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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

09.29.2015 | Advocates for Children of New York applauds the City Council’s efforts to make New York City a model for the rest of the country in publicly reporting school discipline and police department activity in public schools.  The City Council is expected to vote tomorrow to pass amendments to the Student Safety Act that require the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and New York City Police Department (NYPD) to report more robust information related to student suspensions, arrests, and summonses in school and post the information on their respective websites.   

“We are grateful to the City Council for its leadership on this important bill, which will bring to light data necessary to the public understanding of how students are disciplined and arrested in the city’s schools,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.  “We have represented students in suspension proceedings for decades and have long noted troubling racial disparities and other patterns that called for changes in policy and practice.  This law allows schools, government agencies, and the public to see what’s happening and come together to make changes where they are desperately needed.”

View full press statement

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 and Spanish. 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

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

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 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

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.

The settlement notice is also available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. 

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