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Policy Reports

Policy Reports

This page features all of Advocates for Children of New York’s most recent policy reports on education issues in New York. Please see our archive for policy reports issued prior to 2010.

Note: All policy reports are in PDF format and will open in a new window. To view PDF files, download the following free software: Get Adobe® Reader®.


first page of data reportStudent Homelessness in New York City
More than 119,000 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. 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. 

first page of educational indicators reportEducational Indicators for Students Experiencing Homelessness, 2021-2022
This November 2023 fact sheet summarizes data obtained from the DOE by AFC on more than 88,000 DOE students identified as homeless in 2021–22. Of these students, 30% (more than 26,200 children) were living in City shelters.



Cover image of interactive report, Access Still DeniedAccess (Still) Denied: An Update on the Physical Inaccessibility of NYC Public Schools
The August 2023 interactive report finds that only 31.1% of schools are fully accessible to students, parents, educators, and community members with physical disabilities as of the start of the 2023-24 school year. The report calls on the City to invest $1.25 billion—roughly 5-6% of its capital budget—in the forthcoming five-year Capital Plan to improve school accessibility.


first page of data briefRising Enrollment, Shrinking Support: The Urgent Need to Protect Programs for Immigrant Students Amidst Funding Threats
The June 2023 brief shows the urgent need to reject proposed cuts and provide targeted investments to support immigrant students and families, including the more than 18,000 new students in temporary housing—most of whom are recently arrived immigrants—who have enrolled in New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) in the past year.


first page of data briefFalling Short: NYC’s Failure to Provide Mandated Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities
The June 2023 data analysis shows that 37% of all preschoolers with disabilities—a total 9,800 children—went the entire 2021–22 school year without receiving at least one of the types of services the DOE was legally required to provide, a systemic violation of students’ rights. The report analyzes DOE data, which likely significantly understate the magnitude of the problem, and makes recommendations for needed changes moving forward.




thumbnail image of first page of reportBuilding on Potential: Next Steps to Improve Educational Outcomes for Students in Foster Care
The January 2023 report provides an overview of the current — and dire — state of education for students in foster care in New York City, analyzing City data obtained through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, and makes recommendations for how the City can better support students in foster care now that the DOE's new foster care team is up and running.

first page of call to actionSustaining Progress for NYC Students: A Call to Action for Policy Makers
The January 2023 call to action highlights the need for sustained investments to support education initiatives funded with one-time federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars after that funding expires. Over the last two years, the DOE received more than $7 billion in federal stimulus funding, allowing the City to fund a number of critical education priorities. While some of this funding has been used for short-term expenses directly stemming from the pandemic, the DOE is also using these stimulus dollars to address student needs that existed long before the pandemic, many of which have historically been underfunded. Although the federal COVID-19 relief funds will run dry in October 2024, these ongoing needs will remain. 


first page of data briefStudent Homelessness in New York City
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.

first page of data briefMore than Translation: Multi-Faceted Solutions for Communicating with NYC’s Immigrant Families
This June 2022 data analysis estimates that more than 329,000 public school students do not have a parent who speaks English fluently and calls for investments in a permanent, central system for immigrant family communications at the Department of Education (DOE). The analysis uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) to illustrates the need for multi-faceted approaches to communication that go beyond making translated documents available online.


first page of data briefStill Disconnected: Persistently Low Attendance Rates for Students in Shelter
This May 2022 data brief highlights alarmingly low attendance rates for students living in homeless shelters and calls 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.

first page of literacy reportReaching Every Reader: The Path Forward
This May 2022 report summarizes key takeaways from the December 2021 Literacy Summit—a day-long virtual event jointly hosted by AFC, the NYC Department of Education (DOE), and the ARISE Coalition—and makes clear recommendations to the City the DOE for improving reading instruction in New York City schools. The report was accompanied by a Call to Collective Action, signed by 70 organizations, 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 data briefNot Yet for All: How the Next Administration Can Make Preschool Truly Universal
In January 2022, AFC released a new report 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. The report showed that roughly a third of preschoolers with IEPs—a total of 10,300 children—did not receive all their mandated services, and includes recommendations for the new administration.


first page of recommendations Recommendations for the Next Administration to Address the Educational Needs of Students Experiencing Homelessness
In November 2021, AFC joined more than 40 organizations in releasing recommendations calling on Mayor-elect Adams to take bold action to address the educational needs of students experiencing homelessness, and to overhaul the educational support system in shelters, starting by hiring 150 shelter-based DOE Community Coordinators, and launching an interagency initiative to tackle the educational barriers these students face.

first page of data brief Student Homelessness in New York City
This November 2021 data brief 
showed that more than 101,000 New York City students were identified as homeless during the 2020-2021 school year, a 42% increase since the start of the decade and the sixth consecutive school year that more than 100,000 New York City students experienced homelessness.

first page of data brief

Disconnected: The Pandemic's Toll on Attendance for Students in Shelter
This October 2021
 policy brief documents the pandemic’s heavy toll on school attendance for students living in homeless shelters and calls on the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to direct federal COVID-19 relief dollars to overhaul the education support system in shelters, starting with hiring 150 shelter-based DOE community coordinators. 

first page of data brief

Police Response to Students in Emotional Crisis: A Call for Comprehensive Mental Health and Social-Emotional Support for Students in Police-Free Schools
This June 2021 update to our 2017 Children in Crisis report explores data on police responses to more than 12,000 'child in crisis' interventions, where a student in emotional distress is removed from class and transported to the hospital for psychological evaluation. A disproportionate share of these interventions involved Black students, students attending District 75 schools, and students attending schools located in low-income communities of color. We call on the City to end the criminalization of students in emotional crisis by eliminating police from schools and investing in a  system of school-wide, multi-tiered behavioral and mental health supports and services.

first page of policy briefTurning the Page on Literacy Instruction in NYC Schools
This May 2021 policy brief highlights racial disparities in reading proficiency rates and calls on the City to invest part of its $7 billion in federal COVID-19 education funding in a comprehensive effort to revamp the way it provides reading instruction to all students and offer targeted interventions to those who need extra support.

first page of policy briefBuilding a Network of Support: The Case for a DOE Office for Students in Foster Care
This May 2021 AFC and Legal Aid Society report highlights the urgent need for the Department of Education (DOE) to launch a small office focused solely on the needs of students in foster care. Currently, the DOE does not have an office, team, or even a single staff member dedicated to supporting the 6,000 New York City youth in foster care, a group of students particularly in need of specialized support. 

first page of policy briefDisparities in Attendance During COVID-19
This April 2021 policy brief highlights disparities in school attendance during the pandemic, and calls on the City to invest in an ambitious Education Recovery Plan that ensures all students can receive the academic and social-emotional support they need as they return to school. The attendance provides a snapshot of student engagement during remote and blended learning, making clear that COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on marginalized student populations. While absenteeism has risen across the board this year, attendance rates are strikingly low among students living in homeless shelters, English Language Learners (ELLs), and students with disabilities, particularly at the high school level.

first page of COVID-19 education recovery planAFC's COVID-19 Education Recovery Plan
With the federal government having approved the largest one-time investment in education in our nation’s history, NYC needs an ambitions education initiative to pave the way to hope and opportunity for this generation of students.  Such a plan must invest resources in academic support, mental health support, and outreach and engagement.  It must be targeted to assist students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including the provision of specialized instruction and support where needed. This plan outlines our recommendations for steps the City should take.

cover of early interventions data briefVision for NYC Schools: Recommendations for the Next Administration
The next Mayor of New York City will take office at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the longstanding inequities in our City’s schools. Based on our 50 years of on-the-ground experience helping students and families navigate the largest school system in the country and get the support they need to learn, we outline some of the most pressing challenges in public education — including those that pre-date COVID — where the next Mayor must be prepared to focus attention, energy, and resources. 

cover of early interventions data briefDelayed Interventions: Early Indicators of the Pandemic’s Impact on Infants and Toddlers
This January 2021 data brief examines the steep decline during the COVID-19 pandemic in the number of infants and toddlers referred to the New York City Early Intervention (EI) program to address concerns about their development.  As a result of the drop in referrals, thousands of young children with developmental delays or disabilities missed the chance for intervention at the time it is most effective. The data brief analyzes data from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and makes a number of recommendations to New York State and City for addressing the pandemic’s impact on the Early Intervention program.


cover of special education recommendationsRecommendations for Improving the Education of New York City Students with Disabilities During the Pandemic
This set of August 2020 recommendations for the Department of Education's school reopening plans urge the City to ensure that students with special education needs get the support they require this school year regardless of the setting in which they will be learning. This includes recommendations regarding instruction, related service delivery, parent involvement, the provision of behavioral and mental health supports, health and safety protocols unique to the population, and access to evaluations, technology, compensatory services, child care, and appropriate transportation.

first page of policy briefInvest in Education, not Criminalization
This June 2020 policy brief summarizes the proposed cuts to education funding in the Mayor's FY21 Executive Budget and the devastating impact these cuts would have on schools and students. The brief urges Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to reject cuts to education and ensure schools have more resources—not less—to address the challenges caused by the pandemic. 

cover of reportProtect Graduation Opportunities for Students Aging Out During COVID-19 
This June 2020 policy brief shows that there are approximately 3,700 students in New York State who will age out of school this year and lose their chance to earn a diploma. The students aging out in June 2020 are disproportionately students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners, the same student populations who have been hardest hit by the pandemic itself and by the challenges of online learning, The brief calls on the New York State Education Department to issue guidance directing districts to allow all students aging out of school without a diploma to return to high school next year—a recommendation echoed by more than 100 organizations in a recent letter

cover of reportWaiting for a Seat: The Shortage of Preschool Special Education Class Seats in New York City
This January 2020 policy brief shows a projected shortfall of more than 1,000 preschool special education class seats for New York City children with disabilities for spring 2020. Children with significant needs have a legal right to a seat in a preschool special education class with a certified special education teacher and a smaller student-to-staff ratio.  However, as a result of years of under-investment by the State in preschool special education programs, New York is falling far short of providing all children with the classes they need.  The report includes recommendation for both the State and the City, including increasing the payment rate for preschool special classes by ten percent, and opening new DOE classes or facilitating the opening of new classes at CBOs.


cover of reportEarly Inequities: How Underfunding Early Intervention Leaves Low-Income Children of Color Behind 
This December 2019 report, published in partnership with Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC), shows that State disinvestment in New York’s Early Intervention program has caused major racial and socio-economic disparities in access to services. The report shows that children under the age of three with developmental delays or disabilities are less likely to receive critical services that could help them reach their full potential if they live in low-income neighborhoods of color, and makes a number of recommendations to New York City and New York State in order to increase access to Early Intervention services.


first page of reportAccess Denied: School Accessibility in New York City 
This October 2018 data brief looks at the accessibility of New York City’s 1,800 public schools. Nearly 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Access Denied finds that less than one in five of the City’s schools is categorized by the DOE as “fully accessible.”  The report urges the City to use the forthcoming capital plan to reach an ambitious and attainable goal—making a third of all schools fully accessible by 2024.  

Gaps in Social Workers for Students Living in Shelters 
This May 2018 report documents the number of New York City schools with high concentrations of students living in shelters that do not have a social worker focused on this population. AFC’s analysis shows that the Mayor's proposed modest increase in funding falls far short of meeting the need, and calls on the City to double the number of school social workers focused on serving students living in shelters.

Recommendations for Improving School Access and Success for Rising Numbers of Students in Temporary Housing 
In March 2018, Advocates for Children and Citizens' Committee for Children of New York jointly issued recommendations for expanding support for students experiencing homelessness. The recommendations include establishing high-level Department of Education leadership, expanding the Bridging the Gap school-based social worker program, and hiring DOE social workers to provide intensive supports at shelters to address education-related issues.

Advocacy Strategies to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline: From Working with Localities to Litigation
This March 2018 white paper discusses approaches that work to positively support students, improve school climate, and reduce suspensions, referrals to law enforcement, and inappropriate removals to the psychiatric emergency room. The paper also discusses strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and the disparate impact on students with disabilities and students of color, including working collaboratively with school districts and localities, advocating to change laws, and litigation.


first page of data briefChildren in Crisis: Police Response to Students in Emotional Distress 
This November 2017 data brief analyzes data reported by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) showing that Black students are significantly over-represented in NYPD “child in crisis” interventions – incidents involving students in emotional distress sent to the hospital for psychological evaluation. The brief examines the demographic characteristics of students involved in child in crisis interventions, as well as the NYPD’s use of handcuffs on students as young as 5 years old during these incidents between July 2016 and June 2017.

empowering parents report coverEmpowering Parents So Children Succeed: A Toolkit to Support Parent Involvement in Education when their Children are in Foster Care 
For the past three years, Advocates for Children has been partnering with SCO Family of Services, a social services provider, to build the agency’s capacity to address the education-related needs of the children they serve. As part of this collaboration, we have been working to develop best practices and create resources to help foster care agencies engage and empower parents to take an active role in their children’s education. In September 2017, we jointly released a new report, Empowering Parents So Children Succeed, which provides recommendations for child welfare agencies as well as an easy-to-use toolkit to support parent involvement in education when their children are in foster care. 

page 1 of data briefMissed Potential: English Language Learners Under-Represented in New York City Career and Technical Education Programs
On July 24, 2017, Advocates for Children released this data brief analyzing city and state data showing that English Language Learners (ELLs) are under-represented in career and technical education (CTE) programs at New York City high schools. The brief examines ELL enrollment at schools that offer CTE, as well as their participation and completion rates in the CTE programs at those schools. The also paper offers a list of recommended steps the New York City Department of Education can take to begin to address barriers for ELLs, including resolving recruitment and enrollment issues, offering extra training for CTE instructors in serving ELLs, and providing classroom supports in CTE schools. 

report coverSafe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students 
This May 2017 report, released by the Education Trust–New York, Advocates for Children of New York, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, urges New York school districts to better protect and support immigrant students and families. While the State Education Department (SED), the Attorney General’s Office, and the NYC Department of Education have taken a number of important steps, there is much more to do; recommendations include that SED reiterate that questions about national origin should not be asked during the student registration process; encourage school districts to adopt — and in some cases, strengthen — their protocols for how to respond to any request for access by ICE; and reinforce the importance of providing social-emotional support. 


CTE report cover

Obstacles and Opportunities: Creating Career and Technical Education Pathways for Students with Disabilities 
This December 2016 report analyzes access to high school-level career and technical education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities in New York State. Although students with disabilities made up about 15% of the class that was expected to graduate in 2015, they comprised only 11.6% of students reported to have completed most of a CTE program. Based on data findings and interviews with professionals, special education advocates, and parents of students with disabilities, the paper makes recommendations for addressing barriers to CTE.

A is for All report cover

A is for All: Meeting the Literacy Needs of Students with and without Disabilities in the New York City Public Schools 
On March 10, 2016,  AFC released this report documenting the need for urgent and sustained action to address the particularly low literacy levels for low-income students with disabilities. The report discusses the key elements for teaching reading effectively to all students, reviews research and case stories indicating that students with a wide range of disabilities are capable of learning to read if they receive appropriate instruction, highlights a number of promising programs in New York City, and provides recommendations for implementing systemic and lasting change. 

Discipline for Students with Disabilities: Support Rather than Exclusion 
This March 2016 white paper discusses the rights of students with disabilities to behavioral supports, and individual and systemic advocacy strategies that provide support for students with disabilities instead of excluding them from school. 


Civil Rights Suspended report coverCivil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies
This February 2015 report describes findings made from AFC's review of 164 New York City charter school discipline policies obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests. A significant number of City charter schools have discipline policies that fail to meet the legal requirements, leading to violations of students’ and parents’ civil rights. The report includes recommendations for state legislators to consider as they discuss raising the cap on charter schools and ensuring that charter schools serve high-needs students. 


Sixteen Going on Seventh Grade report cover

Sixteen Going on Seventh Grade: Over-Age Students in New York City Middle Schools
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. This September 2014 policy report brings attention to the unique needs of over-age middle schoolers and provides the New York City Department of Education (DOE) with recommendations for improving outcomes for this population.


Rethinking Pathways to Graduation report coverRethinking Pathways to High School Graduation in New York State: Forging New Ways for Students to Show Their Achievement of Standards 
On December 12, 2013, the Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma released this report, prepared by Advocates for Children of New York, examining the difficulties that high stakes standardized exit exams pose for many students and addressing the need for more flexible exam requirements and assessment-based pathways to a diploma. The report outlines several recommendations for the State to improve access to a high school diploma while maintaining high standards that ensure college or career readiness.

Essential Voices Part 2 report coverEssential Voices, Part II: Engaging Students and Parents in the Implementation of a New Teacher Evaluation System 
This October 2013 policy paper calls on the DOE to include students and parents when putting the new teacher evaluation system into practice by establishing a stakeholder advisory group to provide feedback on the policy implementation process. The paper also provides examples of structures established for this purpose in other cities and states.


Keeping Kids in School and Out of Court report coverKeeping Kids In School and Out of Court: Report and Recommendations from the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force 
In the 2011-12 school year, there were 69,694 suspensions and 2,548 arrests and summonses in the NYC public schools. Research and experience have shown that we can keep our schools safe while reducing these high rates of suspensions and arrests, which are linked to high rates of school failure, drop out, and future court involvement. We need effective and fair school discipline, with schools creating and nurturing a climate and culture that promote positive behavior, and we need targeted, consistent collaboration between the education, justice, and social service systems, as well as the communities they serve. This report, released on May 30, 2013, outlines a plan of action for the next mayor to lead a city-wide effort to keep kids in school and out of court.


Policy Recommendations: Effective Accountability Mechanisms for New York State's English Language Learners 
On October 1, 2012, AFC and The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) jointly released this policy paper, which sets forth key principles for a sound ELL accountability framework in New York State.

Meeting the Educational Needs of Students in the Child Welfare System: Lessons Learned from the Field 
Over the last decade, child welfare agencies and advocates have begun to recognize that the students they serve need access to greater educational opportunities, and that education is critically important to child wellbeing, permanency planning and a successful transition to adulthood. This report from Advocates for Children of New York offers insights and analysis from five years implementing Project Achieve, a program that places AFC staff on site at partner foster care and preventive services agencies in New York City. The report explains how Project Achieve works and examines its long-term impact on the children and families served by these agencies, the people who work there and the city’s child welfare system itself.

Essential Voices: Including Student and Parent Input in Teacher Evaluation 
On June 18, 2012, AFC released this policy paper, which makes the case for student and parent input in teacher evaluation in New York City and describes efforts other states and districts are undertaking to incorporate student and/or parent feedback into their own teacher evaluation systems.


Out of School and Unprepared: The Need to Improve Support for Students with Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood 
In March 2011, the ARISE Coalition, a group of parents, educators, advocates and other supporters of students with disabilities coordinated by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), released this policy paper calling on New York City and New York State to follow the law with respect to transition planning and to give post-secondary transition for students with special education needs the same high priority they are beginning to give college and career readiness for other students.


More Than a Statistic: Faces of the Local Diploma 
On October 28th, 2010, Advocates for Children of New York released a briefing paper which profiles nine young adults who were able to earn their high school diploma only because the local diploma, which the state is phasing out, existed. This paper calls on officials to develop alternative pathways to earn a regular high school diploma.

Students with Interrupted Formal Education: A Challenge for the New York City Public Schools 
There are more than 15,000 students in the New York City public schools who came to this country having missed two years or more of schooling. These students – known as Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) – present particular challenges for educators trying to raise the 40% on-time graduation rate for English Language Learners (ELLs) in general. This report by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) examines the data on the SIFE population and profiles twelve immigrant students who should have been identified as SIFE by their schools. The report uses the experiences of the students to show how the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and individual schools try and often fail to meet their needs.