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thumbnail image of first page of report01.25.2024 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) is releasing recommendations for New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) on how to partner with families as the city enters the next stages of its efforts to improve reading instruction across the school system. This report, Hearing from Parents: Recognizing Families as Crucial Partners in Reading Instruction, is based on a series of virtual listening sessions AFC held with parents of New York City students last summer where those parents talked about their previous experiences working with their children’s schools as their children were taught to read.

Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David Banks have made improving student literacy a major priority, and NYCPS has launched several related initiatives, including rolling out new curriculum in elementary schools; screening students for reading difficulties; taking steps to improve schools’ ability to deliver intensive reading intervention to some students who need more support; and opening a handful of new structured literacy pilot programs for students with dyslexia.   

“New York City Public Schools has taken on the critically important challenge of improving the way they teach children to read. Effective partnership with families is an essential component of that work,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “While some schools have done an excellent job communicating with families and tapping into their expertise about their children, others need a lot more direction and support.”

Shy Washington, the parent of a middle school student who struggled with reading for years without receiving support, described frustrations voiced by other parents as well: “I was hitting so many walls with my son learning to read. I was going around in circles, like I was on a hamster wheel. And I strongly felt like the school should have been my main point of focus—they had my kid for seven years and they should have been there to help us both. I shouldn't have had to run a marathon to get some resources. I just wanted to know, where was I supposed to go? Who was I supposed to speak to?”

Parents pointed out that effective communication needs to happen throughout the school year. “I require constant communication so I know where my child is at academically—especially when it comes to literacy,” said Kimberly Shaw, the parent of a fourth grader. “I don't receive as much information as I would like, despite my asking for it. I really believe that teachers and parents should have a partnership. I want to know the expectations. There’s a meeting at the beginning of the year where the school shares those expectations about learning to read, but usually that’s early and my own questions don’t come up until later.”

The report recommends that NYCPS:

  • Send the message from leadership at the central, district, and school levels that families are crucial partners in this work. To be effective, educators need information that only parents possess about their children; schools should proactively ask parents to share their observations, concerns, and ideas. To this end, NYCPS must set clear expectations for principals and provide guidance and coaching to teachers on partnering with families and effectively communicating across lines of racial, cultural, and linguistic difference.
  • Ensure schools are responsive to families’ concerns and provide teachers and administrators with the tools, training, and resources to be able to differentiate instruction for students with a wide range of needs, determine the origin of students’ reading difficulties, and develop plans for providing the support necessary to address them.
  • Provide information to families about the literacy curricula in their schools and offer families who want to support literacy instruction at home with the tools to do so.
  • Regularly share information with families about how their individual children are progressing with literacy and explain what that information means.
  • Comply with existing state regulations regarding parental notification and involvement when students are eligible for Academic Intervention Services or additional reading supports under Response to Intervention.
  • Provide families with information about literacy instruction and their children’s progress in their home language and using forms of communication that are accessible and culturally appropriate.
  • Train parent coordinators, school social workers, and other parent-facing school staff on the basics of the school’s literacy curriculum and supports available to students who need additional help.
  • Give families a clear roadmap for how to get additional help when their children need it.


When schools welcome families as partners in the ongoing work of helping children learn to read, parents are quick to share their enthusiasm. Emely Rumble, the parent of a kindergartener with disabilities whose prior experiences around literacy instruction were particularly frustrating, now has her son in a school where she’s been made a partner in the teaching of literacy skills. “I’ve been thrilled to witness my son’s educational journey at P596X, where communication is not just a practice, but a commitment. The regular updates from the school, coupled with the ‘Book of the Month’ initiative, empower us as parents to actively engage in our children’s learning at home. The monthly parent engagement activities seamlessly integrate with the curriculum, targeting vocabulary and championing literacy. As parents of a selectively mute autistic child, our concerns were met with exceptional support.”

Read the report [PDF]
View the press release as a PDF

01.16.2024 | In response to the release of Mayor Adams’ preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2025, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement: 

The preliminary budget announced today falls far short of meeting the needs of the City’s students—putting in jeopardy the continuation of important programs that have provided critical support to some of the students with the greatest needs. 

We are disappointed that the budget continues to include more than $600M in cuts to New York City Public Schools announced in November and includes an additional $100M in new cuts. In addition to concerns about cuts to programs, including a substantial cut to early childhood education, we are also concerned about cutting hundreds of NYCPS staff members, making it take longer for immigrant students to get a school placement, for students who are homeless to get a bus route, and for students with disabilities to get services.

This budget is notable not only for the size of the cuts to NYCPS – but also for what it leaves out. A number of impactful education programs are currently funded with expiring federal COVID-19 relief funds or with one-year city funding expiring in June, but the preliminary budget does not include funding to continue these programs. While we are pleased that the City has agreed to pick up the cost of Summer Rising as federal funding expires, this is only one of the many programs funded with soon-to-expire dollars.

Unless elected leaders act, a slew of education programs will be rolled back or eliminated less than six months from today. Investments supported with funding running out in June include:

  • Support for preschool special education announced by Mayor Adams last December to help the City address the shortage of legally required preschool special education classes, help programs recruit and retain teachers, and add service providers and staff to help with the development of service plans;
  • 100 shelter-based coordinators to help students living in shelter get to school and access needed educational support;
  • The multi-faceted immigrant family communication and outreach initiative to help immigrant families get needed school-related information; the expansion of translation and interpretation services; and added bilingual programming;
  • Promise NYC, which provides children who are undocumented with access to certain early learning programs from which they were previously excluded;
  • The expansion of 3-K; 
  • 450 school social workers; 
  • Restorative justice practices to help reduce the reliance on exclusionary discipline; 
  • The Mental Health Continuum, which helps students in 50 high-needs schools access expedited mental healthcare through a range of supports;
  • The expansion of community schools, providing wrap-around supports to students;
  • 60 school psychologists to help with the special education evaluation process; new sensory gyms; and initiatives to support students with dyslexia.


At a time when we have a youth mental health crisis, record-high student homelessness, systemic violations of the rights of students with disabilities, and an increase in newly arrived immigrant students enrolling in our schools, we cannot afford to roll back these important programs, especially those serving the students who need the most support.

As the budget process moves forward, we need our elected leaders to ensure these programs do not end on their watch. 

Read the press statement as a PDF

01.16.2024 | In response to the education portion of Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget address, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement:

Improving reading instruction and expanding access to mental healthcare would move our schools forward in important ways, and we are glad to see Governor Hochul elevate these issues for New York students. But we are concerned the State may take a big step backwards if the Governor and Legislature do not make a more substantial investment to support school districts that have funded essential programs with federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars expiring this year.

School districts are currently using this soon-to-expire funding to address needs that existed long before the pandemic and are not going away—including programs advancing literacy and mental health. New York City alone is spending around $1 billion per year in expiring federal funding to pay for 450 school social workers, 3-K expansion, legally mandated preschool special education programs, 75 shelter-based community coordinators, community schools, 60 psychologists, bilingual programming, literacy initiatives, and more.

While we appreciate that the Governor is proposing to increase overall education funding, this moment in time demands more. At a time when we have a youth mental health crisis, record-high student homelessness, high rates of illiteracy, and an increase in newly arrived immigrant students enrolling in our schools, we cannot afford to lose the important programs launched or expanded with expiring federal funding, especially those programs serving the students who need the most support.

This fall, more than 160 organizations issued a call-to-action noting: “We are at a critical juncture. Our elected leaders must choose between allowing these programs to end on their watch—dealing a massive setback to public education—or taking action to identify new funding sources so students can continue receiving critical supports and services. We are counting on our elected leaders to sustain essential education programs and build on the progress made, leaving a lasting impact on the lives of students for years to come.”

As we review the details of Governor Hochul’s budget proposal, one thing is clear: Governor Hochul and the State Legislature must make a more substantial investment to help school districts sustain important education programs as their federal stimulus funding expires.

Read the press statement as a PDF

01.09.2024 | In response to Governor Hochul’s State of the State address, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement: 

Teaching children how to read is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of our schools. For too long, we have heard from families whose children did not receive effective literacy instruction and were struggling to read. We routinely work with middle and high school students who are unable to read their school textbooks or complete job applications—not because they lack the motivation or cognitive capacity to learn to read, but because their schools failed to provide evidence-based instruction and intervention.

Ensuring that school districts across the State use curricula aligned with the scientific evidence on reading development and provide teachers with training and support can have a significant impact if implemented well. We’re encouraged that Governor Hochul has identified literacy as a priority and is taking these steps forward, and we look forward to seeing more details.

We also agree with Governor Hochul about the importance of addressing students’ mental health needs, particularly as we’ve seen these needs grow since the pandemic. We appreciate the Governor’s attention on this issue, including proposals to support expansion of school-based mental health clinics, which can be a vital resource for students requiring mental health services.

Moving toward effective reading practices and expanding access to mental healthcare would move our schools forward in important ways, but we are concerned the State may take a big step backwards if the Governor and Legislature do not intervene to support school districts that have funded essential programs, including programs advancing literacy and mental health, with soon-to-expire federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars. While some of the funding went to temporary needs caused by the pandemic, school districts also invested this money in programs that addressed long-term needs – needs that existed before the pandemic and are not going away. New York City alone is spending around $1 billion per year in expiring funding to pay for 450 school social workers, 3-K expansion, legally mandated preschool special education programs, shelter-based community coordinators, Summer Rising, community schools, psychologists, bilingual programming, literacy initiatives, and more.

This fall, more than 160 organizations issued a call-to-action noting: “We are at a critical juncture. Our elected leaders must choose between allowing these programs to end on their watch—dealing a massive setback to public education—or taking action to identify new funding sources so students can continue receiving critical supports and services. We are counting on our elected leaders to sustain essential education programs and build on the progress made, leaving a lasting impact on the lives of students for years to come.”

While we appreciate that the State is fully funding the decade-old Foundation Aid Formula, this is no time to be complacent. Instead, Governor Hochul and the State Legislature must make a substantial investment to help school districts sustain important education programs as their federal stimulus funding expires.

Read the press release as a PDF

12.12.2023 | On the one-year anniversary of Mayor Adams’ press conference announcing he would guarantee that every child who needed a preschool special education class would have one by the spring of 2023, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement: 

One year ago, we stood with Mayor Adams as he announced he was addressing an “historic inequity” for preschoolers with disabilities and guaranteeing that every child who needed a preschool special education class would have one by the spring of 2023. But data released this week by NYC Public Schools (NYCPS) show that although his administration added new preschool special education classrooms, the additions fell far short of the need. Contrary to the Mayor’s promise, more than 1,100 children were still waiting for a seat in a preschool special education class at the end of the 2022-23 school year. Overall, 41% of preschoolers with disabilities (12,300 children) did not fully receive the special education services the City was legally required to provide. 

Just a few months into the current school year, the situation appears to be moving in the wrong direction:

  • Only five of the City’s 32 school districts have any seats available in six-student preschool special education classes for children with autism and other intensive needs. For children in the Bronx and Manhattan, there are no seats left in these classes. Meanwhile, we have heard from families of children with autism waiting for seats, in violation of their legal rights.
  • We have also heard from families of children enrolled in general education 3-K and pre-K classes who are not receiving mandated services like speech therapy because NYCPS does not have any available providers. Some of the families who have contacted us have been waiting a full year for their children to receive their mandated services, in violation of their legal rights.
  • We have also had calls about preschoolers who cannot get service plans to begin with because the City’s blanket hiring freeze has left the Committee on Preschool Special Education short-staffed and unable to fulfill its legal obligations.

The current shortages are especially troubling given that the need for preschool special education classes and services increases over the course of the school year as more children are referred for evaluations and as toddlers receiving services through the Early Intervention (EI) program age out of that system in January and transition to preschool. Yet NYCPS has not released any plan to open more classes or hire more service providers this year.

The situation would be even more dire without the investment announced by the Mayor last December, which has helped some preschool special education programs keep their doors open, recruit and retain teachers, and open new classes. However, this investment relied on temporary federal COVID-19 relief funds that are set to run dry in June, and there is no plan for replacing those federal dollars. If preschool special education programs have to cut teachers’ salaries, we will likely see even more programs close in 2024—precisely the opposite of what needs to happen if the City is to comply with federal civil rights law.

One year ago, the Mayor noted that the City’s systemic failure to serve preschoolers with disabilities was “unfair” and “just wrong.” It is also illegal. We call on Mayor Adams to keep his promise to young children with disabilities and open the classes needed for this winter and spring.

Read the press statement as a PDF

11.16.2023 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the City’s November Financial Plan: 

While we are still awaiting details of the cuts proposed today, one thing is already clear: it is simply not possible to reduce New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) spending by the magnitude laid out in the November Plan (more than $500 million) without negative consequences for students, schools, and families. 

We have already seen the impact of the City’s blanket hiring and spending freezes on students with the greatest needs. For example:

  • The NYCPS Students in Temporary Housing office has been unable to bring onboard 15 temporary staff to assist students in shelter – staff they are planning to fund through time-limited federal dollars that cannot be repurposed and must be used to support the education of students who are homeless or returned to Washington DC next fall. Meanwhile, students have been placed in more than 100 new shelters with no NYCPS staff to assist them in getting school placements or transportation.

  • We have had calls concerning preschoolers in the Bronx experiencing long delays in getting special education evaluations and services because the blanket hiring freeze has left Committees on Preschool Special Education short-staffed when existing employees have left their roles and not been replaced. 


We are particularly concerned that these budget plans will result in even more egregious violations of the rights of students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students in temporary housing or foster care. The City must ensure its choices do not impede its ability to uphold students’ rights and comply with federal and state law.

Beyond legal mandates, sweeping cuts to public education are the definition of penny-wise and pound-foolish. A failure to invest in our young people puts the City at risk for both increased social service expenditures as well as decreased tax revenue down the road. 

The cuts announced today are especially concerning given the looming expiration of federal COVID-19 stimulus funds, which are supporting many critical education initiatives—from school social workers to 3-K and preschool special education to shelter-based coordinators to community schools—that will still be just as needed when federal dollars run dry in less than a year. We need our elected leaders to figure out how to sustain these programs and limit the budgetary fallout on our most marginalized students—not to start cutting needed programs now.

Read the statement as a PDF

11.13.2023 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the recommendations of the New York State Blue Ribbon Commission on Graduation Measures: 

We thank the Board of Regents and the State Education Department (SED) for their commitment to creating a more equitable graduation framework for New York’s students and for providing AFC staff the opportunity to serve as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission. While we are still reviewing the full report, we are pleased to see recommendations that New York modify diploma assessment requirements to allow students to demonstrate competence in multiple ways through options that meet the needs of all learners, promote performance-based assessments (PBAs), and ensure access to Career and Technical Education (CTE). As these recommendations move forward, it will be essential to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners, have meaningful access to the full range of options and pathways being advanced. 

Reducing or modifying exit exam requirements and allowing students to demonstrate competence in multiple ways would be an important step in the right direction—and we continue to advocate for New York to follow the lead of states around the nation and fully decouple Regents exams from graduation requirements. As SED’s own literature review concluded, exit exams like the Regents are “not positively associated with any college or career outcomes,” and New York is one of only eight states that still maintains such a policy. There is no evidence that exit exams increase academic rigor or boost student learning, and they have been shown to increase drop-out rates, particularly for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. At AFC, we have seen this outcome firsthand: we have worked with far too many students who had the deck stacked against them, yet persevered and completed their coursework and were prepared to move on to post-secondary life—only to be blocked from a high school diploma because of a single high-stakes exam. 

We look forward to working with the Board of Regents and SED to build upon these recommendations and revise New York’s graduation framework to meet the needs of the current era.

View the press statement as a PDF

thumbnail image of first page of data brief11.01.2023 | Data released today by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) show that 119,320 New York City students—roughly one in nine—experienced homelessness during the 2022–23 school year. While the recent increase in the number of immigrant families arriving in New York City has brought greater public attention to the issue, student homelessness is not a new phenomenon: 2022–23 marked the eighth consecutive year in which more than 100,000 public school students were identified as homeless. 

The new data, obtained from the New York State Education Department by AFC, show that, of the more than 119,000 students in temporary housing last year, 40,840 (34%) spent time living in City shelters; more than 72,500 (61%) were “doubled up,” or temporarily sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing or economic hardship; and about 5,900 were living in hotels or motels, unsheltered, or otherwise lacking a regular and adequate nighttime residence. While the number and percentage of students without permanent housing rose across all five boroughs, relative to the 2021–22 school year, the highest rate of student homelessness continued to be in the Bronx, where approximately one in every six students was homeless in 2022–23. Districts 4 (East Harlem) and 23 (Brownsville) also had notable concentrations; in both districts, about one in ten students spent time in shelter last year.

first page of educational indicators briefStudents who are homeless, and especially those living in shelter, face tremendous obstacles to success in school. For example, in 2021–22 (the most recent year for which data are available), students living in shelter dropped out of high school at more than three times the rate of their permanently housed peers, only 22% of those in grades 3–8 reached proficiency on the State English Language Arts (ELA) exam, and 72% were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least one out of every ten school days.

Yet, services that have been put in place to help support these students are under threat, and the situation is becoming more dire as the supports that do exist are stretched thin. 

Last year, to help resolve barriers to school attendance and improve educational outcomes for students experiencing homelessness, New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) hired 100 Community Coordinators to work on the ground in shelters. These Coordinators have helped students and families in shelter connect with needed educational services and supports, including helping newly arrived immigrant students enroll in school. However, the Coordinators were hired using temporary funds that will run out in less than a year, and the City has put forward no plan for ensuring the continuity of the position.  

“No child in New York City should be homeless, but until we reach that goal, access to a quality education is our best possible tool for ensuring those living in shelter don’t re-enter the system as adults,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. “Losing the shelter-based Community Coordinators would almost certainly increase the already sky-high rates of chronic absenteeism and make it even more difficult for students in shelter to succeed in school. The City should be increasing shelter-based public school staff to meet the tremendous need—and at the very least needs a plan to sustain these critical positions.”

Meanwhile, more than one hundred new shelters have opened without any new NYCPS staff to support them. To help meet the need, NYCPS is ready to onboard more than a dozen temporary staff using federal funding that can only be used to support students in temporary housing and must be returned to Washington if not used by next October. However, the City has not yet given the approval for these staff to start due to new budgeting and hiring restrictions. 

This holdup is particularly problematic given the City’s new policy of using 28-day hotel placements and limiting shelter stays to 60 days for certain newcomer families, which will cause unnecessary disruption in children’s education—especially with insufficient NYCPS staff to help families navigate their school options and arrange for transportation. 

“While students who move to a new shelter placement have the right to stay in their original school, we know from our experience working with families that this is often a right in name only,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing project. “Between delays in arranging busing, a shortage of bus drivers, unreasonably long commute times, and other obstacles, parents often feel they have no choice but to uproot their children from schools they love when they move shelters. It’s absurd that the City hasn’t given the green light to onboard staff who are already paid for with time-limited federal funds and who can help support students and families.” 

View the press release as a PDF
View the data on students experiencing homelessness in 2022-2023 [PDF]
Read the brief on educational indicators for students experiencing homelessness 2021-22 [PDF]

11.01.2023 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the New York City Public Schools’ (NYCPS) proposed FY 2025–2029 Five-Year Capital Plan

More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), students, parents, educators, and other New Yorkers with physical disabilities continue to be excluded from the majority of New York City’s public school buildings. Creating accessible schools is an important priority that requires sustained commitment and resources. 

New York City’s 2020–2024 Capital Plan made a $750 million down payment towards the ultimate goal of full accessibility in our schools. But given the decades of inadequate attention that preceded this investment, nearly two-thirds of City schools will still not be fully accessible by the time the construction funded by the current Capital Plan is complete. While we are encouraged to see a continued commitment of $800 million in NYCPS’ proposed capital spending for 2025–2029, in practical terms, $800 million would represent a decrease in the City’s financial commitment to accessibility. Given inflation and rising construction costs, maintaining the slow but steady rate of progress seen in recent years requires a commensurate increase in funding. 

In August, AFC called on New York City to allocate $1.25 billion for school accessibility projects in the next Capital Plan, with the goal of bringing at least 50% of buildings that serve as the primary location for a school to full accessibility by 2029. This work is too important — and too long overdue — for the City to fall further behind. New York City must stand firm on its commitment to improving school accessibility. Children who were born the year the ADA was signed into law are now parents themselves; it is not acceptable to postpone compliance with this landmark civil rights law for yet another generation.

Read the statement as a PDF

10.13.2023 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the anticipated announcement that New York City will limit shelter stays to 60 days for newcomer families: 

The City’s reported decision to limit shelter stays to 60 days for newcomer families will be extraordinarily destabilizing for students, families, and school communities. Newcomer families already faced significant delays getting their children enrolled at the start of the school year. Now, just as students are settling into new classrooms in a new country, their families will have to navigate whether to stay in the same school or switch schools closer to the new shelter placement. Either option will likely result in massive disruption to students’ education, whether due to delays in arranging transportation, unworkably long commute times, or being forced to start over yet again with new teachers, new classmates, and a new curriculum. We call on the City to reconsider this destructive policy and put children first, so that all children, including our newest students, have a bright start and bold future.

View statement as a PDF