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

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09.16.2015 | For a Mayor who wants to address inequality, teaching children to read is a great place to start. Students who struggle with reading get the tutoring and specialized support they need if their parents have means. Students from low-income families often continue to flounder, and fall further and further behind. Every year, we receive call after call from families of children who are struggling in school because they lack the most basic literacy skills. We see this problem across the educational spectrum — from fourth graders being held over, to fifteen-year-olds who are stuck in eighth grade, to high school students who can’t pass the Regents exams. Kids who can’t read become frustrated in school. Often they start getting into trouble. Frequently, they stop attending altogether. Too many New York City schools don’t have the expertise and the resources needed to help students who need significant support in learning to read. We are encouraged to see the de Blasio administration begin making a long-overdue investment in improving literacy instruction for all New York City students, and we urge him to make sure that students with the full range of disabilities and English Language Learners are able to benefit from these efforts. View statement as pdf

09.09.2015 | As the new school year begins, we celebrate the milestone of having a full-day Pre-K seat available for every four-year-old child in New York City for the first time. Research shows that children from low-income backgrounds who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs are less likely to be retained a grade in school, be placed in special education classes, or drop out of school. After years of advocating to expand access to early childhood education, we are proud that New York City has made Pre-K truly universal, helping tens of thousands of additional children prepare to succeed in school.

As students head back to school, AFC has released a start-of-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities. The fact sheet gives parents information about how to get help when they experience certain problems that may occur at the start of the school year, such as what to do if a child’s school does not have the type of class mandated by the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or if bus service is not in place. The fact sheet is available in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF]. Additional resources on topics ranging from promotion criteria to school discipline are available on our website. In addition, our Jill Chaifetz Education Helpline is open from Monday-Thursday, 10am-4pm, to assist parents with back-to-school questions or concerns. The phone number is 866-427-6033.

View statement as pdf

09.02.2015 | The first day of school is Wednesday, September 9! In preparation, we've updated our back-to-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which covers concerns that typically come up at this time of year, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs; how to find an accessible school; and arranging for specialized transportation. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF].

If you have additional questions or need assistance, call AFC’s Education Helpline: (866) 427-6033, Monday—Thursday, 10am—4pm.

08.12.2015 | The English Language Arts (ELA) and Math state test scores released today once again show tremendous discrepancies between the performance of New York City students in general education and the performance of students who have disabilities or are English Language Learners (ELLs). While the overall numbers of students in grades 3—8 demonstrating proficiency have increased slightly in both English Language Arts and Math, we note several disturbing points:

  • Proficiency rates for ELLs are devastating, with only 4.4% achieving proficiency in English Language Arts and less than 15% achieving proficiency in Math. 
  • The percentage of students with disabilities scoring at or above proficient on the exams is equally distressing, improving a negligible amount in English Language Arts (increasing from 6.7% last year to 6.9% this year) and actually declining (from 11.4% to 11.3%) in Math. 
  • The size of the gap between both ELLs and students with disabilities and their peers in general education grew this year. This is unacceptable. 

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) has called repeatedly for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to address these gaps. The DOE needs to immediately develop and share a plan for improving proficiency rates for students with special education needs through use of evidence-based teaching methodologies as well as increased use of assistive technology, which can allow students who may not learn through traditional means to access the curriculum. Additionally, the DOE needs to develop a plan to ensure that all schools are providing ELLs with high-quality instruction so that they are able to acquire sufficient knowledge of the English language in order to access the general education curriculum. Furthermore, ELLs who are enrolled in bilingual education programs should be offered Native Language Arts assessments, which more accurately reflect their growth than ELA assessments, and ELLs who have arrived within the past two years should be exempt from participating in ELA assessments as they receive instruction focused on mastering English as a new language. View statement as pdf

08.12.2015 | In July 2015, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) changed the structure of the offices that support schools, students, and families. We want to give you information about the new structure and let you know how to get help, especially since one of the DOE’s goals of the new structure is to make it easier for parents to get help.

If you cannot resolve problems at the school level, you should contact the superintendent’s office.

All DOE public schools other than specialized District 75 or District 79 schools are located in a geographic district (1-32). To find the district of your child’s school, go to the school’s website and look on the right hand side, or enter your child’s school on the DOE’s website, schools.nyc.gov. Each district has a community superintendent who supervises the principals of elementary and middle schools in the district. In addition, there are 11 high school superintendents who supervise the principals of high schools in one or more districts.

In the past, families could contact an office called the Children First Network when they could not resolve problems at the school level. However, most Children First Networks have closed. Under the new structure, families should contact the superintendent’s office. Each superintendent’s office will have a Family Support Coordinator who is responsible for working with families to resolve problems. If your superintendent’s office does not yet have a Family Support Coordinator, the superintendent’s office will tell you which staff member will assist you. Each office also has a District Family Advocate, who works on family engagement.

A list of superintendents, Family Support Coordinators, District Family Advocates, and contact information is available on the DOE's website. This list is still being formed, as people are still being hired. You can also find the phone number for the district superintendent’s office on the right hand side of the website of your child’s school. 

District 75:
Families of students with disabilities who attend specialized District 75 schools should continue to contact the central District 75 superintendent’s office when you are not able to get a problem resolved at the school level.

District 79:
Families of students who attend District 79 alternative schools and programs should continue to contact the central District 79 superintendent’s office when you are not able to get a problem resolved. 

Students with disabilities in preschool, charter schools, and private schools:
The ten regional Committee on Special Education (CSE) offices will continue to be responsible for special education services for preschoolers, charter school students, and private school students with disabilities. 

If you have questions about your child’s education or are having trouble resolving a problem, you can call AFC’s Education Helpline at 866-427-6033. Our Helpline is open from Monday-Thursday, 10am-4pm. 

08.05.2015 | Today AFC and the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) jointly submitted comments in response to the New York City Department of Education's proposal to amend Chancellor's Regulation A-101 relating to student admissions, discharges, and transfers. We believe that there are opportunities to strengthen the proposed amendments in order to ensure that unaccompanied minors, undocumented youth, children and youth experiencing homelessness, and students with disabilities have meaningful access to a free public education. View comments [PDF]

07.23.2015 | Today the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio released the Phase I report of the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline. AFC advocated for the creation of the Leadership Team through our work on the School-Justice Partnership Task Force [PDF], and Executive Director Kim Sweet is serving on the Leadership Team and co-chairing the School Climate Working Group. The report's recommendations focus on reducing the use of suspensions, summonses, and arrests in schools by providing extensive training and ongoing support for school personnel, increasing the number of guidance counselors and social workers, improving mechanisms for coordination of services, and re-visiting some of the processes for evaluating schools. Read the report

06.30.2015 | In response to SUNY’s decision to stop authorizing new charter schools unless more funding is available for oversight, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement: 

We were glad to see the state’s major charter school authorizer speak out on the need for more oversight. The responsibility to authorize and monitor charter schools must be taken seriously. Charter school authorizers are tasked with making sure that charter schools meet requirements designed to protect students, including having discipline policies that follow the law. Yet, in February 2015, AFC released a report [PDF] finding that a significant number of New York City’s charter schools have discipline policies that fail to meet the legal requirements, leading to violations of students’ and parents’ civil rights. Charter school authorizers should fix these policies before increasing the number of charter schools they oversee.

View statement as pdf

06.29.2015 | AFC has a new fact sheet explaining the available appeal options for students whose Regents exam scores are keeping them from graduating from high school. Typically, students must pass five Regents exams, with scores of 65 or higher, in order to graduate. However, in certain cases, students can appeal their lower Regents exam scores and still graduate. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] or Spanish [PDF].

06.09.2015 | Today AFC testified before the City Council Committee on Finance to request that the final budget include increased funding for Committee on Special Education staff and increased funding for progressive discipline support. View testimony [PDF]