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May 10, 2021
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JP O'Hare

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Board of Regents Acts on Measures to Promote Civic Education and Bring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to New York Schools

            Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy Statement Builds on Framework Announced at April 2021 Board Meeting

Pilot Program Created to Establish the Seal of Civic Readiness and Regulation Proposed for a Civic Readiness Pathway to Graduation

Department Launches Website Dedicated to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives

The Board of Regents today acted on measures to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in schools across the New York State and promote civic education opportunities, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced. The Board, building on its Framework on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in New York’ s Schools, released its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy Statement which will promote and support efforts at the State and local level to strengthen Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies and practices. Additionally, the Department acted to create the New York State Seal of Civic Readiness and proposed the Civic Readiness Pathway to graduation. 

“One of my first priorities as Chancellor has been to transform the Board’s work to view everything we do through an equity and inclusion lens and make the necessary changes to lift up all students,” said Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “The Board’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy statement and accompanying framework will help New York’s schools and institutes of higher education do the same. Part and parcel to an equitable society is civic education, which can lead us to a more just democracy for all New Yorkers and enable students to be powerful agents for social change.”

“Civics education increases the likelihood that students will participate in political and community activities; be more committed to fundamental democratic values and principles; and be more tolerant of those who may have different points of view,” said Commissioner Rosa. “Civics education, when steeped in the fundamentals of the Board’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to question and engage in civil discourse and offer sustainable solutions to issues that are important to them and their communities.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “The Assembly Majority has fought tirelessly for years to ensure New York’s students have access to high quality public education. As part of the Diversity, equity and inclusion policy, I believe that financial literacy is a major component in educating our kids and important to ensuring that our students are able to engage and thrive in our schools, and these principles must be the foundation on which our schools operate. These initiatives help us move beyond rhetoric and towards holistic and systemic changes that address the challenges we are facing as a society.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy Statement

The Regents believe strongly that there is a moral and an economic imperative to remove the inequities that stand in the way of success for whole segments of New York’s student population. The Board has adopted a policy to encourage and support efforts in New York’s schools, colleges and universities to create an ecosystem of success that is built upon a foundation of diversity, equity, inclusion, access, opportunity, innovation, confidence, trust, respect, caring, and relationship-building. All students must feel that they are welcome, they belong, and they are supported.

The Board outlined elements that should be included in DEI policies to be most effective. DEI policies should consider the entirety of the schooling process and should include measures related to Governance, Teaching and Learning, Family and Community Engagement, Workforce Diversity, Diverse Schools and Learning Opportunities, and Student Supports, Discipline, and Wellness.

Strong DEI policies, in partnership with parents and families, empower students from all backgrounds to visualize successful futures for themselves and provide them with a sense of belonging and self-worth. These benefits can lead to improved student achievement, which in turn can lead to better outcomes in other areas of their lives, including work and civic engagement. This is true regardless of a school’s geographic location or the demographic composition of its students and faculty.

Many of New York’s education stakeholders and their organizations have prioritized this issue, and their efforts must be recognized and applauded. But more work remains, and the Board of Regents and the State Education Department are committed to supporting schools and districts in their efforts to lift up all students.

The full text of the Board of Regents Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy Statement is available on the Department’s website. 

Civic Readiness Initiatives

The Seal of Civic Readiness

The Seal of Civic Readiness, modeled on the existing Seal of Biliteracy, is a formal recognition that a student has attained a high level of proficiency in terms of civic knowledge, civic skills, civic mindset and civic experiences.

To obtain the Seal of Civic Readiness, a student must complete all requirements for a New York State local or Regents diploma and earn a specified number of points, to be outlined in guidance issued by the Department, in two areas: Civic Knowledge and Civic Participation.

  • Civic Knowledge: Students may demonstrate proficiency in civic knowledge by earning credit in Social Studies courses, receiving a passing or mastery score on a Social Studies Regents Exam, or completing a civic readiness research project.
  • Civic Participation: Students may demonstrate proficiency in civic participation by completing a culminating high school civics project, completing a service learning project, achieving proficiency in a civic engagement elective course, or participating in an extra-curricular program or work-based learning experience that promotes civic engagement or civic action for a minimum of 40 hours. Students may also earn points by completing a middle school Capstone project or a high school Capstone project.

Civic Readiness Pathway to a High School Diploma

The Department proposed a rule to allow students who earn the Seal of Civic Readiness to apply that accomplishment toward a +1 Civic Readiness pathway to a diploma. The proposed pathway would allow students to graduate with a regular diploma when they have demonstrated the State’s standards for academic achievement in math, English, science, social studies and the State’s requirements for civic readiness knowledge and skills necessary for college, career and citizenship after high school. The Civics Readiness pathway would be added to the existing +1 pathways to a diploma that currently include STEM-Math, STEM, Science, Humanities, Arts, CTE, CDOS and World languages.

Next Steps

Schools participating in the pilot for the Seal of Civic Readiness completed a self-assessment application and submitted it to the Office of Curriculum and Instruction for approval. Schools meeting the Department’s criteria will begin the pilot in September 2021. Participating schools will be expected to provide examples of lessons and activities that will be included in the final Seal manual as exemplars for the Seal of Civic Readiness.

The Department will collect information and resources from outside organizations that provide guidance on civics education during the pilot. Using the information attained from the pilot, the Department will then finalize and publish the Seal manual that will include the approved criteria for offering and attaining the Seal, along with analytical data from the pilot. Pending the success of the pilot, the Department projects that in the 2022-23 school year, the Seal of Civic Readiness will be an option for all NYS school districts that wish to apply.

It is anticipated that the proposed rule will be presented to the Board of Regents for permanent adoption at the September Regents meeting, following publication of the proposed amendment in the State Register and the 60-day public comment period. Public comments will be accepted through July 26, 2021.  If adopted at the September 2021 meeting, the proposed rule will become effective on September 29, 2021.

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