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02.13.2015 | In response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a package of school discipline reform proposals, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, issued the following statement: “We thank Mayor de Blasio for taking this important step forward on school discipline. He has assembled a leadership team with the potential to develop policies that will benefit thousands of students a year. Advocates for Children is pleased to be part of this effort to reduce suspensions and keep students in school.” View statement as pdf

02.12.2015 |  Today, Advocates for Children of New York releases a report, Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies [PDF], with key findings that we have made after reviewing 164 New York City charter school discipline policies obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests. A significant number of City charter schools have discipline policies that fail to meet the legal requirements, leading to violations of students’ and parents’ civil rights. The report includes recommendations for state legislators to consider as they discuss raising the cap on charter schools and ensuring that charter schools serve high-needs students.

“We hear from parents who celebrated winning the charter school lottery only to have their students face repeated suspension or expulsion from school with no opportunity to challenge it,” said Paulina Davis, AFC Staff Attorney. “Students do not give up their civil rights when they enter charter schools. We urge the State to ensure that all charter schools have discipline policies that meet legal requirements.”

For families of students attending charter schools, AFC’s Guide to Charter School Discipline [PDF] explains what to do if your child has been suspended from a charter school, how to appeal a charter school's suspension decision, and your rights throughout the process.

View the press release [PDF]
Read the report
 
[PDF]
Read AFC’s Guide to Charter School Discipline [PDF]

02.11.2015 | In response to New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s State of the City Address, Advocates for Children of New York issued the following statement:  

We are pleased that New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito highlighted school discipline reform as a priority in today’s State of the City Address. Her proposals to amend the Student Safety Act to provide more complete suspension data and to increase funding for positive approaches to discipline are important steps to help students avoid unnecessary suspension and stay in class.  

“It’s great to see the Speaker come out strong on this issue,” said Bernard Dufresne, Staff Attorney at Advocates for Children of New York. “We stand ready to work with her and the City Council to improve school climate, increase learning, and keep kids in school.”

View statement as pdf

02.03.2015 | Today, AFC is testifying in Albany about the proposed state education budget. We urge the Legislature to: 

  1. Increase funding for Pre-K statewide and support New York City’s plan to make Pre-K truly universal; 
  2. Increase funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE); 
  3. Increase funding to support English Language Learners (ELLs) and immigrant students; 
  4. Reject the Executive Budget special education waiver proposal; 
  5. Modify the Executive Budget charter school proposal to ensure that charter schools serve high-needs populations; 
  6. Support the Executive Budget proposal to establish regional rates for Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) services; and 
  7. Increase education funding overall.

View testimony [PDF]

01.22.2015 | Today, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced significant changes to the system of support and supervision for the City’s public schools. 

Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, said, “Re-structuring is never easy, but it very much needs to be done. We will not see substantial advancements in classroom practice for students with special needs and English Language Learners, or system-wide changes in school climate, without establishing a chain of command and a mechanism for linking supervision and support like the one announced today. Structure alone does not improve the quality of children’s education, and we have a number of questions about the details – in particular, the role of the borough-based field offices and the staffing of each core component. However, we are optimistic that the new structure will give the DOE a conduit to help deliver high-quality instruction in classrooms throughout the City, give parents a clear place to go when they need help with their children’s education, and help protect the rights of students.” 

View statement as a pdf

01.14.2015 | Today AFC is testifying at the City Council Committee on General Welfare oversight hearing on EarlyLearn. EarlyLearn programs need adequate funding, training, technical assistance, and support to serve all eligible preschool students, including those who need additional support in order to succeed in the classroom and prepare for kindergarten. View our testimony [PDF]

01.06.2015 | It’s time to apply to kindergarten! Parents of children born in 2010 should apply to kindergarten between January 7th and February 13th. Advocates for Children of New York has resources to help families with this important transition. 

Kindergarten Admissions: 
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 family welcome center (formerly known as a borough enrollment office) between January 7th and February 13th. This year, the online application is available in 10 languages. For more information, please review and share AFC’s Kindergarten Admissions Guide, available in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF], and the DOE’s Kindergarten Admissions Website.

In addition, the DOE is holding information sessions on the admissions process.

Bronx

Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus
500 East Fordham Road 

1/8/2015
6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Staten Island

The Michael J. Petrides School, Building C
715 Ocean Terrace 

1/8/2015
6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Manhattan

The High School of Fashion Industries
225 West 24th Street 

1/12/2015
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM 

Brooklyn

Prospect Heights Educational Campus
883 Classon Avenue 

1/13/2015
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Queens

Forest Hills High School
67-01 110th Street

1/13/2015
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Additional Process for Students with Disabilities: 
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 [PDF] and Spanish [PDF], and the DOE’s Turning 5 Website.

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