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Gabriel needed an appropriate placement and special education services for kindergarten.

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12.18.2014 | The New York State and New York City Class of 2014 graduation rates released today show limited progress for students across the state. Nearly 24 percent of high school students statewide and 36 percent of high school students in New York City failed to graduate with a high school diploma within four years. In particular, English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities, who are some of our most vulnerable students, continue to be left behind. The new data shows that both the State and the City need to double down on efforts to improve instruction for students with disabilities and ELLs so that they can achieve their potential and graduate with a high school diploma.

In addition, New York State needs to reduce its emphasis on 5 high-stakes standardized exit exams, which continue to pose an unnecessary and significant barrier to graduation for many students. New York State should develop a plan for multiple pathways to a diploma that maintain a high standard of student learning, while allowing achievement of that standard to be demonstrated in a variety of ways and by students who are not currently crossing the finish line to graduation. Any plan for multiple pathways should include instructional and assessment options for all students, including the 24 percent of students currently not graduating within 4 years.

With respect to assessments, New York State should:

  • Reduce the number of exit exams required to graduate from 5 to 3; 
  • Develop a pathway to graduation that allows all students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through State-developed and/or approved performance-based assessments in lieu of each required exit exam; and 
  • Build more flexibility into the current system by expanding access to the appeals process for all students.

We outline the above recommendations in greater detail in our report, Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards, which can be found here.

View statement as a pdf

12.17.2014 | As the year comes to a close, we want to take this moment to thank all of you for your partnership and support. We are truly privileged to devote our professional lives to work that has a profound impact on the futures of low-income children and families. 

The past year included the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education – a reminder of our highest aspirations – as well as the killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner – reminders of how far away those aspirations remain. 

We work at AFC because we believe in a better future for the children we serve. Sadly, for many young people, school does not provide the road to equal opportunity that the Brown Court envisioned. Black and Latino children here in New York City have higher rates of suspension, higher rates of being labeled “emotionally disturbed,” and lower rates of admission to the City’s most coveted public schools. Those of our clients who are students of color often find that their actions are reflexively viewed with suspicion and distrust that their White peers seldom have to confront. 

Just the other day, one of our clients, Orlando, received a summons as he entered the subway on the way home from his last class. Orlando is 20 years old and has significant speech impairments. School is a struggle for him, but he is sticking with it, striving to graduate. The police stopped and ticketed him for using a student Metrocard, wrongly assuming that he was too old to go to school and must have stolen the card. Having never been in trouble with the law before, Orlando arrived home quite shaken. Though he did nothing wrong, he now has to miss school to defend himself in court, or risk a warrant being issued for his arrest. 

Too many young people, like Orlando, carry the additional burden of facing down negative assumptions about their abilities and their behavior as they come of age in New York City and pursue their education. They need the support of adults who see their potential and advocate for them to surmount the many obstacles that stand in their way. 

Thank you for joining us in the work that we do, in making sure that the children and youth we serve know they’ve got someone in their corner – that their lives matter.

kim sweet signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director

12.15.2014 | Today Advocates for Children testified before the City Council Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Disability Services on the importance of the Early Intervention program. View testimony

12.11.2014 | Today Advocates for Children is testifying before the City Council’s Education Committee about diversity in NYC schools. Ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds have access to high-achieving schools and programs is critical, but is only one step. As the City Council strives to ensure that every school and program in NYC serves a diverse group of students, the City and DOE need to prepare schools to provide an excellent education to these students. Schools need resources, training, and the development of specialized programs to meet the needs of all students, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities. View testimony

11.13.2014 | Children born in 2010 are eligible to enter kindergarten in September 2015, and there are steps that families can start taking now to prepare for this important milestone!

From November 14th through December 3rd, the DOE is holding Kindergarten Orientation Meetings to provide information about the transition to kindergarten to families of students with disabilities born in 2010. Please encourage families to attend these meetings! The schedule is available here.

Advocates for Children of New York has updated two resources to help families with the transition to kindergarten.

Updated Kindergarten Admissions Guide:
All families with children born in 2010 are encouraged to participate in the DOE’s kindergarten admissions process. Families can apply to up to 12 schools using one application form. They can complete this application form online, over the phone, or in person at a borough enrollment office between January 7th and February 13th. This year, the online application will be available in ten languages. For more information, please review and share AFC’s Kindergarten Admissions Guide, available in English and Spanish.

Updated Turning 5 Guide:
In addition to applying to kindergarten, families with children born in 2010 who have IEPs will be participating in a second process—development of kindergarten IEPs. For comprehensive information about the transition to kindergarten for students with disabilities, please review and share AFC’s Turning 5 Guide, available in English and Spanish.

We also encourage you to review and share the DOE’s kindergarten materials: 


Both websites have very helpful information for families of children born in 2010.

We hope these resources will help you navigate the transition to kindergarten!

11.05.2014 | On the evening of December 4, the ARISE Coalition (which is coordinated by AFC) and Parents for Inclusive Education (PIE) will be co-sponsoring a panel and parent speak out on inclusion. Download a larger version of the flyer in English and Spanish.

flyer advertising event

10.28.2014 | Today AFC will be testifying at the New York City Council Committee on Education's oversight hearing on special education instruction and student achievement. At Advocates for Children, we see again and again that when students of all ages have been failed by the system and still can’t read, they start making significant progress once they receive specialized tutoring, using evidence-based methods, in after-school settings or over the summer, or are placed in non-public school settings with expertise in teaching students with disabilities to read and write. The problem is not the children; it’s a school system that is not prepared to teach them effectively. The ARISE Coalition, which we coordinate out of AFC, has several concrete recommendations for the City to improve literacy rates for students with disabilities. We’re looking for the DOE to come up with a long-term plan for teaching all students, including students with disabilities, to read at or above grade level by the end of second grade. Read our testimony

9.29.2014 | Today AFC is testifying before the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding guidance counselors in schools. We strongly support the City Council in publicly monitoring the number and distribution of guidance counselors, social workers, and school psychologists in New York City schools and would like to see the data that is eventually collected be used to expand access to academic and behavioral student support services. We also support the City Council’s call on the DOE to establish a comprehensive college preparation program to improve and expand college access for all students, particularly low-income students and students of color, and we want to be sure that students with disabilities and English Language Learners also are able to benefit from what the program has to offer. View testimony

9.15.2014 | This afternoon, AFC will be testifying at a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Behavioral Health System Planning Forum on the need for DOHMH to work with the DOE to improve the mental health system for New York City’s students so they can stay and succeed in school. In our testimony, we request that DOHMH partner with the DOE to expand school-based mental health clinics and the number of mobile crisis response teams available for public school students. We also recommend that DOHMH provide training from experienced mental health professionals to school staff around trauma-informed care, positive behavior supports, and de-escalation techniques that will enable school staff to respond appropriately to students in crisis. View testimony

9.10.2014 | More than 50,000 middle school students – a quarter of the students in New York City’s public middle schools -- have been left back at least once, and more than 8,500 students have been left back at least 3 times. Despite their significant academic and social-emotional needs, there are fewer than 450 seats in programs for over-age middle school students in the City’s traditional public and charter schools.

Today Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) is releasing a report, Sixteen Going on Seventh Grade: Over-Age Students in New York City Middle Schools, to bring attention to the unique needs of over-age middle schoolers and to provide the New York City Department of Education (DOE) with recommendations for improving outcomes for this population.

“Thousands of these students have been retained repeatedly, but without the additional support they needed to move on to the next grade,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “They’re stuck in limbo until many of them give up and drop out. Researchers have documented that dropout rates are two to eleven times higher among previously-retained students than their on-track peers. As the DOE focuses long-overdue attention on middle schools, we need new strategies to restore educational opportunity for the students struggling repeatedly to meet grade-level standards.”

AFC is also releasing a new publication for families, Guide for Over-Age Middle School Studentswhich explains the legal rights of NYC students and describes programs for over-age middle schoolers.

View the press release
Read the policy report 
Read AFC's Guide for Over-Age Middle School Students