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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

10.28.19 | Univision | Poco más de 114.000 estudiantes de las escuelas públicas y charter de la gran manzana vivían en un refugio, con amigos o familiares el año pasado, según un informe de la organización Advocates for Children (Defensores de los Niños).

Los datos, que provienen del Departamento de Educación del Estado de Nueva York, muestran que en el año escolar 2018-2019, el distrito y las escuelas subvencionadas de la ciudad de Nueva York identificaron a 114,085 estudiantes sin hogar.

La tendencia de personas sin hogar en la ciudad está por las nubes y los estudiantes no se salvan de esta problemática, aunque están ligeramente por debajo de las del año pasado.

"Este problema es inmenso", dijo Kim Sweet, directora ejecutiva de Advocates for Children. "El número de estudiantes de la ciudad de Nueva York que vivieron en la calle el año pasado, el 85% de los cuales son afroamericanos o hispanos, podría llenar el Centro Barclays seis veces". Read article

10.22.19 | The 74 | The number of school-age foster youth in the city varies by source; Advocates for Children of New York reported 4,500 students in a “snapshot” count in May, whereas the district recorded about 7,800 during the 2017-18 year. In most cases, foster youth are children who’ve been removed from their parents or guardians by a child welfare agency and placed into alternative care, which can range from living with a relative to staying in an emergency shelter.

The scarcity of foster-youth-specific data thus far isn’t lost on education equity groups like Advocates for Children of New York. “It’s easy to overlook students in foster care because their numbers are relatively small, but given the many challenges they face, they require a greater level of attention and targeted support from school districts,” staff attorney Chantal Hinds said in a statement. Read article

10.17.2019 | NY Daily News | Rita Rodriguez-Engberg said many parents don’t even know they can have special education documents translated, which outline services like paraprofessionals, smaller class sizes and assistive technology for students with disabilities.

“It puts the onus on the parents to make the requests,” Rodriguez-Engberg said. “A lot of parents don’t even know they have the right to request this IEP translation.”

Advocates for Children filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights in 2012, urging the city to automatically translate the documents for any family who speaks a language other than English at home. Read article

10.16.2019 | The City | Seven public interest organizations sent a letter Tuesday to top education officials charging that the department for years “has woefully failed to meet its obligations” to address special education complaints.

The city education department’s inability to meet legal deadlines for resolving complaints filed by families of special education students is causing “material, demonstrable harm” — and requires an immediate fix, advocates say. The group is demanding a meeting with state and city education officials to spur  “immediate action” to resolve the crisis.

“These delays disproportionately affect low-income children whose families do not have the means to pay for the services they require on their own while waiting for their claims to be processed,” the advocates wrote in a letter to the state education commissioner and New York City schools chancellor that was obtained by Chalkbeat and THE CITY. Read article

09.27.2019 | New York Daily News | The Legal Aid Society and 24 other organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio Thursday urging the city to “honor its commitment” to provide buses.

State and federal law requires schools to provide students in foster care transportation so they don’t have to switch schools — a disruption that can send already traumatized students spiraling.

The most recent data from the city Education Department showed that 60% of bus requests for students in foster care were approved, because they either lived close enough to an existing bus route or are guaranteed busing through special education plans, according to Chambers. But that leaves hundreds of kids and foster parents to find their own ways to school. Read article

09.26.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | Ashley Grant, supervising staff attorney at Advocates for Children of New York told the story of a girl she called Myra — a bright student who did well in her classes, maintained a B average and earned more than 50 credits (far exceeding the coursework required for a Regents diploma). But, she struggled to pass the English Language Arts Regents exam. 

“After completing all of her other graduation requirements at age 19, rather than going on to college, Myra had to spend two years studying for and re-taking the ELA exam. Eventually, after taking the exam seven times, she finally passed it at the age of 21,” said Grant, who also serves as coordinator of the organization Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma. 

“Eventually, Myra went on to attend college, where she did well. But, if she had been able to show her mastery of ELA standards another way — through a performance-based assessment, her coursework, or a capstone project — Myra could have spent those two years working toward her college degree rather than retaking a single test.”

To help others like Myra and Ramos, Grant said, AFC is “urging New York City to make changes to ensure that all students have access to existing pathways that do not rely solely on high-stakes tests.” Read article

09.10.2019 | WNYC | Randi Levine is policy director for Advocates for Children, which operates a parent hotline. “Overall, it seems like things went more smoothly this year than last year,” she said. “But we did hear from parents whose buses didn’t show up, whose children couldn’t get on the bus because their IEP-mandated bus paraprofessionals weren’t in place … and who experienced long wait times for assistance.” While the problems weren’t as widespread as last year, she said they’re still serious. “For each child who had to miss their first day of school, the continuing challenges with bus service have a major impact,” she said. Read article

09.04.2019 | Chalkbeat New York / THE CITY | Reading experts and special education advocates acknowledge a host of obstacles preclude a fast and simple solution in a school system as vast as the city’s — including cost, an entrenched way of doing business and lack of political will. But advocates say the consequences of leaving the system as is are unacceptably steep.  “It makes no sense to let this perpetuate,” said Maggie Moroff, the special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “Whatever else you do in school, if students are coming out of school not able to read, then you’ve failed.” Read article

09.04.2019 | NY1 | Advocates are accusing the city of violating a 12-year-old legal settlement requiring that all students with disabilities receive the services they need, and they want a federal judge to appoint an independent special master to find out why. "We’d like an independent person to go in and look at what is causing the delays in implementation and how they can actually create a system that will ensure implementation in a timely manner for all of the students and all of the orders so students and parents don't have to wait," said Rebecca Shore. Rebecca Shore is the lead lawyer for Advocates for Children, which sued in 2003 on behalf of families who said the city dragged its feet in providing services ordered by impartial hearing officers for children with special needs. Read article

09.04.2019 | Brooklyn Daily Eagle | “It’s important to include students with disabilities in conversations about diversity,” Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York, told the Brooklyn Eagle. “In New York City, students with disabilities make up about one fifth of the population, but they’re often an afterthought.” Moroff pointed to school bus service as an example. Students with disabilities have special bussing in order to accommodate their Individualized Education Programs — a roadmap for special education that lays out the program of instruction, support and services a student needs. But that separate-bus system often means those children are unable to take part in after-school activities, Moroff said. Read article