in public service, and create change as active participants in their communities.
At New Dorp High School in Staten Island, students put together competing participatory budget proposals—one for charging stations, another for on-campus laundry—that their classmates will vote on. This is just one example of how students in our public schools can gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of how things work in the real world. It is an invaluable lesson for all those involved and shows students that their hard work is worthwhile to make things better even if they won't be around to directly benefit from it.
All high schools received voter registration forms and can hold registration drives, the first step toward building a culture of lifelong commitment to voting and civic engagement. All schools received a collection of curricular resources and other materials to use in their classrooms to promote civic learning. These included lesson plans on the importance of civic engagement and voting, classroom materials to promote excitement about civic participation, and three exciting, new comic books from the made-for-NYCPS Civics for All Comics Group collection: Action Activists #3, Recognized #2, and Barrier Breaker, which tells the story of Jackie Robinson’s fight for civil rights and his legacy beyond baseball. Other resources included photo booth props and “My Voice Matters” stickers.
Joshua Malcolm, a seventh grader at P.S./I.S. 266 in Queens said the week’s activities taught students “how to speak up and not be afraid to express our thoughts.”
Mason Esguerra of P.S. 107 Thomas A. Dooley in Queens said he learned “Teamwork leads people to great success. Everyone is in this together and we can all make a difference in our school community. It is important to take a stand for what we want to change.”
I want to thank our partners—the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit, the Civic Engagement Commission, and DemocracyNYC—for inspiring our young people to actively participate in our democracy and make their voices heard. Huge thanks also to our school leaders, teachers, and administrators for showing our young people that when they work together, they can create the change they want to see... in our city, in our state, and in our world.
Celebrating Women across the City
March 22, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
March is Women’s History Month, and New York City Public Schools joins our families in honoring the incredible contributions women have made to our city, our nation, and our world—in countless ways, through science, medicine, art, literature, politics, activism, and so much more.
Part of my mission is to ensure that all our students study the contributions women have made throughout history: not just during Women’s History Month but throughout the school year. To reach their full potential, young women need to see the role models who have walked through every door of opportunity, blazed a new trail, and persisted in ensuring equality.
Women like Bronx-born lawyer Sonia Sotomayor who became the first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
Women like Brooklyn-born Joy Reid, who became cable television’s first Black female primetime anchor as host of the MSNBC show, The ReidOut.
Women like Grace Meng, U.S. Congresswoman from Queens, who is the first—and only—Asian American member of Congress from New York State.
Of course, there are so many more women from so many different walks of life who model the perseverance and determination that breaks barriers. I was honored to celebrate two of them during a Women’s History Month celebration at our central office in Manhattan last week.
Vy Higginsen, a noted author, playwright, radio and TV personality, talked about her classic Black gospel musical, “Mama I Want To Sing!,” which has been playing in Harlem for 40 years now. Her Mama Foundation for the Arts has been teaching music to young people for decades; Vy said it’s been wonderful to watch these kids “grow and blossom and become who they were meant to be in their destiny.”
Nayeli Chavez-Geller, the New York City correspondent for Univision’s network newsmagazine show “Primer Impacto,” gave a riveting talk--about her journey from Mexico to New York City as a 15-year-old to a journalism career where she now gets to tell other people’s stories.
If we were inspired by our guest speakers, we were equally moved by the brilliant Bella Voce Choir from Celia Cruz High School of Music in the Bronx; the young women performed three truly uplifting songs under the direction of Jacqueline Bergland. My heart soared hearing these young women sing their hearts out for us.
I want to thank everyone who participated in our celebration. I also want to honor the women who are the unsung heroes in our school system every day. The women who teach and care for our children. The women who lead our schools. The women who oversee the programs and policies that support our children’s education. The women who work tirelessly to put all our students on pathways to the bright futures that lie ahead of them, with every door of opportunity wide open. Our future can only be bright with the continued contributions of women.
David C. Banks
The Power of Unified Sports
March 29, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
The opportunity to play on a sports team is a critical part of the full school experience. It’s an enrichment activity that forges new friendships, builds teamwork skills, and develops leaders. Playing on a team also makes school a more positive, inclusive space for all students.
I know firsthand the joy and confidence that come from playing sports. Basketball, baseball, football, and tennis were a huge part of my life growing up in Queens. I lived for afternoons and weekends when my brothers and the kids from the neighborhood would go out and shoot hoops and play two-hand touch football on my block. Playing sports gave me valuable life skills—and I believe all our students deserve these opportunities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; many students with disabilities have been traditionally excluded from school sports.
Until now! Earlier this week, I was thrilled to announce that more than 1,700 students with disabilities can now participate in Special Olympics track and field, volleyball, and basketball during their school day. An afterschool unified basketball league is open to an additional 200 high school students with and without disabilities, while 300 middle school students with and without disabilities can join a unified bocce league.
I am especially grateful to our partner, Special Olympics New York, for committing to $50,000 in funding, supporting the training of educators and coaches, and providing sports equipment and team uniforms. Through this partnership, we can now ensure access to Special Olympics sports at all District 75 schools. This will truly be a game-changer (pun intended!) for our students.
This historic expansion tells students, families, and educators that we see you—we welcome, value, and support you in every way we can, inside the classroom and beyond. I’m proud of the ways our leaders look to innovate and open doors of opportunity, and I hope that our new initiative makes us a model of inclusion and healthy enrichment activities. And most importantly, I’m thrilled that it gives every student the chance to develop the skills they need to succeed in school and in life.
David C. Banks
Get Ready for K–8 Summer Rising 2023!
April 5, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
Last year, students across the city took part in our comprehensive summer learning program—Summer Rising—which includes fun and enriching activities, from visits to parks and museums to challenging computer science and robotics experiences. I had the chance to visit a few Summer Rising sites last year and was thrilled by the learning and exploration I saw our kids enjoying.
This free program is a real winner for our students and families, and I’m very pleased to announce that we will be offering it again this summer—now with a more equitable and inclusive application process.
Summer Rising 2023 will provide engaging, high-quality academic support to combat learning loss from the pandemic as well as plenty of opportunities to play, create, and explore. New York City students in grades K–8 will be able to develop new interests and build skills while connecting with their peers, school community, and our amazing city. All programs will offer the social, emotional, and academic support your children need to thrive inside and outside school.
We’re pleased to once again partner with the Department of Youth and Community Development to serve around 110,000 students across the five boroughs. Enrollment will open on April 17, with an improved application process. Instead of a first-come, first-served approach, you will now be able to rank multiple program preferences. This will improve your chances of receiving a placement that works best for your child.
In filling seats, we are prioritizing students mandated to attend summer school, students in temporary housing and foster care, students in 12-month IEP programs, and those with a local connection to a school-year, community-based program or school community. We made these changes based on feedback from our families, community-based organizations, and schools, and I’m grateful for everyone’s input. Regardless of these enhancements, students who are mandated to attend summer programming will be able to access a seat affiliated with their home school.
I encourage you to visit the link to the application portal on April 17: nyc.gov/SummerRising. The portal will be translatable and accessible from any device with an internet connection. We have trained parent coordinators to assist families who need support in completing the application. The application window will close on May 1, and we’ll confirm placements by email approximately a week later.
I’m so excited to bring our popular Summer Rising program back! All our students deserve the opportunity to keep the learning going year-round. I’ll share more details about summer programming in the coming weeks, and I’m confident that we will make Summer 2023 our best one yet.
David C. Banks Chancellor
Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Week
April 18, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
This week, schools throughout the city will be celebrating Immigrant Heritage Week—and recognizing the many ways immigrants have made our city stronger and so special. As I travel around the city, I am inspired by the rich and diverse cultures that make up our communities. The whole world lives in New York City, and we welcome people from all parts of the globe each and every day.
At NYC Public Schools, we are proud to continue the city’s longstanding tradition of honoring and celebrating our newest New Yorkers. Every student—regardless of immigration status —has the right to a high-quality public education and it is our duty to ensure that they have access to the wraparound services they need to thrive.
We all know that every child’s needs and experiences are unique. That is why we are working alongside our agency partners on a number of different fronts, especially through Project Open Arms, to make sure every student has access to critical resources. Additionally, new students and their families are empowered to select the English Language Learner program that best suits their needs, and we provide all materials translated into their home language.
In recognition of the great diversity of our school communities, our educators practice culturally-responsive teaching and have rolled out the Hidden Voices initiative which includes lessons and materials that best support our students’ learning. Beyond academics, we offer social-emotional, trauma-informed mental health supports in every school, and many of our schools have stepped up to address these needs at home as well.
As Chancellor of NYC Public Schools, I am immensely proud of our students, teachers, and school leaders who have worked tirelessly the past several months as we welcome our newest New Yorkers with open arms. Across the city, there are students like Annabelle at P.S. 24 in Brooklyn who have taken the time to create neighborhood maps and “travel guides” for new families to know where important landmarks like the post office or library are located. At P.S. 33 in Manhattan, fourth-graders created English-Spanish dictionaries to help their new classmates learn key phrases to be able to make new friends. And we are so grateful to our parents who stepped up to partner with food pantries, host clothing drives, and hand out backpacks with school supplies for those in need.
Our city has always stood with those seeking refuge and shelter, and we are proud to continue that legacy—and stand with all New Yorkers during Immigrant Heritage Week.
David C. Banks
Our Most Important Partners
May 2, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
For our schools to be their best, we must build trust and engage with our most important partners—our families. One of the most impactful ways you can partner with us is by volunteering at your child’s school. As National Volunteer Month closes out, I encourage you to consider ways you might be able to partner with your school.
I know just how busy family life is. That’s why, when I was a principal, I encouraged parents to begin by volunteering in a small way—to help with a specific task that fits with their drop-off or pickup times. This first visit is a good time to speak with your school’s parent coordinator or staff members about what you might be able to offer.
Some possible opportunities at your school may include helping with safe passage in the neighborhood at arrival and dismissal times, chaperoning a field trip, organizing or helping with a school newsletter, attending events that showcase student work, or getting involved in the school’s PTA or other parent-involvement group.
Also, please don’t forget to vote for your Community and Citywide Education Council members; this is one of the best ways to participate and have a direct impact on issues that affect your school community. You can learn more about the parents running for seats on your local and citywide councils at apps.schools.nyc/CECProfiles. Voting is open through May 9.
There are many meaningful ways to volunteer...and any amount of time and support you can provide is tremendously appreciated. To learn how you can get more involved, please reach out to your school’s principal or parent coordinator. You can use Find a School to locate the parent coordinator at your child's school, and you can visit our Family Empowerment website to learn about other ways to get involved.
Thank you for being a part of the New York City Public Schools. We are here to earn your trust, and we welcome your partnership.
David C. Banks
NYC Reads: Ensuring Every Student Is a Confident Reader
May 12, 2023
Every day, I’m struck by both the brilliant promise of our children and the need for us to do more for them…and for our educators. It’s crystal clear to me where our intense focus needs to be. We need to improve the way we teach our children to read.
The numbers tell the story. Right now, 51 percent of New York City elementary students—and two-thirds of students nationally—are not reading at grade level. This is the educational crisis of our lifetime, and we're going to do something about it.
This week, Mayor Eric Adams and I announced the launch of “NYC Reads,” a landmark citywide campaign to declare literacy and reading instruction as the core focus and overriding priority of New York City Public Schools. At the heart of this campaign is a new plan to dramatically strengthen the literacy instruction we provide to your children—beginning in Early Childhood Education programs—and the training we provide to their teachers.
The Science of Reading tells us what works, and that is a focus on phonics and the fundamental skills needed (like sounding out and decoding words) to build vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Teachers tell us that they want clear guidance on what works, backed by coaching and professional learning that’s tied to what they’re doing in their classrooms. And we’re going to give it to them.
NYC Reads will cover all Early Childhood Education programs and elementary schools over the next two years, with a focus on a streamlined set of classroom materials that are rooted in the Science of Reading. About half of our districts will begin in September with the one curriculum they choose to be used in all their elementary schools. The remainder of our districts will join the program in the fall of 2024. Most of our Early Childhood programs will launch this fall, with the remainder joining in the following year.
That means that in two years, every Early Childhood Education program and elementary school in New York City will be using a quality, research-backed curriculum that is focused on teaching the foundational skills needed to become a confident reader.
Mayor Adams and I see this as a game-changer in the classroom, particularly in teaching all children to be confident readers—an absolutely essential step on the way to achieving our mission of ensuring each student graduates on a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security, equipped to be a positive force for change.
Thank you for being a part of the New York City Public Schools and for your commitment to your child’s education. Working together, we will put the focus and support in place to give every child in every classroom a strong educational foundation—a bright start and a clear path to a bold, limitless future.
David C. Banks
Thanking Our Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Month
May 31, 2023
It is my honor to celebrate New York City’s dedicated and talented public-school teachers, not just during Teacher Appreciation Week, which just passed, but throughout the month of May— which we are thrilled to designate as Teacher Appreciation Month.
As a former teacher myself, I know that this job is not just a career but also a calling—a calling to lift our children to limitless futures. I am grateful to our teachers for answering that call and for lifting the children of the New York City Public Schools through a great education.
As I visit schools as Chancellor, I am—without fail—inspired and energized by our teachers and their commitment to the city’s children. Whatever is happening throughout our five vibrant boroughs, and in the world beyond, our teachers are there for our students.
They provide them with love and support. They do this with great care, with high expectations, and with an unwavering belief in the promise that their students will rise to those heights. Our teachers also inspire children to dream big dreams…and empower them to forge a bold future for themselves.
I invite you to watch this short video in which I share my gratitude for our teachers’ contributions and leadership and for giving so much of themselves to help our schools lift every child. Please also use our DOE All-Stars tool to express your appreciation to the teachers making a difference in your life. Or share your gratitude on social media using the hashtag #ThankaTeacherNYC.
To all the teachers of New York City Public Schools, on behalf of all of New York: Thank you for all that you do to empower and inspire our students to reach their full potential…and Happy Teacher Appreciation Month!
David C. Banks
The Uplifting Power of the Arts
June 12, 2023
We were treated to the LaGuardia choir’s performance at our central office last week to help celebrate the release of our annual Arts in Schools Report—and to mark the start of a new era in arts education in New York City Public Schools.
The arts uplift the spirit and foster understanding and appreciation of other cultures. They instill valuable character traits like discipline, persistence, self-confidence, and the courage to take risks. Studies show that students who study the arts in school perform better in reading, writing, and mathematics, have improved attendance, and develop essential social-emotional skills. The arts also help kids communicate better, deal with trauma, and make progress in school.
That is why I’m thrilled to see in this report a significant increase in arts offerings across grades 1-12, back to pre-pandemic levels. In addition, more than 400 cultural arts organizations provided arts education instruction to our students last school year.
I am absolutely committed to building on our successful arts programming, while piloting new initiatives that have the power to change children’s lives. One example is our new Arts Hub, a groundbreaking approach to urban arts education...and a fantastic way to connect our schools to the magic and splendor of our city’s arts scene.
Launched this spring at The Waters Edge Campus at Brooklyn’s Urban Assembly School of Music and Art, the Hub features world-class performances to inspire principals to infuse the power of the arts throughout our campuses. The Hub also includes an innovative professional-learning opportunity that lets principals collaborate, create, and learn together—with the clear goal of expanding high-quality arts instruction in a meaningful way in every one of our schools.
I invite you to watch the video of our arts event and enjoy the gospel choir performances, along with a soulful trumpet duet featuring LaGuardia High School senior Elijah Allen and Paul Thompson, Executive Director of our Arts Office.
The arts inspire and fill our souls—they are an essential part of a well-rounded education. Our city is the cultural hub of the world, and that’s part of what makes going to school in New York so special. We’re committed to bringing the uplifting power of the arts to all our students.
David C. Banks
Finding Connections to Our Kids, through E-Sports
June 22, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
On a recent Saturday 50 of our wonderfully sharp and talented students went head-to-head in the City’s first-ever, in-person Battle of the Boroughs e-sports tournament. Their challenge, straight from Mayor Eric Adams: Create the safest, most inclusive, future-ready city spaces using Minecraft Education, an online game in which players use blocks and creatures to reshape their landscapes.
New York City Public Schools launched the Battle of the Boroughs three years ago, in partnership with Microsoft and Minecraft Education, as a way to keep students engaged during remote learning. And we’re building on the power that e-sports have—like other enrichment activities—to create strong connections between schools and students. It’s one more way we’re reimagining the student experience to make school more relevant and meaningful to our kids.
The 2023 challenge launched in January in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. After making it through two rounds, 10 teams got to compete in the first-ever Mayor’s Cup, a day-long championship at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
There was electricity in the room right from the start of the competition. Some 450 spectators cheered the students on, bursting into applause as each team was introduced. TikTok influencers called “shout-casters” provided commentary as the teams took 45 minutes to, as Mayor Adams described: “build a city for everyone: a city safe for folks of different ages, backgrounds, and abilities.”
The Juniors prize (for kindergarten through fifth-grade teams) went to 58’s Shining Stars, an all-girls team from P.S. 58 The Space Shuttle Columbia School in Staten Island. Their winning “build” placed solar panels throughout the city to power buses, train tracks, and more. They built ponds stocked with fish to generate electricity and put oysters in drainage systems to refresh the city’s water supply.
Team Blockhampton from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn won the Seniors Division (grades 6-12) for their culturally inclusive “build,” which featured a free, fully accessible community center with charging stations for mobility devices and special pavement that absorbs water to protect against coastal flooding.
Congratulations to the winning teams and to everyone who participated in this year’s Battle of the Boroughs—which shows gaming’s potential as both a teaching tool and a rewarding career pathway. Today’s young gamer may just be the trailblazer who creates a safer, far better New York City for generations to come.
David C. Banks
End-of-Year Thoughts and Happy Summer!
July 5, 2023
Thank you for being a part of the New York City Public Schools. I hope you had a wonderful school year, and I am so proud of all you and our students have accomplished. Over the last nine months, I’ve had the chance to connect with so many of you, inside and outside the classroom—observing you discussing literature and social issues, solving complex math and STEM problems, creating amazing art, performing in school performances, getting involved in your child’s education, and so much more. It excites me every single time I see our students’ brilliant promise come to life.
Most recently, I participated in several graduation and stepping-up ceremonies and was energized and inspired by the joy and pride on the faces of our students and everyone who came out to share their big day. I want to congratulate our hardworking and terrifically talented Class of 2023! You are our future leaders, and I am so proud of all of you.
I know firsthand that your parents share my pride. During the commencement ceremony for Forest Hills High School, the most enthusiastic moment came when I asked the graduates to stand and applaud their families for helping them get to this moment. The air became electric when their families responded with thunderous applause of their own. Even the rain didn’t dampen the excitement of that day.
I am so grateful to our families, teachers, principals, and school staff for putting our students on the pathway to bold, boundless futures. I also want to remember the students and staff who tragically lost their lives this school year. Their memory reminds us of the importance of cherishing and safeguarding the well-being of every child.
As I look towards the 2023-24 school year, I know that we’re rising toward greater heights. I hope that you and your children have a great summer and are able to take advantage of the many amazing things that our city has to offer. Thank you for being true partners in your child’s education. I look forward to seeing you all in September.
David C. Banks
Activities to Engage Your Children This Summer
August 3, 2023
I truly have the best job in the world, because I get to interact with children and families all year round, including over the summer. The students and families I’ve met this past month all say they’re having a great time keeping the learning going as they take full advantage of all our great city has to offer. With more than a month of summer vacation to go, I wanted to share some activities to get kids involved in the marvelous diorama of literature, culture, science, history, and the arts that is New York City.
NYC Reads is our exciting, new initiative to make all students strong, confident readers. There’s no better way to support your children’s literacy skills than to encourage them to keep reading throughout the summer. I’m thrilled that all New York City public school students have access to free digital books through the reading app Sora. You can find suggested reading lists for every grade level at the bottom of the discover Sora homepage and wonderful summer reading programs via New York City’s three public library systems.
Spread the word! Every summer, young people ages 18 and under are invited to enjoy free, nutritious breakfast and lunch meals throughout the five boroughs via our Summer Meals program. Children do not have to register to receive free meals, and IDs and documentation are not required. The Summer Meals program runs until September 1. Breakfast is served daily from 8:00 to 9:15 a.m., and lunch is served daily from 11:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Visit the Summer Meals page on our website for more information, including daily menus, locations, and where you can find the Summer Meals food trucks.
The Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library are offering free, fun, educational events for children and families all summer long. Explore movie screenings, board games, and dance classes in Brooklyn; and STEAM activities, arts and crafts, and robot design classes in Manhattan. In Queens, kids can play tech-based games to hone their math and science skills, produce their own magazines, and participate in creative dance and singalongs. There’s even a bilingual Mandarin story time and reading with toddlers for adults.
Enjoy fun, informative, and healthy activities at an area park! Visit NYC Parks to find an event that matches your interests and location.
This summer, build a strong financial future for your family with the help of innovative financial education programs. The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) provides tools and resources to help New Yorkers achieve their financial goals.
- NYC Financial Empowerment Centers can help you manage your finances with free, one-on-one professional financial counseling. Counselors can help create a budget, establish or improve credit, open a bank account, and deal with debt, including student loans. Visit nyc.gov/TalkMoney to make an appointment.
- NYC Free Tax Prep program provides trusted, multilingual tax preparation for thousands of individuals, families, and the self-employed. For more information about eligibility requirements and how to file, visit nyc.gov/TaxPrep.
New York City opens cooling centers when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory with a forecasted heat index of 95 degrees or higher for two or more days or 100 degrees for any period. Cooling centers are located in air-conditioned facilities that offer people relief from the heat.
Sites where cooling centers are located include:
- Community centers
- Senior centers
- NYCHA facilities
You should use a cooling center during a heat wave if you have no access to a cool environment, and particularly if you are at risk for heat-related illness.
For more information, contact a facility directly or search for a cooling center here.
As a former teacher and principal, I know that activities that make learning fun are some of the best ways to open children’s minds, engage them in their communities, and show them that their education continues outside the classroom. As Chancellor, seeing children’s faces light up with a sense of wonder and curiosity reminds me of the inspirational power of our city…and of the brilliant promise of our children.
David C. Banks
Summer Rising Students Soar...with Help from the Community
August 23, 2023
As August winds down, I am reflecting on our popular Summer Rising program, which has reinforced for me the value of strong community partnerships in keeping kids learning throughout the summer months. Our free summer learning program for students in grades K–8 across the city gave kids the chance to grow, learn, and explore their talents through fun and enriching activities. I had a blast visiting sites around the city and hearing how this wonderful program, a partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development, had made a real difference in children’s lives.
At P.S. 55 Benjamin Franklin, a community school in the Bronx, I watched students solve complex math problems, kicked a ball around the school’s world-class soccer field, and shot hoops on the new basketball court. Principal Luis Eladio Torres, whom I have known for many years, is a forceful advocate for his community; thanks to his efforts, the school also has a beautiful new cafeteria, an onsite dentist, and a garden where students grow produce for the school community. Torres credits these innovations to strong partnerships with the community-based organizations (CBOs) BronxWorks and SCAN-Harbor. What a wonderful environment to learn in!
I also loved spending time at P.S. 132 Juan Pablo Duarte, a community school in Washington Heights. I visited during the enrichment portion of the program, led by the CBO, Catholic Charities Community Services, Archdiocese of New York, and saw students learning physics while creating roller coasters out of paper plates. I am proud that the school has a laundromat in the basement and operates a food pantry through its partnership with Urban Arts, Community School Director Domingo Estevez, and other local groups, increasing access to nutritious food and clean clothes.
Summer Rising reflects our mission to create purposeful and intentional opportunities for students to learn outside the four walls of the classroom while building on skills that will serve them well in the next school year. The community partnerships at the heart of this program really pay off for kids: with more field trips, more enrichment opportunities, more exposure to the arts, culture, and science, and stronger social-emotional support. The best part is seeing students applying their skills in the real world, and lighting up a pathway to the bright futures they deserve.
After hearing how so many students have thrived these past couple of months, I have even higher hopes for what’s to come in the fall. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer, and I look forward to seeing your children back at school in September.
Welcome to the 2023-24 School Year!
September 19, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
I have always said that nothing compares to September and the first exhilarating week of classes—when I get to visit schools throughout the five boroughs, meet parents, and welcome students and teachers back.
This year was no exception as I toured the city and felt the buzz of electricity in the air as students met their new classmates, tapped into their curiosity and creativity, and displayed their brilliance and unique abilities.
At P.S. 121 The Throop School in the Bronx, we celebrated the first day of NYC Reads, our groundbreaking initiative to ensure that all students are proficient readers. P.S. 121 is among the schools participating in phase one of this initiative, which features new, evidence-based curricula rooted in the “science of reading.” Instruction is supplemented with phonics—the proven method for teaching children to be confident readers.
My next stop was I.S. 192 The Linden in Queens, where I toured the newly enhanced cafeteria. Instead of waiting on long lines, students could quickly grab their meal, leaving more time to spend recharging with friends. I also stopped into the kitchen to greet food service workers, who had prepared a delicious lunch menu, including roasted chicken drumsticks, confetti corn, buttermilk biscuits, and lemon arugula salad.
Another highlight was my visit to P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche in Harlem, where I led a story time for a group of spirited kindergarteners.
Literacy truly is the foundation for all learning and is essential to clearing a path to our students’ bold futures. To ensure we set up our students for success, this year we are doubling down on our mission: to offer every child a bright start...and a clear pathway to a bold future. This means a year full of strong academics, enriching sports and arts programs, healthy and delicious school meals, safe, inclusive classrooms, and so much more.
Whether their future includes college, technical training, or an apprenticeship, we will make sure that all students graduate with a plan to achieve long-term economic security—and equipped with the tools, resources, and support they need to unlock their full potential and open every door of opportunity.
September is just the beginning of what I know will be a truly exceptional school year. Thank you for choosing New York City Public Schools. Thank you for your partnership. I’m so excited about all the great things we’ll accomplish together this year!
Celebrating the Brilliance of our Students and Schools
October 11, 2023
One of the best things about living in New York City is getting to experience the changing of the seasons. The cool, crisp air and vibrant fall foliage always speak to me of harvest and abundance, of shedding the old to create space for the new. This metaphor applies beautifully to our public schools, which have so much promise for us to nurture and cultivate.
We held two events last month highlighting the brilliance of our students and schools. First, we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with staff members and special guests at our central office. Highlights included performances by the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music Big Band, Hispanic-inspired light snacks prepared by student chefs from Food and Finance High School in Manhattan, and inspiring remarks by Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Ana Almanzar. I encourage families to visit our website for additional information, events, and resources in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
I also recently delivered my State of Our Schools address at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. In the audience were 1,000 parents, students, teachers, principals, superintendents, elected officials, community partners, and advocates—people who care deeply about the future of public education in New York City.
In my remarks, I made it clear that our mission remains constant: 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. In other words, we must prepare our children for bright starts and bold futures.
A bright start begins with learning to read, write, and think critically about the issues of our time. Through NYC Reads, we are finally shifting to a literacy playbook that works, grounded in the science of reading—a research-backed approach that prioritizes the foundational skills of strong readers. We will teach our kids phonics. We will teach them to decode complex letter combinations, to sound out words. We will support their fluency and comprehension. This work has already begun in our classrooms, starting with our youngest learners.
At the same time, we are preparing and empowering our students to build bold futures. Our Pathways work will ensure that by 2030, every student will leave us with a concrete plan for a rewarding life path. This plan will be bolstered by access to paid work experience, early college credit, career credentials, financial and digital literacy, and significant mentorship and guidance. We are infusing our high schools with career-connected learning, including our FutureReady and Modern Youth Apprenticeship initiatives, which lead our students to high-tech, high-demand careers such as cybersecurity, software development, diagnostic medicine, and business management.
As we enter the new school year and celebrate the brilliance and potential of our students, I’m honored to have you as partners in this work. Thank you for all you do to nurture the best in our children.
Exciting News about Test Scores and Clear Paths to College
October 20, 2023
I have some exciting news about student test scores—and ways we are building bolder futures for our city’s youth.
First, results from New York State’s 2023 exams showed promising upward trends in English Language Arts (ELA) and math. While the 2023 tests were aligned to new standards—meaning results from 2022 and 2023 aren't directly comparable—we’re reassured by this year’s scores. More students today are proficient in math and ELA than in 2022, with nearly 50 percent proficient in math and nearly 52 percent proficient in ELA. In 2022, just under 38 percent of students were proficient in math, and 49 percent in ELA.
In addition, we saw increased proficiency among the students we have historically let down: students of color, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities. We also saw a narrowing of the gap between Black and Latino students and their white peers. These improvements tell us that we’re making strides in our recovery from the pandemic—and we will continue to build on this success.
Another way we are setting our students up for success is by ensuring all of them see a clear path to higher education and a rewarding career. In early October, I was thrilled to join City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez to hand out personalized “Welcome to CUNY” letters to seniors at City College Academy of the Arts, an early-college high school in Manhattan. As the letters explain, all NYCPS seniors on track to graduate this year will have a place at our city’s public university.
The university is also waiving its application fee for seniors and hosting more than 100 in-person and virtual events during October in association with College Application Month. Additionally, the State University of New York will be waiving application fees at all of its 64 colleges and universities from October 16 through October 29. Expanding access to higher education is critically important, and I encourage seniors to take advantage of these opportunities this month.
On the topic of admissions and applications, high school and middle school applications and registration for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) are now open. As families look at high school options for their children, I encourage them to consider career-connected learning that offers students paid, hands-on opportunities in fast-growing industries – look for schools designated FutureReadyNYC (FRNYC), Career Readiness & Modern Youth Apprenticeship (CRMYA), or Career and Technical Education (CTE).
As we celebrate our students’ progress and accompany them on their journeys to middle school, high school, college, and beyond, I am reminded again of their brilliance and limitless potential. We are prepared to give our students the life-changing opportunities that will not only shape their individual futures, but also the future of our city, our country, and our world.
Taking Action on Climate Change
October 30, 2023
I often speak about our mission of preparing students for bright starts and bold futures, and when I do, I consider the world we are preparing them to enter. It is complex and rapidly changing—and it is facing the existential threat of climate change. Our kids did not create this problem, but they will most certainly be critical in solving it.
That’s why I’m thrilled about our first-ever New York City Public Schools Climate Action Days—four days, each with a distinct theme, to highlight the importance of sustainability and encourage climate action in our schools:
- December 6: Energy
- February 7: Waste
- April 17: Health, Wellness, and Green Space
- June 12: Water
On Climate Action Days, our school communities will delve into these topics and learn about sustainability, allowing them to set school-based goals and take action. To prepare, our Office of Energy and Sustainability led three all-day trainings this month for teachers and school staff, with nearly 750 participants in total. These educators planned climate-related activities and programming tailored to their school communities, ranging from “neighborhood energy investigation” field trips to plastic-free lunch days to building rain gardens and water filters.
The possibilities for climate education and action are endless. Did you know that, according to a 2017 study from the City's Sanitation Department, 51% of waste generated in our schools can be composted, and 35% can be recycled? To me, there’s a clear message behind this data: when it comes to the environment and building a greener future, we as a school system have an opportunity—and responsibility—to lead the way.
Already, NYC Public Schools are the largest contributor to the city’s solar energy goals, with 81 solar installations across our schools to-date. We are also connecting our students to green jobs through our Career and Technical Education programs and career-connected learning. And by the end of this school year, we will have curbside composting accessible to every one of our schools—the largest school composting program in the nation.
As we approach our Climate Action Days, I encourage the entire NYCPS community to get involved! Families, reach out to your children’s schools and ask about their plans for our first Climate Action Day on December 6. You can also visit our webpage for age-appropriate book recommendations for your children, focused on climate and sustainability.
To our school staff, thank you for all of your hard work this fall to make Climate Action Days a success. I see you, and I appreciate you. Your legacy will be the students you inspire to protect our planet.
Celebrating our Student Athletes
November 3, 2023
I recently returned to my alma mater, Hillcrest High School, for a dedication ceremony to rename the school gym in honor of Hillcrest’s longtime basketball coach, Ken Gershon. In his 30 years as head coach at Hillcrest, he never missed a single game.website or follow PSAL on X, Instagram, or Threads.
And while I personally didn’t make the cut for Coach Gershon’s team (a disappointment to this day!), his dedication left a lasting impression. To me, Coach Gershon represents the power of sports – to unite, to motivate, and to inspire us to grow and achieve. That’s why I’m so proud of our Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) student-athletes and coaches. The pandemic disrupted many of our athletic programs, but our students and staff persisted. Now, with over 46,000 PSAL athletes across 3,400-plus teams, we are on track to meet—and hopefully exceed—pre-pandemic participation. Not only are our sports teams back and stronger than ever, but we are continuing to expand, improve, and innovate. We want to ensure our students have access to the widest array of sports possible, so in addition to the more typical options such as soccer, track, and volleyball, we offer cricket, bowling, table tennis, rugby, and double dutch, too. We’ve also embarked on several renovations and restorations to our athletic facilities, from the sports fields at the Kennedy and Jefferson High School campuses to the pool at the DeWitt Clinton High School campus. I attended the ribbon cutting for the DeWitt Clinton pool last week along with Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz, and NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue—and the energy was contagious. Our student-athletes are ready to put the pool to good use. We are also empowering our students to imagine new possibilities and build bold futures through sports. We recently held our annual softball and baseball showcases for PSAL athletes to show off their skills to college coaches and scouts. And last month, the Erasmus Hall Campus football team traveled all the way to London to compete against the NFL Academy of the UK. We hosted a terrific send-off for the team at our central office, where I reminded them: this is not about winning or losing. It’s about showing up, giving your best, and learning from this unique international experience. I think Coach Gershon would’ve agreed. As we approach our fall sports postseason, I encourage you to join us for an upcoming playoff or championship game. To find the schedule for your favorite team, check out our PSAL
Reflecting on Election Day
November 11, 2023
When I was a student at Hillcrest High School, I served as vice president of my senior class, and the experience fostered in me a lifelong commitment to civic engagement and service.
Both then and now, our schools nurture the leaders of tomorrow—by providing real-world, hands-on learning today. I can think of three terrific examples just from the past few weeks.
The first is via Civics for All (CFA), our civic empowerment initiative that includes student voter registration, curricula, civic action projects, and more. On Election Day, nearly 200 teachers received professional learning to launch one of our CFA programs called Participatory Budgeting in Your School. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process where community members—in this case, students—make decisions about how to allocate public funds to best meet their community’s needs. Each of our 400-plus participating schools will receive funding for this purpose, and they’ll form student-run steering committees to conduct research and develop proposals on potential uses for the money. Then, this winter, students will cast their ballots to determine how the funds are spent.
What’s especially unique about this program is that it mirrors a citywide effort underway right now. The NYC Civic Engagement Commission is collecting participatory budgeting proposals at the city level, and any New Yorker ages 11 and up can submit an idea through November 19.
In another great example of civic engagement, students from Union Square Academy recently rededicated and expanded an innovative exhibit in their school library that explores the history of their 110-year-old building, the Washington Irving High School campus in Manhattan. Back in 2020, custodial engineers discovered a trove of artifacts about the school, including photos and newspaper clippings, which students began preserving, analyzing, and curating to create the exhibit. They now lead tours as “school history docents” for alumni, community partners, and their peers.
And finally, the City recently announced the winners of “We’re Walking Here,” a contest where schools created public service announcements focused on street safety. This safety reminder is especially relevant this time of year, when we spend much of our commutes in the dark. Congratulations to our winners: IS 59 and PS 211 in Queens and PS 396 and PS 723 in the Bronx. Thank you for your engagement and activism to keep our city safe.
As we reflect on Election Day, I encourage anyone eligible to vote but not yet registered in New York to do so here
. I’m proud to say that since 2019, NYCPS has registered over 80,000 new voters, and that number will increase during our annual Civics Week, which will take place this spring from March 11-15.
Engaging Families to Be Our True Partners
November 22, 2023
Dear New Yorkers,
I hope this message finds you all surrounded by warmth and community spirit. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to share my gratitude to our families for choosing NYC Public Schools, and to our NYCPS staff for their dedication to our families.
I believe our shared vision for our children—Bright Starts and Bold Futures—is deeply rooted in the collective strength of our families and school communities. That's why engagement is the cornerstone of everything we do. Families: your involvement is not just important; it's essential.
Consider NYC Reads, our initiative to transform the way we teach reading. In our Phase 1 districts, we're excited to partner with families through local literacy events, and in Phase 2 districts, which will implement NYC Reads next school year, family and community voices are shaping critical curriculum decisions. We're also sharing activities and resources with families across the city to bolster reading skills at home. This past summer, over 1,000 families joined us for sessions on our new Early Childhood curriculum, and these sessions are continuing throughout the school year.
In our work on college and career pathways, parent leaders have been instrumental in guiding the launch of FutureReadyNYC and our Modern Youth Apprenticeships. Our Family and Community Engagement team and Office of Student Pathways have also led family focus groups to ensure our resources, like the college and career page in NYCSA, are helpful and meaningful.
At NYCPS, we value parent leadership at both the school and citywide levels. Did you know every parent or guardian is automatically a member of their school's Parent Association or Parent Teacher Association? Families: your voice matters! I encourage you to connect with your school to get involved and to learn about other school-based engagement opportunities, such as School Leadership Teams, School Wellness Councils, and Title 1 Representatives.
At the citywide level, the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) and our 36 Community and Citywide Education Councils (CECs) also offer platforms for family voice. (We even have CEC seats available for our high school seniors, who can apply here.) I’m always inspired by the engaging and insightful discussions at our CEC Town Halls, and I warmly invite you all to join our upcoming CEC and CPAC meetings this winter.
I want to again thank each of you—families, staff, and community members—for your deep commitment and partnership. Together we are building bright starts and bold futures for our students, so every child can meet their full potential. I am honored to do this work alongside you.
David C. Banks