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AFC in the News

10.28.2013 | Gotham Schools | The city’s special education reforms have moved thousands of students out of specialized classes citywide, according to data shared by Department of Education officials on Friday. But city officials and special education advocates alike said it remained too soon to tell whether the systemwide changes have been good for students.

Many advocates for students with disabilities testified that the data doesn’t give a full enough picture of the impact of the reforms. Special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children Maggie Moroff, who has been requesting more data about the reforms for years, said crucial questions were left unanswered. “It doesn’t say what the students’ experience is like. We don’t know if they moved them appropriately,” she said. Read article

10.15.2013 | New York Times | Eleven days after a teenager with autism walked away from his school in Queens in the middle of the day, a senior police commander, Chief of Department Philip Banks III, said on Tuesday that an intensifying search had failed to turn up even a trace of the student. As the effort to locate the boy, Avonte Oquendo, continued, a lawyer for the family and advocates for children with disabilities said they were increasingly troubled by a prior mystery: How did the 14-year-old get out of the school to begin with? “No student should ever get away,” said Maggie Moroff, the special-education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York, a nonprofit legal group. Read article

10.07.2013 | Gotham Schools | When students walked into the citywide high school fair last month, one of the first things they saw was a pile of colorful, phone-book sized directories listing more than 500 schools they can consider. But those guides were available only in English, as they have been for the last several years. The Department of Education posts translated guides to elementary, middle, and high schools online in nine of the most commonly spoken languages. But parents, advocates, and guidance counselors say not having printed versions creates a barrier for parents whose access to information is already limited.

“This sends a message that people who don’t speak English aren’t as important, because the guide isn’t available to them in the same way,” said Elsa Cruz Pearson, a staff attorney at the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project. The department stopped printing copies of translated directories after the 2007-2008 school year. For a time, it distributed disks with translated guides but now simply makes them available for download online. That can be a problem for immigrant families, said Pearson, who has gotten calls from families seeking translated directories. “Many immigrant parents are not computer literate,” she said. “They don’t have computer in the home where they can jump on and start downloading guides in their languages.” Read article

10.02.2013 | Gotham Schools | Advocates for Children of New York, which has been critical of some Bloomberg-era education policies, split the difference, with executive director Kim Sweet submitting testimony supporting a one-year moratorium on school closings and additional parental notification, but opposing the resolution that requests veto power for the Community Education Councils. “When it comes to some of the most disadvantaged students in the school system, such as students who are overage and under-credited or students who are involved in the justice system, we desperately need more schools and programs that can meet their needs,” Sweet said. Read article

10.01.2013 | SchoolBook | But Paulina Davis, a staff attorney at the group Advocates for Children in New York City, remained skeptical of the study's conclusions. She said her group still gets calls from parents of children with disabilities who were admitted to charters through the lottery system but didn't enroll because they were told the school was not a good fit. She also said she has not seen "a lot of variation and flexibility in programming in the charter sector in general for students with disabilities." Read article

09.30.2013 | Gotham Schools | Paulina Davis of the Charter Schools Initiative at Advocates for Children of New York said she regularly helps families who call the organization’s helpline looking for information about their children’s rights. “My work has been busy here,” she said. “While some charter schools do make an effort to work with parents of students with disabilities, we do still get a number of calls from parents who will say, a charter school said we don’t think we’re a good fit for your child.” Read article

09.16.2013 | NY1 | Though Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration fanned out around the city Monday to visit almost two dozen public schools that dominated the list of the state's best, the story may not be as simple or successful as it appears... "Kids with special needs, English language learners, students who are in the lowest income don't tend to get into these schools at the same rates as other kids," said Kim Sweet from Advocates for Children of NY. "And, you know, when you talk about gifted and talented programs, which a lot of these schools are, kids are actively prepping for these programs." Read article 

09.08.2013 | After a dozen years of school reform under Mayor Bloomberg, the future direction of city public schools hangs in the balance. The self-professed “education mayor” secured resources for his policy priority. The year Bloomberg entered office, the average amount spent per student annually was $11,000. By 2010-11, it had risen to $19,000. But his critics and boosters fiercely debate the results. On the one hand, after shuttering large, failing high schools and replacing them with small schools, graduation rates are soaring. And the dropout rate was cut in half. On the other hand, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress gave fuel to Bloomberg’s critics. The percentage of city eighth-graders scoring at a proficient level in math and reading in 2011 was 24%. It’s a number that hasn’t budged significantly since 2003. The Daily News asked eminent minds in the field to weigh in with advice for the next mayor. Read article

08.28.2013 | Gotham Schools | Advocates and lawyers representing students with disabilities say the city has only intensified its recent battle against parents who want their children’s private school tuition reimbursed. “They’re basically just fighting everything a lot more,” said Kim Madden, director of legal services at Advocates for Children of New York, about the city’s lawyers. AFC represents low-income families in many cases against the Department of Education. Read article

08.08.2013 | New York Daily News | “Everyone fared badly, but those kids fared even worse,” said Maggie Moroff, special-education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “It shows that we’re teaching to the common denominator, and that schools are not really thinking of the needs of individual students.” Only 3% of English-language learners met state standards in English, compared with about 12% last year. About 11% passed math, compared with 34% last year. Read article