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Christiana has a learning disability and recently graduated from high school thanks to AFC's assistance securing the support she needed to learn.

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09.08.2016 | Queens Chronicle | Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children, was not entirely shocked by the number of schools reporting zero incidents, saying DASA is a law educators have struggled with since it went into effect in 2012. “There is a critical need for better training and better implementation of DASA in New York City,” Yuster said. “The report shows a lot of work needs to be done.” Read article

09.07.2016 | DNA Info | Over the next decade, all students will be expected to be reading on grade level by the end of second grade thanks to help from reading coaches — which will be put in place at approximately 100 elementary schools this year. The initiative is part of the DOE's “Equity and Excellence” plan, which is expected to be phased in over the coming decade. The first new reading coaches will go into the high needs areas of the South Bronx’s District 9, District 10 (which includes Fordham and Kingsbridge), Central Brooklyn’s District 17 and Bushwick’s District 32. Many education watchdogs are excited that the DOE is focusing on literacy instruction, but believe parents must be included in the process for the program to be successful. “Students whose families are involved learn to read sooner than their peers whose families are less so,” said Maggie Moroff, from Advocates for Children. “We've been talking to anyone at the DOE who will listen to us on this point, and we want to see how they communicate with, engage, and really partner with families as they roll out their literacy initiative.” Read article

08.23.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Dawn Yuster, who directs Advocates for Children’s School Justice Project, largely echoed those arguments. She said the most serious infractions, including using force against a school safety agent, are often the result of student behavior that is misidentified or mismanaged from the start. “This charge doesn’t happen in isolation,” said Yuster, whose organization has handled numerous complaints about school discipline from parents. It “signals that further training [is] needed for school staff to be able to better support students.” Read article

08.09.2016 | Politico New York | The Department of Education held a hearing on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s newly announced ban on suspensions for children in grades Kindergarten through second grade on Monday evening, which was notably well-attended for a mid-summer hearing in an un-air conditioned auditorium in Chelsea. The hearing was overwhelmingly attended by students and administers who support the ban, including dozens of black and Latino New York City high school students who spoke personally about the impact of frequent suspensions in their schools. Read article

07.27.2016 | Hechinger Report | Whether because of test anxiety or other reasons, students in states with exit exams are generally less likely to graduate than those in states without the tests, according to research compiled by Advocates for Children of New York. The gap is especially pronounced for English language learners and students with disabilities. Read article

07.08.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Advocates noted that the reimbursement process still favors families with access to money, information, and legal help – and that making it easier for those families is a tacit acknowledgement that many disabled students are likely not getting what they need in the city’s public schools. “What it says to me is what we knew – which is there aren’t appropriate public school placements for those kids,” said Maggie Moroff, a special education policy expert at Advocates for Children. “It’s a good thing in that students are probably getting appropriate services in those private schools, but not every student in the public schools have parents who know they can bring litigation.” Read article

07.02.2016 | Huffington Post | Abja Midha is a project director with Advocates for Children of New York, one of two organizations that filed the complaint against the New York City Department of Education. Midha says there is still a disconnect between policy and practice. Few parents know about the language access complaint line, and even some who file complaints do not have their problems resolved. And, Midha says, staff at many schools still do not know the coordinators exist as a resource to help manage language assistance. “It really does deny the parent the ability to exercise their right to participate in their child’s education,” Midha said. Read article

06.15.2016 | Education Week | Abja Midha, a project director for Advocates for Children, an organization that supports multiple pathways for high school diplomas, said in an interview with Education Week that the new option is welcome—but that it comes with some concerns. First, it makes it even more complicated for families and schools to figure out just how a student can earn a diploma, though she said that concern is eased by the requirement that this option be considered automatically. Parents don't have to request it. Second, the local diploma option is primarily available to students with disabilities, and could be stigmatizing for them—particularly if they remain in New York, where the public better understands the difference between the diploma options. Midha said that the state should consider changing the number of Regents exams required for a diploma. "There's nothing magic about the number five," and the new rule shows that the board may be open to considering this, she said. The organization would also like to see the state move to performance-based assessments as an option for all students, not just students with disabilities. "We appreciate the changes that are being made, but we do see a need for a wholesale review of what a good exam requirement is here in New York state," Midha said. Read article

06.14.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Several advocates for students with disabilities said easing graduation standards could help students earn a diploma and enable them to apply for a vocational program, get a job, or join the military. Those options were not available under a previous credential New York offered for students with disabilities that has since been eliminated. “We have some of the most onerous exit exam requirements in the country,” said Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children who runs the organization’s statewide coalition that advocates for students to have more options to earn a diploma. “We’re hoping this is the beginning of thoughtful changes to exit exam requirements more broadly.” Read article

06.09.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Some observers said there is still room for improving the new report cards, which can help families make informed choices. “Some of them could and should be more nuanced, but I think they’re valuable nonetheless,” said Maggie Moroff, a special education policy expert at Advocates for Children. “Students with disabilities across the board should have the same kinds of school choice options” as typical students, she said, and “in order to have choice, you have to have information about the schools and programs you’re looking at.” Read article