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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

05.20.2015 | Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP (DPW) announced today a settlement with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) of a long-standing class action lawsuit on behalf of students with disabilities who are subject to disciplinary action while in New York City public schools. The lawsuit, originally filed in federal court in Brooklyn in 2002 and entitled E.B. v. New York City Department of Education, alleged that the DOE routinely denied students with disabilities required legal protections when they were suspended, excluded from class or school, or discharged involuntarily from school. The class action includes students with disabilities in New York City public schools from kindergarten through age 21. The Court set July 23, 2015 as the hearing date for final approval of the settlement.

Read the long form of the settlement notice to class members, the short form of the notice, the stipulation of settlement, and the full press release.

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, 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 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
Read the report

Read AFC’s Guide to Charter School Discipline

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

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