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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

11.06.2020 | Qns.com | “A student who lost weeks of instructional time because they lacked needed technology for remote learning would still be considered ‘fully’ served for the purposes of this report if they had been in a special education class prior to the closure of school buildings, as would a student who received little or no live instruction from a teacher from March through June,” said Advocates for Children Executive Director Kim Sweet. “The data also do not capture the significant regression many students experienced because their special education supports simply did not translate online.” Read article

11.05.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | “Extending these exemptions through August 2021 would allow students and educators to focus on the work of teaching and learning, confident that students who meet all other graduation requirements will not lose their chance to earn a diploma because of COVID-19,” said Ashley Grant, director of the Coalition of Multiple Pathways, which has advocated for eliminating Regents exams as a graduation requirement, in a statement. Read article

11.05.2020 | NY Daily News | Advocates who have long pushed the state to ease the Regents-related graduation requirements — and who say the testing rules are especially problematic during the pandemic — applauded the decision to nix the January test and urged officials to cancel the June and August exams as well. 

“We remain extremely concerned about whether Regents exams can be safely and fairly administered at all this school year, and educators and young people need to be able to plan now for the year ahead,” said Ashley Grant, the director of the Postsecondary Readiness Project at Advocates for Children. Read article

11.06.2020 | Univision Neuva York | El reporte anual del Departamento de Educación indica que los pequeños con discapacidades no pudieron recibir los recursos que necesitan debido a la pandemia, lo que ha afectado su aprendizaje. La organización Advocates for Children pide a las autoridades escolares identificar qué alumnos no los recibieron y desarrollar un plan con servicios compensatorios para ellos. Watch video

11.04.2020 | Gothamist | Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York, said her organization is pushing the city to more directly measure, and address, the gaps in services and learning for special education students during the pandemic.

"We are obviously worried that the kids that were making progress are now going to see regression in their development,” Moroff said, adding that city data shows a nearly 27% decline in the number of initial referrals for special education evaluation. “We’re worried that some kids who should be getting services for the first time this fall are not, because they did not get evaluations.” Read article

11.04.2020 | amNY | By Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller and Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York: Each day during the pandemic, 13,000 students in New York City’s homeless shelters attempt to join Zooms with their teachers and log in to Google Classroom to obtain the education that is their right. But for too many of these students, the challenge is not a math problem or an essay, but accessing their classes in the first place. Of the more than 200 shelters housing children across the five boroughs, only a handful have internet access — leaving many children who already have faced tremendous loss and disruption also cut off from instruction, cut off from classwork and homework, and cut off from their teachers and their peers. 

We need a plan to immediately connect students in our family shelters to the instruction they need. Drawing on our recent experience during the pandemic, together we have outlined recommendations to expedite the delivery of critical Internet service and avoid massive learning loss for children who are already contending with immense disparities. Read article

11.03.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children New York, said the reduction in suspension length is “particularly notable” and is reflective of the education department’s revamp of the discipline code. She hoped the city’s plan to expand mental health supports in school communities hardest hit by the pandemic will lead to fewer disciplinary actions this school year.

Still, Yuster was concerned that the average length for a superintendent suspension hovered just above 11 days.

“I think there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce the amount of time that students are spending outside of school and not learning and losing days of instruction,” Yuster said. Read article

11.03.2020 | Chalkbeat NY | “Their numbers were improving, and then everything got set back,” said Maggie Moroff, a special education policy expert at Advocates for Children, which focuses on students with special needs. “What we don’t know is a whole lot about what happened in those months after school buildings closed.” 

Before buildings shut down on March 16, nearly 83% of students with disabilities were receiving the correct services, such as a small class exclusively for students with disabilities, or a larger one with a mix of special education and general education students typically staffed by two teachers. That’s about two percentage points better than the same period the previous school year, though it also points to an enormous gap: 17% of students with disabilities — or nearly 32,000 children — were only receiving some of the specialized instruction they were entitled to or none at all. Read article

11.03.2020 | NY Daily News | “It’s a huge drop,” said Maggie Moroff, the Special Education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “Those are kids that in other years would have been referred, they would in other years be getting services and supports now," she added. 

Advocates say the precipitous drop in special education referrals is likely related to the coronavirus school shutdown from mid-March to June. Families already overwhelmed by the virus and remote learning were probably less likely to ask for testing, Moroff said. At the same time, teachers felt less able to submit special education referrals for students they weren’t observing in person, Moroff added.

Some schools told families to table the topic of special education until this Fall, when in-person classes restarted, Moroff added. “Everyone was scrambling,” explained Moroff, who noted Education Department officials had to figure out how to conduct complex evaluations remotely. “But what it all translates to is a lot of kids now going without services they probably should be getting, and in any an [sic] other year they would be getting.”

The drop in special education referrals is another worrisome development for the roughly 200,000 city students with disabilities, who were among the hardest-hit by the shift to remote learning. Officials say they’ve worked to smooth the transition for those students by prioritizing them for city-funded iPads, offering services like physical and speech therapy online, and conducting evaluations and IEP meetings remotely.

Roughly 16% of students with special education plans didn’t receive at least some of their mandated services by the end of the school year, the data shows — a slight increase over last year. Advocates for Children warned those figures “do not capture the significant regression many students experienced because their special education supports simply did not translate online.”Read article

11.02.2020 | Politico New York | Dozens of education advocates are urging the State Education Department and the Board of Regents to remove the Regents exam as a graduation requirement until August 2021 because of the pandemic's impact on schools. 

In a letter to the agency and the Regents sent on Friday, advocates said that while the state needs federal approval to cancel standardized exams, they want the state to extend the Covid-19 exemption from last spring that separated the Regents exams from diploma requirements. “Teachers’ focus should be on creating the most engaging learning environments possible under the circumstances and on supporting their students’ social-emotional wellbeing — not on preparing them to pass a high-stakes standardized test needed for graduation,” the letter reads. 

The letter includes a few dozen signatories who are part of the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, including Advocates for Children of New York, Alliance for Quality Education, Bronx Defenders, Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project and the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. It is the latest push against the statewide exam, a metric for academic success that has fielded criticism amid the pandemic from those who say it puts certain groups at a disadvantage. Read article (Subscription required)