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Cheick’s Story

Cheick, an immigrant student from Mali, was told—illegally—that he had to leave high school and transfer to a high school equivalency program.

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Press Releases

11.02.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Department of Education’s annual report of information regarding students receiving special education services pursuant to Local Law 27 of 2015:

The data released today showcase the need for better service delivery and a better data system for New York City’s more than 200,000 students with disabilities.

While the data show incremental improvements, we are alarmed that more than 20 percent of students with disabilities—nearly 40,000 students—are still going without the full special education instruction they are entitled to receive under the law.  Given the 40-point gap in reading proficiency between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers, it is essential that the DOE ensure students with disabilities receive the instruction they need.

To help ensure students get the services they need, we also need data we can trust.  Two years ago, the DOE issued an assessment report on the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS) finding it “apparent that improvements are needed.”  But the data report released today shows that the DOE still lacks the internal systems to report data with the necessary accuracy.  The City must improve the reliability of its special education data and provide parents with full access to their child’s SESIS records so that parents can monitor their child’s special education evaluations, programs, and services.

View the DOE’s data report

View statement as a PDF

11.01.2018 | 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 Department of Education’s proposed FY 2020-2024 Five-Year Capital Plan:

We called for a major investment in school accessibility, and this Administration listened.  The Mayor and Chancellor are proposing a substantial capital investment to make a third of schools in every district fully accessible to students, parents, and educators with physical disabilities over the next five years.

Nearly three decades since the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, no student should be prevented from attending a school on account of accessibility concerns.  But currently:

  • Only 18.4% of the City’s schools are fully accessible
  • In 28 of the City’s 32 school districts, less than one-third of schools are fully accessible.
  • In seven districts, fewer than 10% of schools are fully accessible.
  • Three districts have no fully accessible elementary schools; four districts have no fully accessible middle schools; and six districts have no fully accessible high schools.

We thank the City Council, especially Speaker Johnson, Finance Committee Chair Dromm, and Education Committee Chair Treyger, for shining a light on the need for more accessible schools and working with Mayor de Blasio to increase the investment in accessible schools in the budget adopted in June.  We thank Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza for embracing the goal of making a third of schools in each district fully accessible and proposing the funding to make this goal a reality.

With fewer than 20% of NYC’s public schools now fully accessible, this commitment will literally open doors to inclusion and integration for people who are too often excluded.

View statement as a PDF

10.15.2018 | Today, the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS), a project of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), posted new data showing the number of students in New York City and New York State schools identified as homeless during the 2017-2018 school year. 

The data come from the New York State Education Department’s Student Information Repository System (SIRS) and show that during the 2017-2018 school year:

  • 152,839 students were identified as homeless by New York State school districts and charter schools, an increase of 4,624 students from the 2016-2017 school year.
  • 114,659 students were identified as homeless by New York City school districts and charter schools, an increase of 3,097 students from the 2016-2017 school year.
  • More than one in ten students in New York City schools was identified as homeless.
  • The number of New York City students identified as homeless increased by 66% since the 2010-2011 school year.

“The number of students who are homeless in New York City would fill Yankee Stadium twice,” said Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director.  “While the City works to address the overwhelming problem of homelessness, it must take bold action to ensure that students who are homeless get an excellent education and do not get stuck in a cycle of poverty.”

map showing % of students in temp. housing in each school district

Over the past few years, the City has taken some positive steps to support students who are homeless, including offering yellow bus service to kindergarten through sixth grade students living in shelter, increasing pre-K enrollment among children living in shelter, and providing after-school reading programs at certain shelters.  Mayor de Blasio and the City Council also allocated funding for 69 Department of Education social workers to work in schools with high populations of students living in shelter during the 2018-2019 school year.  These “Bridging the Gap” social workers provide counseling to students who are homeless to help address the trauma often associated with housing loss, connect them to academic support and mental health services, and work to improve attendance.  However, more than 100 city schools have at least 50 students living in shelters and no Bridging the Gap social worker to focus on the needs of these students.  In addition, for the past three years, the Mayor has funded the social workers for only one year at a time instead of providing long-term funding.  Most recently, Chancellor Carranza appointed LaShawn Robinson to the new position of Deputy Chancellor of School Climate and Wellness and tasked her with strengthening support for students who are homeless.

“We are pleased that Chancellor Carranza and Deputy Chancellor Robinson have identified addressing the needs of students who are homeless as a priority for this school year,” Sweet said.  “Given the persistent problem of student homelessness, the City must redouble its efforts, including providing long-term funding for social workers to help ensure that these students can get to school every day and receive the counseling and academic support they need to succeed.”

Read coverage by the New York Times
Download the complete data
View news release as a PDF 




first page of report10.10.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York is releasing a new data brief entitled Access Denied: School Accessibility in New York City [PDF], which looks at the accessibility of New York City’s 1,800 public schools. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the City to provide equitable access to schools for students, families, and teachers with mobility, hearing, and vision needs. But nearly 30 years after the passage of the ADA, Access Denied finds that less than one in five of the City’s schools is categorized by the Department of Education (DOE) as “fully accessible.”  The report urges Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOE to use the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2020-2024 Capital Plan to reach an ambitious and attainable goal—making a third of all schools fully accessible by 2024.

Read the report [PDF]
Read news release [PDF]

front page of the Daily News on Oct. 10, 2018Coverage by the New York Daily News:

09.26.2018 | In response to the release of the third through eighth grade English Language Arts (ELA) and Math test scores, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement:

“In reviewing the test scores for New York City students, we are concerned about the persistent gaps that exist for students with disabilities and English Language Learners (ELLs).  Teaching students to read is one of the most fundamental tasks of schools.  We are disappointed to see a 40 point gap in reading scores between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers and a 40 point gap in reading scores between ELLs and students who were never ELLs.  With the vast majority of ELLs and students with disabilities failing to score proficiently in reading, the City must do more to support these students and ensure that they receive high-quality, evidence-based instruction that targets their individual needs.”

View statement as a PDF

08.29.2018 | Yesterday, the federal district court for the Southern District of New York issued a decision allowing a lawsuit filed by AFC and Greenberg Traurig, LLP to proceed. The lawsuit alleged systemic failure on the part of the NYC Department of Education to provide services, including nurses, to students with medical needs who require such services to attend school.

The DOE had moved to dismiss the case, but the Court denied the motion, finding the complaint sufficiently alleged that the DOE’s failure to provide needed services to the three plaintiffs was based on a systemic breakdown in the DOE’s practices, policies, and procedures governing the services it must provide to medically fragile children.  Referring to the DOE’s process for approving school nurses as “Kafkaesque,” the decision states: “Instead of alleviating the burdens borne by disabled students and their families, the current policies spawn a cumbersome and counterintuitive bureaucracy that undermines the goal of educating these children.”

View the decision [PDF]
View the full news release [PDF]

06.14.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the New York City Council’s vote to adopt the Fiscal Year 2019 city budget: 

School Accessibility: We thank the Mayor and the City Council for including in the budget an additional $150 million over three years to make more schools accessible to students, parents, and teachers with mobility, hearing, or vision needs.  For too long, the City has tolerated a system where students who use wheelchairs or otherwise need accessible buildings are effectively barred from most schools.  No child should be turned away from school because they can’t get into the building.  The funding for school accessibility in this year’s budget is an important move forward. 

Support for Students who are Homeless: We thank the City Council for adding $2 million to fund approximately 20 additional Bridging the Gap school social workers for students living in shelters.  Along with the 10 additional social workers that the Mayor included in his Executive Budget in April, this investment means the City will move from 43 Bridging the Gap social workers to approximately 73.  While the budget does not go as far as we had hoped, this investment will make a big difference in the ability of 30 additional schools to meet the needs of students living in shelters.

View statement as a PDF

first page of report05.24.2018 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York issued a new publication entitled Gaps in Social Workers for Students Living in Shelters [PDF], documenting the number of New York City schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters that do not have a social worker to serve these students. 

During the 2016-2017 school year, 38,000 New York City students lived in shelters.  The City has taken a positive step by placing 43 “Bridging the Gap” social workers in schools with high populations of students living in shelters to focus on serving this population.  These social workers have provided counseling to students, connected them to academic support and mental health services, and worked to improve attendance. 

Despite a push by elected officials and advocates to expand this program significantly, Mayor de Blasio’s Executive Budget proposal would add only 10 Bridging the Gap social workers, for a total of 53 social workers citywide. AFC’s analysis shows that this proposed modest increase falls far short of meeting the need.  

While schools cannot end the homelessness crisis, they can help students living in shelter overcome obstacles and succeed in school, but only if they have sufficient support.  The City should double the number of school social workers focused on serving students living in shelters.

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

04.26.2018 | 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 Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget: 

We are pleased that the City is allocating an additional $125 million to 854 high-needs schools through Fair Student Funding.  This much-needed funding will help schools pay for an extra staff member or a variety of programs to meet needs identified by each individual school.  

At the same time, there are important citywide needs that must be addressed through targeted investments and cannot be left to the discretion of individual schools.  To this end, we are encouraged that the City is increasing funding to provide anti-bias training and to help improve literacy for students, including students with disabilities, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students living in shelters.

But more work is needed to advance equity and excellence for students being left behind.  Before the budget process concludes, we hope that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council will increase funding in the following areas:

Support for Students who are Homeless:
With 100,000 students homeless, adding just 10 DOE school-based social workers to support students living in shelter is grossly inadequate.  While the City works to address the overwhelming problem of homelessness, they must invest in senior-level DOE leadership and a significant expansion of DOE social workers at schools and in shelters to mitigate the impact of homelessness on children and ensure they can get a high-quality education.

Evidence-Based Approaches to Improve School Climate:
In order to ensure that every child can attend a safe, high-quality school where students, teachers, and staff are treated with dignity and respect, the City must increase investments in direct mental health services for students and fund whole-school training for school staff in collaborative problem solving.  These evidence-based approaches help schools support students with challenging behaviors and were recommended by the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline to keep students in school learning instead of punishing them through exclusionary discipline practices, which do not address the underlying causes of the behavior.

School Accessibility:
As he affirms his commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Mayor must address the severe shortage of accessible schools so that no child, parent, or teacher is turned away from a school because they cannot get in the doors.  The City Council should stand firm on its recommendation to invest an additional $125 million to make more schools accessible.

Bus Service for Students in Foster Care:
While the City took a significant step forward two years ago by offering yellow bus service to students living in shelters, the City must now extend bus service to students in foster care so they do not have to transfer schools mid-year due to lack of transportation.

We look forward to working with the Mayor and the City Council as the budget process continues to ensure the final budget invests in these critical areas.

View statement as a PDF

04.25.2018 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the announcement by Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson regarding the increase in funding for Fair Student Funding: 

We are pleased that the City is allocating an additional $125 million to 854 high-needs schools through Fair Student Funding.  Before the budget process concludes, the City must also increase funding for targeted supports for students who are currently being left behind and ensure funding is used to provide systemic solutions.  Only targeted investments will ensure that students living in shelters get the support of social workers to get to school every day and receive needed counseling, that students with behavioral challenges get direct mental health services and school staff trained in collaborative problem solving to help them stay in school, that kindergarten through sixth grade students placed in foster care get bus service so they do not have to transfer schools mid-year, and that students with physical disabilities have accessible schools so they are not sent far outside their neighborhoods because they cannot get in the doors of their local schools.

View statement as a PDF