Who We Serve

Immigrant Students and English Language Learners

Immigrant Students and English Language Learners

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC)’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project combines our distinctive leadership in the field of public education advocacy with our in-depth knowledge of the needs of immigrant students, students learning English, and their families to improve student achievement and advance meaningful reform.  Our work with families, strong partnerships with leaders and service providers in immigrant communities, and expertise on legal rights and entitlements place us at the forefront of efforts to improve educational opportunities for these students. 

We represent immigrant students and parents in school administrative hearings, help parents enroll their children in effective English Language Learner (ELL) programs, and assist older immigrant youth in finding appropriate school placements.  In addition, we provide tools and information to parents on how to address problems in their children’s schools.  We also work closely with immigrant-serving community-based organizations to strengthen their ability to assist families as they navigate the public school system and seek to create stronger partnerships with their local schools to improve their school communities. 

AFC does not consider immigration status when deciding whether to help you.

Guides & Resources

Note: The following resources are in PDF format and will open in a new window. To view PDF files, download the following free software: Get Adobe® Reader®.

Know Your Rights: A Guide to Legal Rights of Immigrant Families in NYC Public Schools 
(Also available in Arabic, BengaliChinese, FrenchHaitian Creole, KoreanRussianSpanishUrdu)
This comprehensive guide explains the rights of immigrant parents and students with regard to enrolling in school; services for students learning English and students with disabilities, and how to obtain them; and translation and interpretation of school documents.

Translation and Interpretation Services in New York City Public Schools 
(Also available in Arabic, BengaliChinese, FrenchHaitian CreoleKorean, RussianSpanishUrdu)
This fact sheet explains the right of parents who do not speak English to free translation and interpretation services in order to participate in their children’s education.

Program Options for English Language Learners
(Also available in BengaliChinese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish)
A brief overview of the three main English language learning programs in New York City’s public schools: English as a New Language (ENL), Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE), and Dual Language.

Enrollment in New York City Public Schools for Immigrant Families
(Also available in BengaliChineseHaitian Creole, and Spanish)
This fact sheet explains how to enroll in a NYC public school and answers questions immigrant families may have about enrollment.

Promotion Policy in New York City Public Schools for English Language Learners (ELLs) in Grades K-8 (Also available in BengaliChineseHaitian Creole, and Spanish)
This fact sheet explains the different promotion criteria for ELLs based on their grade and the number of years they have been enrolled in a U.S. school.

High School Promotion and Graduation Policy in New York City Public Schools for English Language Learners (ELLs) (Also available in BengaliChinese, Haitian Creole, and Spanish)
This fact sheet explains high school promotion and graduation requirements for ELLs and available accomodations.

State Testing and Accommodations for English Language Learners 
(Also available in Bengali, ChineseHaitian Creole, and Spanish)
This fact sheet explains standardized testing requirements in New York State as they apply to ELLs.

Bullying, Harassment, and Discrimination of Immigrant Students in NYC Schools 
(Also available in ArabicBengaliChineseFrenchHaitian CreoleRussianSpanishUrdu)
This fact sheet explains New York City Department of Education (DOE) policy and what parents can do if their children experience bullying or discrimination based on race, national origin, immigration status, or religion.


Policy Work

Through our work with families and communities, we identify troubling trends and system-wide barriers that we address through our policy work.  A cornerstone of this aspect of our work has been collaboration with other immigrant and education advocacy organizations. Our advocacy has spurred a number of major reforms, including the creation of alternative high schools specifically for ELLs, initiatives to reverse the citywide decline in bilingual programming, and improvement to translation and interpretation services for immigrant parents. Recent initiatives include:

page 1 of data briefMissed Potential: English Language Learners Under-Represented in New York City Career and Technical Education Programs
On July 24, 2017, Advocates for Children released this data brief analyzing city and state data showing that English Language Learners (ELLs) are under-represented in career and technical education (CTE) programs at New York City high schools. The brief examines ELL enrollment at schools that offer CTE, as well as their participation and completion rates in the CTE programs at those schools. The also paper offers a list of recommended steps the New York City Department of Education can take to begin to address barriers for ELLs, including resolving recruitment and enrollment issues, offering extra training for CTE instructors in serving ELLs, and providing classroom supports in CTE schools. View data brief [PDF]

report coverSafe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students 
This May 2017 report, released by the Education Trust–New York, Advocates for Children of New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, urges New York school districts to better protect and support immigrant students and families. While the State Education Department (SED), the Attorney General’s Office, and the NYC Department of Education have taken a number of important steps, there is much more to do; recommendations include that SED reiterate that questions about national origin should not be asked during the student registration process; encourage school districts to adopt — and in some cases, strengthen — their protocols for how to respond to any request for access by ICE; and reinforce the importance of providing social-emotional support. View report [PDF

AFC and NYLPI File Complaint Against the DOE to Stop Discrimination Against Limited English Proficient Parents
In June 2012, AFC and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education against the DOE for its systemic failure to provide translation and interpretation services to tens of thousands of limited English proficient (LEP) parents, in violation of local, state, and federal civil rights laws. Read the complaint [PDF], the press release [PDF], and a supplemental letter [PDF] sent to OCR in December 2014. All exhibits, including parent affidavits, are available on file with AFC. 

Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE)
In 2010, Advocates for Children released an important report, Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE): A Challenge for the New York City Public Schools [PDF], which showed that addressing the needs of SIFE is critical to raising English Language Learner achievement and graduation rates overall. SIFE, along with other high needs ELLs and newcomer ELLs, make up the majority of ELLs in New York City middle and high schools. SIFE also represent a subpopulation of ELLs who have some of the biggest obstacles to acquiring the English language skills and content knowledge necessary to graduate from high school. The report launched a unique collaborative effort by the New York City Department of Education, AFC, Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project, and Sauti Yetu Center for African Women to build schools’ capacity to meet the needs of SIFE.