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Michelle, a 20-year-old from Haiti, spoke very little English but had dreams of earning a high school diploma and attending college.

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Press Releases

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

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

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

9.03.2014 | As the new school year begins, we celebrate the monumental achievement of having more than 50,000 children enrolled in Pre-K in New York City. Research shows that low-income children 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. Children have only one opportunity to go to Pre-K. We need to make sure that this opportunity is available to as many children as possible. View statement as pdf

8.15.2014 | The Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and Math scores released Thursday show only limited progress for New York City’s students. In particular, students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs), who are some of our most vulnerable students, continue to be left behind their peers. The wide persistent gap between the scores of students with disabilities and ELLs with their peers must be addressed. There needs to be a more dedicated effort to offer increased instructional supports and build school staff capacity to support students with disabilities and ELLs as New York continues the rollout of the Common Core standards.

Beyond instructional supports, the New York City Department of Education must begin to think more expansively about providing students with disabilities access to the Common Core curriculum through the use of Assistive Technology and instructional materials accessible through a variety of formats – written, spoken and visual.

In addition, New York State must offer assessments that more accurately reflect instruction received by ELLs. ELLs who have arrived within the past two years should be exempt from participating in ELA assessments as they receive instruction intended to acquire sufficient knowledge of the English language. ELLs enrolled in bilingual education programs should have access to Native Language Arts (NLA) assessments which are more accurate measures of growth than ELA assessments. View statement

06.23.2014 | The graduation rates released today show little progress for the State as a whole, with a disturbing decrease in the percentage of English Language Learners receiving a diploma. With 25% of students in New York State leaving high school empty-handed, we have a graduation crisis that will require creativity and commitment to resolve. Although we need to improve college and career readiness for students already graduating, we cannot continue to leave so many students behind.

While strengthening our schools from pre-kindergarten through middle school is critically important, the State desperately needs also to develop new pathways to graduation that open doors to post-secondary education and jobs for students who are already in high school and not currently likely to graduate. These pathways must be accessible to the wide range of students – including English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students in traditionally underserved communities – and also provide alternative ways for students who do not do well on standardized tests to show that they have mastered the material. View AFC's full statement 

06.03.2014 | Today the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center released its School Discipline Consensus Report. The Consensus Report highlights successful school discipline reform efforts from a diverse array of school districts including Denver, CO, Austin, TX, and Baltimore, MD. Notably, the Consensus Report’s recommendations echo many of those in the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force’s May 2013 Report and Recommendations issued last year. In particular, the Consensus Report validates the Task Force’s lead recommendation for a Mayoral-led initiative that brings together diverse stakeholders to reform New York City’s school-justice practices. The Report’s first policy statement reads: “School personnel work in partnership with students and their families; behavioral health, child welfare, and juvenile justice professionals; and other community members connected with the school and its students to assess the current school climate and conditions for learning, and identify areas for improvement.”

Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, said, “With this report, the case for comprehensive school discipline reform is more compelling than ever, both nationally and here in New York City. We believe New York City has the potential be a national leader on school discipline reform. We urge Mayor de Blasio to look to the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force’s Report and Recommendations as his blueprint for systemic change.”

View AFC's statement.

03.10.2014 | In the heated battles over co-locations, there are rarely perfect solutions. Displacing some students to make room for others creates a winners-vs-losers scenario that can be disruptive to any educational community. Students with disabilities, unfortunately, have often found themselves on the losing side of co-location proposals for years, with a number of the Department of Education's co-location plans displacing seats in District 75 programs for students with significant special education needs or eliminating classroom space used for occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other services that can be critical to educational progress. Read AFC's statement

12.12.2013 | A new report, Rethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards, was released today by The Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, prepared by Advocates for Children of New York. The report examines the difficulties that high stakes standardized exit exams pose for many students and addresses the need for more flexible exam requirements and assessment-based pathways to a diploma.

The report outlines several recommendations for the State to improve access to a high school diploma while maintaining high standards that ensure college or career readiness. Our recommendations, described in detail in the report, are as follows:

  • Reduce the Number of Exit Exams Required to Graduate with a Regents Diploma 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. 
  • Build More Flexibility and Support into the Current System to Make it More Accessible to Students.
  • Ensure Transparency in Communications and Monitoring of all Aspects of the Multiple Pathways System. 


“We strongly support high standards of student achievement. However, we believe that the State’s focus on high stakes standardized exit exams creates unnecessary barriers to graduation for many students. As demonstrated nationwide, states requiring exit exams have lower 4-year graduation rates than those that do not,” states Abja Midha, Project Director for Advocates for Children of New York.

Statewide, about 48,000 students in each entering 9th grade class are at risk of not graduating. In NYS, over 25% of high school students fail to graduate within four years. For students of color, English language learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, and students who are economically disadvantaged, this percentage is even higher.

The report’s recommendations do not seek to dilute standards or remove rigor from the high school experience. Introducing additional flexibility to the high school assessment structure simply recognizes that students may better demonstrate their knowledge outside of a standardized exam setting. To read entire report, click here.

11.07.2013 |  The New York State Education Department (NYSED) issued a ruling this week on a complaint filed by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) earlier this year, charging the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) of systemically violating the law by failing to provide crucial behavioral supports for students with disabilities. The NYSED decision affirms AFC’s claim that the NYC DOE must address students’ behavior using Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) as mandated by law.

Read press release.
Read NYSED's decision.
Read AFC's complaint here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.