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Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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09.15.2014 | This afternoon, AFC will be testifying at a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Behavioral Health System Planning Forum on the need for DOHMH to work with the DOE to improve the mental health system for New York City’s students so they can stay and succeed in school. In our testimony, we request that DOHMH partner with the DOE to expand school-based mental health clinics and the number of mobile crisis response teams available for public school students. We also recommend that DOHMH provide training from experienced mental health professionals to school staff around trauma-informed care, positive behavior supports, and de-escalation techniques that will enable school staff to respond appropriately to students in crisis. View testimony [PDF

9.10.2014 | More than 50,000 middle school students – a quarter of the students in New York City’s public middle schools -- have been left back at least once, and more than 8,500 students have been left back at least 3 times. Despite their significant academic and social-emotional needs, there are fewer than 450 seats in programs for over-age middle school students in the City’s traditional public and charter schools.

Today Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) is releasing a report, Sixteen Going on Seventh Grade: Over-Age Students in New York City Middle Schools [PDF], to bring attention to the unique needs of over-age middle schoolers and to provide the New York City Department of Education (DOE) with recommendations for improving outcomes for this population.

“Thousands of these students have been retained repeatedly, but without the additional support they needed to move on to the next grade,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “They’re stuck in limbo until many of them give up and drop out. Researchers have documented that dropout rates are two to eleven times higher among previously-retained students than their on-track peers. As the DOE focuses long-overdue attention on middle schools, we need new strategies to restore educational opportunity for the students struggling repeatedly to meet grade-level standards.”

AFC is also releasing a new publication for families, Guide for Over-Age Middle School Students [PDF]which explains the legal rights of NYC students and describes programs for over-age middle schoolers.

View the press release [PDF]
Read the policy report [PDF]
Read AFC's Guide for Over-Age Middle School Students [PDF]

08.13.2014 | AFC has updated our start-of-school fact sheet for families of students with disabilities, which covers concerns that typically come up at this time of year, such as what to do if a child does not yet have a school assignment or the school assigned says they cannot serve the child’s needs; how to find an accessible school; and arranging for specialized transportation. View the fact sheet in English [PDF] and Spanish [PDF].

07.29.2014 | Yesterday AFC submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education regarding disproportionality under Section 618(d) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Our comments focus on racial disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of children with disabilities in New York City. Both citywide data and AFC’s on-the-ground experiences indicate that New York City disproportionately identifies Black students with an Emotional Disturbance (ED) classification and students classified as ED are much more likely to be removed from mainstream environments and placed in highly segregated settings. Students of color, students with disabilities, and students of color with disabilities are also disproportionately suspended from school, and New York City has not consistently provided IDEA protections to the students with disabilities it suspends. View comments [PDF

07.18.2014 | AFC has a newly updated "Know Your Rights" guidebook for immigrant families in the New York City public schools! The guide is available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu [PDF], and covers topics such as enrolling in school, services for English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and parents' rights to interpretation and translation.

For families seeking one-on-one assistance on educational issues, AFC's Helpline is staffed by education specialists who are fluent in Spanish and Chinese. We also have a telephone interpretation service for callers of other languages. This flyer [PDF] provides instructions in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu on how to call the Helpline and request an interpreter.

07.16.2014 | Today AFC is testifying before the New York State Assembly Committee on Education regarding Career and Technical Education (CTE) in New York State (NYS). To respond to the graduation crisis in NYS, we must create both instructional and assessment pathways that take into account the postsecondary aspirations and learning styles of all students. We believe CTE can play a major role in this endeavor, especially as part of a broader system of multiple pathways to graduation. Unfortunately, many students have been limited in gaining access to CTE programs, particularly students with disabilities and English Language Learners. It is our hope that A.8189A/S.5966A begins to open doors to quality CTE programs for all students. Our testimony discusses considerations this legislation must address. View testimony [PDF

06.12.2014 | AFC submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Education regarding the proposed bill to equip all exit doors in elementary school buildings and buildings accommodating District 75 programs with an alarm system. We support the targeted use of alarms, but only as a piece of a larger plan. To be successful, any move to protect students from elopement will also need to include targeted training of school staff, improved communication within each school building and a variety of carefully thought out preventive measures. View testimony [PDF]

05.15.2014 |  This Saturday, May 17, marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that separate is inherently unequal in public education. The words of Chief Justice Earl Warren ring as true today as they did in 1954: “In these days it is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

As we celebrate this great moment in our history, we also recognize that we still have much work left to do to ensure equal educational opportunity for all children. In recent decades, schools have become more segregated, not less, and a recent study found that New York State has the most segregated schools in the nation.
 

children in a classroom
School integration, 1955. Barnard School, Washington, D.C.
U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.

As we see every day in our work at Advocates for Children, the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. For example:

  • Starting at age 4, children of color are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline—though research has yielded no evidence that they have higher rates of misbehavior than their white peers. 
     
  • Black children are disproportionately referred for special education services and disproportionately classified as emotionally disturbed or intellectually disabled. 
     
  • In New York City, less than three in five Black and Hispanic students graduate high school in four years—a rate about 20 percentage points lower than that of white students.


We’re proud to be part of the ongoing struggle for educational equity and racial justice, whether it’s by helping individual families access the services their children need and deserve; filing litigation to improve education law and policy; pushing for positive approaches to school discipline that keep kids in school; or breaking down barriers that prevent immigrant parents from participating in their children’s education.

Thank you for joining us in the fight to protect every child’s right to learn.

kim sweet signature
Kim Sweet
Executive Director

05.12.2014 | In New York State, 25% of all high school students—and 55% of students with disabilities and 65% of ELLs—fail to graduate in four years. Each student who leaves high school without a diploma costs the State at least $70,000 in lost tax payments and increased welfare and crime expenditures. 

On Wednesday, April 30, 2014, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, which is coordinated by AFC, held a policy briefing [PDF] in Albany to discuss New York’s graduation crisis and the need for meaningful alternative pathways that provide ALL students with a variety of ways to demonstrate they meet standards and are college or career ready. At the briefing, which was co-sponsored by State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and Senator John Flanagan, parents and students shared their experiences with New York State's high-stakes exit exams. Advocates, educators, and service providers also offered recommendations for instructional models that can help at-risk students graduate and alternatives to the high-stakes exit exams that currently serve as barriers to graduation. 

policy briefing in legislative hearing room

View a PowerPoint presentation [PDF] from the policy briefing with more data on graduation rates, and check out our recent report [PDF] for more information on multiple pathways offered in other states and detailed recommendations from the Coalition.

05.08.2014 | Thank you to everyone who supported our 2014 Spring Benefit! More than 650 guests joined us on May 7 at 360° to celebrate another successful year at Advocates for Children, as well as the accomplishments of this year’s honorees, Eugene Ludwig and Al-Yasid Johnson. This year's event was our most successful yet! In addition to the generous support of our sponsors and ticket buyers, we raised another $50,000 last night to enable us to serve more families on our Education Helpline.
 

group photo from event
Eugene Ludwig, recipient of the 2014 Jill Chaifetz Award, with Al-Yasid Johnson, recipient of the 2014 Education Champion Award, and past student honorees Stash, Khiry, and Zio Jr.
 

group photo from event
AFC Board President, Eric Grossman of Morgan Stanley, with honorees Al-Yasid Johnson and Eugene Ludwig; Executive Director Kim Sweet; and Jamie Levitt, AFC Board President from 2004-2013.