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Press Releases

11.17.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) issued the following response to the release of the New York City Department of Education (DOE)’s suspension data report for the 2021-22 school year: 

The new suspension data released publicly this week indicate a decline in the number of suspensions issued to New York City students, down 23% to 25,117 since the 2018-19 school year, the most recent pre-pandemic year. This number does not capture off-the-books suspensions, in which schools are suspending students—instead of providing them the behavioral support they need—without documenting the suspensions and affording students the due process they are entitled to receive under the law. 

Furthermore, when viewed in conjunction with the NYPD school safety data during the same period, the overall number of exclusionary school discipline and police interventions in student behavior is deeply concerning. Indeed, there was the highest ever publicly reported number of “mitigated” incidents where School Safety Agents or police responded to student behavior—which could have and should have been managed appropriately by school staff—and then released the student back to school staff for further action: from 5,102 in 2018-19 to 8,223 in 2021-22, a 61.2% increase.  

The City continues to have considerable work to do to address substantial racial disparities in suspensions—which result in students losing valuable instructional time. In 2021-22, over half (51.6%) of superintendent’s (long-term) suspensions, along with 41.7% of principal’s suspensions, went to Black students, who comprised only 20.7% of the public school population (not including charter schools), compared to 52.0% of superintendent’s suspensions and 42.1% of principal’s suspensions in 2018-19.

School discipline disparities by disability status are worse than before the pandemic. Students with disabilities—who are about 21.0% of the student population—received 43.8% of long-term suspensions and 38.9% of principal’s suspensions in 2021-22, compared to 43.0% and 38.5%, respectively, in 2018-19.

Other troubling data indicate that 5,371 students were removed from class or suspended from school two or more times during the 2021-22 school year, resulting in multiple times these students lost crucial instruction time in the classroom. Additionally, there were 2,446 student removals from class or suspension from school where police were contacted last year.

“Many young people in our City experienced unimaginable trauma and are struggling with the return to in-person learning,” said Rohini Singh, Assistant Director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children of New York. “Experts have declared a youth mental health crisis, and it is urgent that the City and DOE respond in kind by prioritizing investments to ensure our children have access to and receive effective behavioral and mental health supports in schools.”

“It is critical that the City fully fund supports for students that can actually address the root cause of their behavior and keep them in the classroom learning,” said Dawn Yuster, Director of Advocates for Children’s School Justice Project.  “The City and DOE need to expand investments in restorative justice practices, the Mental Health Continuum, school-based mental health clinics, community schools, and other healing-centered school settings and practices instead of squandering money on ineffective and harmful practices that exclude young people from school and treat them more like criminals than students.”

View the press statement as a PDF

thumbnail image of first page of data brief10.26.2022 | The 2021-2022 school year marked the seventh consecutive year in which more than 100,000 New York City public school students experienced homelessness, a crisis which has now persisted through two Mayoral administrations and four schools Chancellors. Even as total enrollment in City schools fell last year, the number of students identified as homeless increased by 3.3%, rising from 101,000 to 104,000.

Data released today by Advocates for Children of New York show that, of these 104,000 students, more than 29,000 spent time living in City shelters; 69,000 were “doubled up,” or temporarily sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing or economic hardship; and nearly 5,500 were unsheltered, living in cars, parks, or abandoned buildings. While they attended district and charter schools across the five boroughs, students experiencing homelessness were especially concentrated in the Bronx, upper Manhattan, and Brooklyn districts 23 (Brownsville) and 32 (Bushwick). In district 9 in the southwest Bronx, more than one in five students experienced homelessness last year—the highest rate in the city—and one in every 13 spent time in shelter.

In recent months, the total number of students in temporary housing has climbed even higher as an increasing number of families seeking asylum—many of whom have school-age children—have arrived in New York City and entered the shelter system.

“If these 100,000 children made up their own school district, it would be a district larger than 99.5% of all other districts nationwide,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children of New York. “While the City works to address the underlying issue of homelessness, we also must ensure that students who are homeless get to class every day and receive the targeted supports they need to succeed in school.”

High rates of chronic absenteeism and poor academic outcomes for students who are homeless—and especially for those living in shelter—are as disturbingly consistent as the prevalence of student homelessness itself. In 2020-21, students in shelter dropped out of high school at more than three times the rate of their permanently housed peers; only 60% graduated in four years; and 64% were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least one out of every ten school days.

The City has committed to hiring 100 shelter-based DOE Community Coordinators this year to help families navigate the school system, resolve barriers to regular attendance, and connect students in shelter with needed supports. However, a month and a half into the school year, at a time when the shelter system is at a breaking point, none of these staff have been hired, and there is a leadership vacuum at the DOE Office of Students in Temporary Housing following the departure of its executive director and other key staff. The City should fill these vacancies right away. And since the DOE can’t do this work alone, the City should also bring together City agencies to tackle the multitude of educational issues facing the growing number of students who are homeless, including transportation, chronic absenteeism, and delays in enrollment and service provision.

“The DOE needs to ensure the new migrant students entering the shelter system are enrolled in schools that can meet their needs, while not losing sight of the longstanding issues facing the tens of thousands of students who were already homeless,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “The new Community Coordinators will be critical for helping students in shelter access a quality education and break the cycle of homelessness. Hiring and training all 100 of these staffers so they can support families on day one, along with filling the open leadership roles within the Students in Temporary Housing team, must be an urgent priority for this administration.”

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

09.28.2022 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the release of the 2022 New York State English Language Arts (ELA) test scores for New York City, showing that only 36% of Black and Hispanic students, 18% of students with disabilities, and 13% of English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades 3–8 are reading proficiently: 

The test results released today drive home the need for a fundamental overhaul of the City’s approach to literacy instruction, as well as the urgency of providing extra support to students whose education was disrupted by the pandemic at an especially critical moment: the years when they were still learning how to read. While the overall ELA proficiency rate ticked upward, relative to 2019, the percentage of third graders scoring proficient fell by four percentage points and the rate for fourth graders fell by six percentage points. These students would have been in first and second grades in March 2020—grades when children are mastering the relationships between sounds and letters and building the foundational literacy skills that will shape their future academic trajectory. 

We’re encouraged that this Administration is planning to tackle the issue of literacy instruction, despite the many implementation challenges ahead. Shifting what happens in thousands of classrooms on a day-to-day basis is no small task, and the devil is truly in the details. It will be critical to evaluate and learn from the pilot programs launching this year, with an eye towards scaling success, setting the stage for long-term sustainability, and ensuring support reaches the students with the greatest needs. And as the City develops specialized programs for students with dyslexia and works to improve core instruction in the early elementary grades, it cannot leave behind the thousands of older students—with and without disabilities—who have not yet built a strong foundation in the building blocks of reading.

Read the statement as a PDF

first page of data brief06.09.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new data analysis, More than Translation: Multi-Faceted Solutions for Communicating with NYC’s Immigrant Families, estimating that more than 329,000 public school students do not have a parent who speaks English fluently and calling on Mayor Adams and the City Council to invest $6 million in the FY 2023 budget to establish a permanent, central system for immigrant family communications at the Department of Education (DOE). While the FY 2022 budget included $4 million in one-year funding for targeted outreach and communication to immigrant families, Mayor Adams did not extend it in his Executive Budget; unless the Mayor and Council take action to include it in the adopted budget, set to be finalized as soon as this week, it will expire at the end of June.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS), the analysis illustrates the need for multi-faceted approaches to communication that go beyond making translated documents available online. For example:

  • An estimated 55,585 students’ parents have no more than an 8th grade education in addition to not being proficient in English. This potentially limits their ability to read and understand translated materials from the DOE explaining complex processes, systems, and regulations—documents that can often be confusing even for native English speakers with college degrees.

  • An estimated 61,657 children of Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents live in households without broadband internet access, meaning that information communicated to families online or via email is unlikely to reach them in a timely manner, if at all.

  • An estimated 29,608 students’ parents have limited English proficiency and communicate in a language outside of the top nine (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu) into which DOE documents are routinely translated.

“Our on-the-ground experience working with families has shown us that many parents never receive critical information when it is only available via translated documents posted online,” said Diana Aragundi, staff attorney at AFC. “For example, we have worked with immigrant parents who primarily speak languages like Nahuatl or Mixtec and so are forced to rely on their second language, Spanish, in order to communicate with their children’s schools, even though they have limited literacy in Spanish.”

“My child’s school sends me information by email. I don’t know how to use email that well. And the emails are always in English, even though the school knows I do not speak English. I have to ask my children for help to understand what the email says” said Florentina, a Spanish-speaking parent of 10- year-old in a Bronx school.

Ensuring that immigrant parents get needed information and can play a meaningful role in their children’s education requires multi-faceted approaches that take into account their varying levels of literacy and access to digital media. The DOE has been meeting with a work group to determine the most effective uses for the $4 million it received last year, including using local ethnic media to share updates from the DOE, sending paper notices to families’ homes, reaching families over telephone and text message, and collaborating with immigrant-facing community-based organizations (CBOs) to create and launch information campaigns. This important work requires funding to continue.

“We work with so many immigrant families who have felt sidelined in their child’s education or who have been left in the dark because no one from the DOE, including their children’s schools, tried to communicate with them in a way they could actually understand,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of AFC’s Immigrant Students’ Rights Project. “If the new administration is serious about its desire to empower parents as true partners, then the City should be increasing—and certainly not cutting—the multi-faceted immigrant family communication and outreach initiative. ”

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

first page of data brief05.18.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new policy brief, Still Disconnected: Persistently Low Attendance Rates for Students in Shelter, highlighting alarmingly low attendance rates for students living in homeless shelters and calling on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars towards hiring shelter-based staff who can help ensure students who are homeless get to school every day.

As AFC documented in a prior brief, students in shelter had the lowest attendance rate of any student group from January to June 2021, when most City students were learning remotely some or all of the time. Attendance data from this past fall show that the resumption of full-time in-person instruction in the 2021-22 school year has not addressed the barriers to attendance facing students experiencing homelessness. In October 2021, the most recent month for which data are publicly available:

  • Students living in shelter had an overall attendance rate of 78.9%, almost 11 percentage points lower than the attendance rate for permanently housed students and a larger gap than that seen prior to the pandemic. 
  • Tenth and twelfth graders in shelter had attendance rates below 70%, meaning they missed the equivalent of more than a week of school in the month of October alone. 
  • For students in grade 12, the difference in attendance rates between students in shelter and their permanently housed peers was 17.5 percentage points, a larger gap than existed for that grade level in spring 2021.

The DOE has already committed to hiring 50 shelter-based DOE community coordinators—who will help families navigate the school system and address barriers to attendance—using a portion of its federal American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds. However, 50 staff will not be nearly enough to properly serve the 28,000 students who spend time in the more than 200 shelters across the City each year. 

Over 30 organizations and the City Council have called on the DOE to hire an additional 100 shelter-based community coordinators, for a total of 150, using its remaining $24 million in ARP-HCY funding. Yet despite these calls, the DOE’s current proposal for its next round of federal funding fails to include any investment in additional DOE staff who can work on the ground in shelters and provide targeted support to families. Instead, the DOE is proposing to spend millions of dollars to extend a more sophisticated data portal to all shelters and develop new online tools—even though there are not sufficient staff with the time, knowledge, and skills necessary to be able to analyze and use the enhanced data to make a meaningful dent in the problem of chronic absenteeism. The DOE is also proposing to spend ARP-HCY funding on a slew of new programs, but none of them—beyond the 50 community coordinators—is targeted at tackling the abysmal attendance rates of students in shelter. The DOE will be submitting its plan for the funding to the State Education Department at the end of the month.

“The Administration’s current proposal for spending millions in federal funding does not address the most fundamental problem, which is that children in shelter are not getting to school in the first place,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “School can transform the lives of students who are homeless, but only if students get there. With the federal funding available, the Administration has the opportunity and responsibility to tackle chronic absenteeism for students living in shelter by investing in coordinators to figure out why students aren’t making it to school and resolve the problems that stand in their way.”

“The $24 million in federal education funds for students experiencing homelessness is a transformative opportunity for DOE to invest in staff on site at shelters to get at the root causes of absenteeism and provide the support families and students need,” said Catherine Trapani, Executive Director of Homeless Services United. “More tools and pilot programs without investment in staff are bound for failure. Shelter provider staff are tasked with numerous responsibilities—helping families secure jobs, housing, and social services; there need to be staff on site with the bandwidth, expertise, and skill set to focus full time on the education of students.”

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

05.12.2022 | Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks’ announcement of plans to support students with dyslexia: 

For decades, AFC has been advocating for low-income students who are struggling with reading and have been unable to get the help they need in the public schools. We’re encouraged to see the Mayor and Chancellor tackling this issue head on. The plans announced today could have a transformative impact if implemented well, and we’re looking forward to digging into the details and working with the DOE to bring them to fruition so that all children learn to read, no matter where they go to school.

View statement as a PDF

cover page of report05.02.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new report, Reaching Every Reader: The Path Forward, summarizing key takeaways from last December’s Literacy Summit--a day-long virtual event jointly hosted by AFC, the NYC Department of Education (DOE), and the ARISE Coalition—and articulating a clear vision for improving reading instruction in New York City schools. Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks have rightly framed literacy as a pressing equity issue, and today’s report provides concrete action steps to guide the path forward.  In addition, 70 organizations are releasing a Call to Collective Action, joining together around the shared goal of universal literacy and pledging to fight to ensure that every child in every classroom has the support they need to become a successful and lifelong reader.

first page of call to collective action

Literacy is the gateway to future learning and essential for full participation in civic life; yet an unconscionable number of DOE students are not being taught how to read. Fewer than half of all 3rd–8th graders, and only 36% of Black and Hispanic students, scored proficient on the 2019 New York State English Language Arts (ELA) exam, the most recent year for which complete testing data are available; early national data show that not only are more children struggling with reading in the wake of the pandemic, but racial disparities have become even more extreme.

"Every parent sends their child to school assuming they will be taught to read. Yet when students struggle, parents often have to find help on their own,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of AFC. "As a city, we need to stop accepting that unacceptable outcome and provide the literacy instruction and support needed to make all children proficient readers.”

"Even after 19 years in DOE classrooms, I still struggled to teach many of my students how to read, because I had never received professional learning or resources on how to best meet their needs,” said Teresa Ranieri, who is now a Universal Literacy Coach supporting kindergarten, first, and second grade teachers. "I am very fortunate to have been able to learn what actually works in literacy instruction, and now, as a coach, I am able to share what research states is best practice with my colleagues so they don't repeat my mistakes. I hope the DOE will build on our important work and make sure all schools are using effective reading curricula. Universal Literacy coaches like myself are ready to help schools implement new programs and make the biggest possible impact in raising early literacy rates.”

The challenges facing New York City public schools are far from new, but the literacy summit came at a moment when the time is ripe for change: with a new Mayor who speaks frequently about how his dyslexia went undiagnosed in school, a new Chancellor who has vowed to create change in reading instruction, a massive body of research on what works in teaching reading , an influx of federal funding, with $250 million already designated for “academic recovery and student supports,” and widespread support for prioritizing the issue, the City has an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally transform our approach to reading instruction and intervention. It will require a comprehensive, long-term plan that goes beyond band-aid solutions and a commitment to making evidence-based, culturally and linguistically responsive literacy instruction a top priority. Based on the discussions at last December’s summit, the report recommends that City Hall and the DOE:

  • Bring together stakeholders to move the work forward, coordinate efforts, and sustain support. The City should establish a structure to articulate a shared vision, align around goals and a theory of change, establish benchmarks for measuring success, and facilitate coordination of efforts. Chancellor Banks recently announced that the DOE would be forming an Advisory Council on Literacy, which has the potential to fill this role, provided all the necessary players are at the table.

  • Require all schools to use evidence-based curricula that are culturally and linguistically responsive and aligned with the science of reading, such that every student receives the explicit, systematic instruction in foundational skills that research shows is critical for success. The City should conduct a comprehensive inventory of the curricula, interventions, and other supplemental reading programs currently being used in NYC schools, determine which schools need to replace their current programs, set clear timelines for doing so, and fund the purchase of the materials and training necessary for successful implementation. 

  • Continue and build upon the work of the Universal Literacy initiative to provide on-the-ground coaching and ongoing support to educators. Changing instruction cannot happen overnight; teachers will need time, training, and support to change their practice to align with the science of reading. The 400 Universal Literacy coaches are well positioned to provide the support necessary to drive systemic change.

  • Build out the infrastructure for a cohesive literacy ‘safety net’ that identifies students who need extra help in reading and provides them with individualized, evidence-based intervention.  The City should provide individualized, evidence-based intervention to all students, regardless of grade level, who need extra support to become skilled readers.  Using available federal COVID-19 relief funding, the City could hire and train a new corps of tutors, leverage current staff who have been trained in evidence-based approaches, and/or scale up promising initiatives like the CUNY Reading Rescue-Reading Ready tutoring corps that matches pre-service teachers with NYC elementary school students to provide evidence-based literacy interventions one-on-one or in small groups. 

“All children begin their educational careers eager to learn, and teaching them how to read is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of our public schools,” said Sarah Part, Policy Analyst at Advocates for Children of New York. "When students are not reading proficiently, they have not failed. The school system has failed them. New York City has the tools, funding, and widespread consensus it needs to finally turn the page on literacy instruction, and the new Administration should seize the opportunity to effect real change.”

Read the report [PDF]
Read the Call to Collective Action [PDF]
View the press release as a PDF

04.29.2022 |  More than 30 organizations released a letter calling on Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks to use federal COVID-19 relief funding specifically designated for students in temporary housing to hire 150 shelter-based Department of Education Community Coordinators. Community Coordinators can provide crucial supports for students in shelter, helping students get to school every day and connecting them with the supports and services they need to be successful in school.

With 60% of students living in shelter chronically absent from school, it is important to have someone on the ground in the shelter who can partner directly with families, determine why a particular child is missing school, and resolve the problem. The DOE is getting American Rescue Plan-Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) funds specifically to support students in temporary housing. The DOE submitted a plan to use part of its funding to hire 50 shelter-based community coordinators, but 50 is not nearly enough to serve the 28,000 students who spend time in shelters each year. The DOE must submit a plan in the next month for its remaining $24 million in ARP-HCY funding. The groups are urging the City to use this opportunity to tackle chronic absenteeism for students living in shelter and create lasting change by providing families and students with support where it’s needed most.

Read the letter [PDF]
View the news release as a PDF

first page of data brief01.20.2022 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a new report, Not Yet for All: How the Next Administration Can Make Preschool Truly Universal, showing that preschool students with disabilities are being underserved by 3-K and Pre-K for All and are being denied access to special education programs and services to which they have a legal right—with disparities based on race, school district, housing status, and language of instruction.

More than 30,600 preschoolers had Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) during the 2019-20 school year, but roughly a third of these students—a total of 10,300 children—did not receive all their mandated services. Key takeaways from our analysis of city preschool special education data, which were made publicly available for the first time in 2021 pursuant to a new city law, include: 

  • Relative to overall enrollment in 3-K and Pre-K for All, children of color are under-represented among preschoolers receiving special education services, while White children are over-represented. These demographics are starkly different from those of school-age students with disabilities, who are disproportionately Black and Latinx. 

  • There are notable differences by race in the services recommended for preschool students. More than half of all Black and Latinx preschoolers with disabilities, and 47% of Asian preschoolers with disabilities, had an IEP recommending a self-contained special education class where all children have disabilities, compared to 30% of White preschool students. The City has then failed to provide those classes, leaving children without needed intervention. At the end of the 2019-20 school year, 1,222 students were still waiting for a seat in a preschool special education class; the shortage of seats was particularly acute in the Bronx and southern Queens. 

  • White children were recommended for special education itinerant teacher services—in which a special education teacher, known as a “SEIT,” comes to a child’s 3-K, pre-K, or child care program for a certain number of hours each week to help include them in a program where they learn alongside children without disabilities—at three times the rate of Latinx preschoolers and more than twice the rate of Black preschoolers.  

  • The services recommended for children also vary dramatically based on where they live; for example, more than 40% of preschoolers with IEPs in parts of Brooklyn were recommended for SEIT services, compared to just 2.5% of those in District 9 in the Bronx.  

  • One out of every three preschoolers with disabilities attending 3-K or Pre-K for All programs did not receive all of their mandated services by the end of the school year. In other words, these children did not receive a single session of at least one of their mandated services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or SEIT services. Here, too, there were disparities based on school district, race, housing status, and language of instruction. For example, in Districts 23 (Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and East New York) and 32 (Bushwick), less than half of preschoolers with IEPs in 3-K or Pre-K for All (42.5% and 48.0%, respectively) were fully served, while 81.4% of their peers on Staten Island received all of their preschool special education services.  

“Families who are able to navigate the preschool special education process speak proudly of the progress they see their children make after receiving services,” said Betty Baez Melo, Director of AFC’s Early Childhood Education Project. “Unfortunately, in our experience, parents of preschoolers with disabilities run into roadblocks and delays at every turn.” 

AFC has assisted more than 1,000 families struggling to navigate the preschool special education process since Pre-K for All was rolled out citywide in fall 2015. Based on our analysis of the data, our work with families, and conversations with parents of preschoolers with disabilities and early childhood education providers, the report calls on Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks to:

  • Ensure successful implementation of recently announced initiatives to integrate preschool special education into 3-K and pre-K and add integrated and self-contained classrooms, including by addressing salary disparities. The City plans to address the shortage of preschool special education classes by rolling out a “contract enhancement” for community-based organizations (CBOs) with the intent of opening 800 new community-based preschool special education class seats in July 2022. The application process for CBOs is underway. But CBOs, which already struggle to recruit and retain special education teachers and staff, will likely be unable to open new classes unless the City addresses salary disparities that are causing their staff—who have demanding 12-month jobs working with young children with the most intensive needs in the City—to leave for 10-month jobs where they can earn higher salaries. The new contract enhancement must include salaries for teachers and staff at community-based preschool special education programs on par with their12-month DOE counterparts so that CBOs can staff their current classes and open the new classes the City needs.  

  • Support preschoolers with disabilities in inclusive settings where they can learn alongside children without disabilities, starting by hiring related service providers to travel to 3-K/pre-K programs. The City should ensure that all children with disabilities receive their mandated services on site at their 3-K, pre-K, or early childhood program by hiring DOE itinerant service providers who can travel to early childhood programs as needed, especially in underserved communities, instead of relying on independent agencies that often do not have providers available to travel to programs.  

  • Center the needs of children with developmental delays and disabilities in further expansions of child care and early childhood education. As the new Administration works to further expand early childhood education, it must ensure that all early childhood programs, including center-based and family child care programs, are prepared to serve young children with a range of disabilities and that staff understand how to support families through the referral, evaluation, and service delivery processes. 

  • Ensure all preschoolers receive the timely evaluations and services they need and address disparities. For example, the DOE should take steps such as increasing access to screenings; bolstering support to families in navigating the preschool special education process; hiring additional evaluators and staff, including bilingual providers; training preschool special education staff; and launching a new data system to ensure children do not fall through the cracks. 

“3-K and Pre-K will not truly be ‘for all’ until every preschooler with a disability gets the support and services they need and have a legal right to receive,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children. “The new Administration should take immediate steps to make sure there is a preschool special education class for every child who needs one and that every 3-K and pre-K student gets needed services on site. We look forward to working with the new Administration to prioritize children with disabilities as the City continues working to strengthen early childhood education.” 

Read the data brief
View the press release as a PDF

12.20.2021 | Advocates for Children of New York and The Legal Aid Society commend the recent announcement that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) is creating a team dedicated to serving the unique needs of students in foster care. This announcement comes after Advocates for Children and Legal Aid released a report this year highlighting the urgent need for the DOE to launch an  office focused solely on students in foster care.

At the time of the report, the DOE did not have such an office, team, or even a single staff member dedicated to supporting youth in foster care, a group of students particularly in need of specialized support. More than 30 organizations, including foster care agencies, groups of educators, and organizations representing children and parents in Family Court, had joined with Advocates for Children and Legal Aid in calling for a DOE team to focus on this group of students and equip schools with the knowledge and resources they need to serve students in foster care and their families effectively.

The need for these services in New York City is great: approximately 7,000 students spend time in foster care during any given school year. They are disproportionately Black and Latinx and come from the city’s poorest communities. Only 42.2% of New York City students in foster care graduated on time in 2020, the lowest graduation rate of any student group and 36.6 percentage points lower than the rate for students not in foster care

The new team will serve as a point of contact for schools, families, and child welfare professionals with questions about students in foster care. They will be responsible for training and supporting school staff as to the rights of these students and their families, including their biological parents. They will support parent involvement with their children’s education and implement new tracking to improve academic outcomes. They will also be responsible for all policies that relate to children in foster care and be tasked with improving opportunities and programming tailored to those students. 

"Students in foster care are among the most vulnerable of New York City students, and they face tremendous challenges, ranging from trauma to frequent school changes, that can negatively impact their learning,” said Dawne Mitchell, Attorney-in-Charge of the Juvenile Rights Practice at the Legal Aid Society. “The creation of a dedicated office for children in foster care within the DOE provides these students with essential services and helps ensure that their local schools have the training and resources that they need to meet these students' needs, allowing them to be successful in both academics and social-emotional learning. We look forward to working with the DOE to create a greater network of support for children and families in the foster system.”   

“For too long, students in foster care have been overlooked by the DOE—with no staff to answer questions about their specific needs, help schools understand their rights, or develop programs to support them,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director. “With the right support, school can be an important source of stability to students in foster care at a time in their lives when so much is unfamiliar and uncertain. We look forward to working with the incoming administration to maximize the positive impact of this new team on the lives of children in care.”

View the press release as a PDF