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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

08.28.2020 | THE CITY | “There’s now a race against the clock — the DOE needs to negotiate contracts and then, in addition, needs to determine the routing with more complicated schedules and the health and safety protocols,” said Randi Levine, a policy director at Advocates for Children. 

Of the 10 largest school systems in America, New York City’s is the only one planning to reopen its buildings at the start of the academic year, though educators have grown increasingly worried that the system is not prepared to reopen. The lack of bus contracts, which were canceled to save money shortly after school buildings shut down, could be one more obstacle to reopening on time, some advocates fear. Read article

08.26.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | The new curriculum and training will “build a solid foundation” for teachers to understand student trauma as they return to buildings, said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children New York, which has advocated for restorative justice practices at schools. 

But Yuster wants the department to ensure that school staff will know how to properly help students with the most profound mental health challenges and disabilities who experience emotional crises at school this year. These students may need a lot of additional support after months of remote learning, and she doesn’t want staff to respond by calling police.

The department has some experts at borough offices and schools, such as behavioral specialists and social workers, who are supposed to help teachers de-escalate mental health crises, she said. But borough offices alone saw $20 million in cuts this fiscal year, upon the request of City Council, and it remains unknown how those cuts fell. Yuster worries that some schools may not have access to such support workers. Given this year’s budget cuts, individual schools with smaller budgets may choose to let go of social workers or school counselors on staff.

“It’s really important that the city and the department of education have those professionals ready to be able to address crises when they occur,” she said. Read article

08.26.2020 | NY Daily News | “It is more likely when we go back we are going to see more children with behavioral challenges, and the adults in the room more easily triggered because of the trauma they’ve experienced,” said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at the nonprofit Advocates for Children. “It could be a perfect storm if we don’t have the tools in place.” Read article.

08.25.2020 | CNBC | Last year, roughly 1 in 10 students in New York were homeless, the equivalent of about 114,000 children living in shelters or doubled up with other families in small apartments, according to non-profit Advocates for Children of New York, a member of the Family Homelessness Coalition. (In the entire U.S., the number of homeless children enrolled in public schools is closer to 1.5 million.)

For these students, having less space for learning or limited access to internet or computers — in addition to greater issues with food security and lack of parental support — make distance learning particularly hard. 

“Even before the pandemic, disparities existed,” said Randi Levine, a policy director at Advocates for Children of New York. Fewer than a third of homeless students — either living with others or in shelters — are reading proficiently and only 60% graduate from high school, according to Levine. Read article

08.25.2020 | amNewYork | Despite the best efforts of educators, the transition to remote instruction proved disastrous for many of the 100,000 City students who are living in shelter or temporarily staying with friends or relatives because they lost their housing. Even before the pandemic, fewer than a third of the City’s students who were without a home were reading proficiently, and only 61% graduated high school in four years, 18 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for their permanently housed peers.

As a new school year approaches, the City must develop a coordinated, inter-agency plan to support the one in ten students who are without permanent housing—a population that will likely grow even larger unless government leaders step up to provide rental assistance for the more than one million city renters who have fallen into arrears this year.

The City must recognize that learning from home is inherently far more difficult when you don’t have a permanent home. Families experiencing homelessness may have multiple children of varying ages, grade levels, and learning needs confined to a single small room, making it challenging to concentrate on schoolwork. Read article

08.24.2020 | City & State | Maggie Moroff, the special education policy coordinator with the group Advocates for Children of New York, said that the city could be doing more. “It’s an outline of a plan,” Moroff said. “The concern is that there is just so much that nobody knows yet.” She said this is especially complicated for parents of special education students when it comes to scheduling services like occupational therapy.

Her group recently released a series of recommendations, including a request for information about student transportation, multiple options for in-person related services, assurance that all students have the technology needed for remote learning and small-group support for students struggling to read on days they are remote. “That literacy part is really key,” Moroff said. “Especially for the kids that are in the emergent reading years, if they were already struggling to learn how to read, this has wreaked havoc on their lives.” The Department of Education says it is currently exploring ways to expand literacy programs, using teachers trained to provide such education and training additional teachers to fill the role. Read article

08.18.2020 | NY Daily News | City schools should offer full-time in-person classes this fall to students with significant disabilities, according to a new report based on discussions with families of more than 1,000 special education students.

Special education students in “self-contained” classes have suffered disproportionately during remote learning, and have small enough class sizes to ensure social distancing without limiting in-person instruction, argue lawyers from Advocates For Children, an education advocacy group that focuses on students with disabilities.

"The pandemic created huge challenges for special education that require the city schools to respond with creative thinking, flexibility, and a commitment to collaborating with families to a greater extent than ever before,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates For Children. Read article

08.18.2020 | Univision | La organización Advocates for Children of New York envió un informe al Departamento de Educación con una serie de sugerencias que pueden ser propicias durante el proceso de aprendizaje de estos niños. La vocera Lilliana Díaz-Pedrosa habla sobre lo que se debe tener en cuenta para que los pequeños con estas condiciones no se atrasen en medio de la enseñanza. Watch video

08.12.2020 | Chalkbeat New York | As students are spread out between in-person and remote learning, schools may be tempted to move some teachers out of staff-intensive ICT classes, said Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children.

“The easy way out is to have the special education teacher teach the students with [disabilities] and have the general education teacher teach everyone else,” Moroff said. “If you have an ICT class and the kids are not learning side by side with all the other kids in the class then they’re getting segregated special ed even if it’s called ICT.” Read article

08.07.2020 | NY Daily News | "Now that we know students will continue learning remotely for at least part of the time, we have to act quickly and creatively to address the crisis in skill development and improve online learning for the coming school year, or we risk producing a generation of young people permanently hampered by the system’s growing inequity." Read article