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Micaela’s Story

Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

08.28.2019 | THE CITY | Dawn Yuster, director of Advocates for Children’s School Justice Project, called the data “alarming” but “not surprising” because of a shortage of mental health and emotional supports for students in schools. She accused the Department of Education of not prioritizing services, pointing out that there are more NYPD school safety agents — about 5,500 — than psychologists, guidance counselors and social workers in the public schools, according to elected officials. “We see this in our case work all the time where sadly students have [educational plans] that show they’re not receiving evidence-based academic and social-emotional supports, and they end up getting totally disenchanted with school,” said Yuster. “Some of them have anxiety and don’t go to school because they’re not doing well academically.” Read article

08.22.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | Today, New York is one of just 11 states that requires a high school exit exam, according to Ashley Grant, supervising staff attorney at Advocates for Children of New York. Grant, who also serves as coordinator of the organization Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, told the Eagle it’s about time New York reconsiders how it’s evaluating its students. “All too often, particularly in the case of students with disabilities and multilingual learners, Regents exams serve as a barrier to college or career for students who have already demonstrated that they’ve mastered state standards and are prepared for adult life,” she said. “It’s time to bring New York up to speed with the rest of the nation and consider alternative ways for students to show they have met standards and are ready to graduate.” Read article

08.22.2019 | Wall Street Journal | Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York, which seeks to protect the rights of at-risk students, lamented enormous disparities for children with disabilities: Roughly 16% of them passed in English. “Teaching all children how to read is the most fundamental responsibility of schools,” she said. “Now is the time for the city to double down on its efforts to improve literacy instruction.” Read article

08.21.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | City officials have asked the state to drop its request to provide a full range of services in the Pathways program, arguing it is not required by law and would pose big logistical challenges. But advocates contend that the city is shortchanging students who need services most: Those who have struggled in traditional high schools, or new arrivals to the country, whose chance at applying to college, joining the military, or getting on a path to higher wages hinges on earning an equivalency diploma. “Students with disabilities should have the same access,” said Ashley Grant, an attorney at Advocates for Children, an organization that works with special needs families. “Right now, they don’t.” Read article

08.20.2019 | New York Daily News | The city currently places foster care students on buses only if a route already exists. It also buses students whose special education plans require it — a substantial chunk of students in foster care. But for the remaining students, the Education Department offers only a MetroCard. For elementary schoolchildren who can’t travel alone, that means foster parents have to choose between spending hours shepherding kids on public transit, or simply switching schools, said Randi Levine, the policy director of Advocates for Children. Read article

08.19.2019 | The 74 | “Every step along the way brings its own questions and confusion, forms to be filled out, meetings to attend and rights to be aware of,” explained Maggie Moroff, special education coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York. She described special ed as “a crazy, complicated system where parents are forced to be their own advocates.” ... Said Moroff, “Our support line got around 3,000 calls just last year from parents who are struggling, who have questions, who don’t know where to start, don’t know where to turn, don’t know what their next steps are, don’t understand why their school isn’t seeing their kids’ needs the same way.” Read article

08.15.2019 | WBAI Justice Matters | AFC School Justice Project Director Dawn Yuster was a guest on Justice Matters with Bob Gangi on WBAI, where she discussed police presence in schools, the impact on students, and alternatives for creating safe and supportive learning environments. 

This track is the full show as aired August 15; Dawn joins at approximately 7:45. Also available on WBAI's website.

07.09.2019 | THE CITY | Representatives for the DOE also lack the authority to determine when a case should be settled rather than litigated. That setup leads to few quick resolutions, even when both sides agree, said Rebecca Shore of Advocates for Children, which works on behalf of at-risk kids. “I didn’t see any real plan that was going to improve the hearing system,” Shore said of the city’s submission to the state. “In fact, it seemed like the DOE punted on almost everything.” Read article

07.09.2019 | Chalkbeat New York | “These children only have one shot at education; whether we get it right or wrong today impacts their life chances,” said Randi Levine, the policy director at Advocates for Children, an organization that works with special needs families. The state’s initial report, known as a “Compliance Assurance Plan,” noted that the city had been violating federal law governing students with disabilities for the past 13 years and that previous efforts to reform the system had “not resulted in the systemic change necessary.” Read article

06.25.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | New York City is in need of more than 400 special education preschool seats as of May 29, according to a recently re-released New York State Education Department memo. While the city’s newest budget agreement allots for an additional 200 seats in September, the coming closures of two programs will cancel out more than 100 of those seats. “We have heard from parents desperate for their preschoolers to get the help they need, but who have been sitting at home for months waiting for a seat, while their peers attend universal pre-K classes,” Randi Levine, policy director of Advocates for Children of New York, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Children have a legal right to these classes. While the city and state have many choices when it comes to early childhood education, providing preschool special classes to children who need them is not optional.” Read article