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AFC in the News

01.09.2014 | Capital New York | Special education students attending New York City charter schools leave at a much higher rate than their peers at district schools, according to a new report released by the Independent Budget Office (I.B.O.) on Thursday. Reacting to the report, Paulina Davis, staff attorney for Advocates for Children, an advocacy group for at-risk children, said, "The charter sector needs to provide quality special education programs to students with disabilities to ensure these schools are accessible to a diverse group of learners." Read article

12.04.2013 | Insideschools | Thanks to a recent ruling by the New York State Department of Education (NYSED), schools like J.P.'s can no longer claim ignorance. J.P.’s story is one of 20 cases cited by Advocates for Children (AFC) in a complaint filed with the NYSED in April about the Department of Education’s failure to adequately use these behavior tools. NYSED ruled that the DOE has made serious errors and ordered officials to take specific steps to overhaul the program.

“I get it,” said AFC’s Director of Litigation Rebecca Shore. “A teacher is in a classroom with 25 kids and there’s one kid who is demanding all her attention. There’s an instinct to get that kid out of your class. But I’ve also seen that if you address that child's behavior positively, you can reduce a lot of that interference.”

The complaint detailed case after case in which families were denied FBAs and BIPs or the plans were vague and inadequate. “The FBA is an assessment that by definition requires collection of data and observation over a number of days in multiple settings,” said Shore. Pinpointing the reasons or motivations behind the behavior can help staff come up with a plan. If a disruptive behavior always happens during writing activities, for example, maybe the student needs to sit close to the front of the room or receive extra support to help him stay focused and lessen frustration. “I hope that because of this [ruling], more schools will be addressing issues positively,” said Shore, “and less students will be punished and excluded from the classroom because of their behavior.” Read article

11.22.2013 | Gotham Schools | A student stuck without a diploma after 11 unsuccessful attempts to pass a test is the 'poster child' for a need to create new ways to graduate, a top state education official said this week...Abja Midha, coordinator of an advocacy group called Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, said that such programs must be available to a wide range of students – including those with special needs – and should include assessments other than standardized tests. Read article

11.20.2013 | Gotham Schools | A leading special education advocate and a PTA president are among the 60 people that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named to his “transition committee.”...The committee includes Zakiyah Ansari, the Alliance for Quality Education’s advocacy director and a leading critic of the Bloomberg’s education policies; Cynthia Nixon, an actress who herself has worked with AQE; and Kim Sweet, a special education advocate whose organization has repeatedly sued the city under Bloomberg. All are public school parents. Read article

11.20.2013 | SchoolBook | Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of his 60-member transition committee, and it includes 10 individuals with experience in education and children's issues...members of the transition team with experience in education and children's issues include: Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, which has fought to help children with special needs in the city's public schools. Read article

11.20.2013 | Capital New York | Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced a 60-person transition team on Wednesday afternoon, which includes two clear allies on education. Zakiyah Ansari and Kim Sweet are both champions of public schools, who have criticized some of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's education policies...Sweet is the Executive Director of Advocates for Children (A.F.C.), which focuses on high-risk students, and she told Capital shortly after Election Day that de Blasio "will have the opportunity to show that mayoral control can go hand in hand with inclusiveness and respect for parents, students and communities." Read article

11.20.2013 | NY1 | Bill de Blasio has said he's going to make some big changes to the school system, but there's been a lot of debate over how big the changes will actually be. On Wednesday at a visit to the Talking Transition tent in SoHo, the mayor-elect signaled that those changes could be pretty big. The members of his transition committee involved in education include some of the current administration's staunchest critics, including Zakiyah Ansari of the Alliance for Quality Education....Other education leaders include Kim Sweet, head of Advocates for Children, also a frequent critic of the current administration. “We're at an exciting point right now in the city because we are about to have a new mayor,” said Sweet in September. Read article

11.19.2013 | New York Daily News | Education advocates said they hoped incoming mayor Bill de Blasio would examine school discipline practices and initiatives like Bronx School Justice in his new administration. “An interagency and community response is needed to address this,” said Bernard Dufresne, staff attorney for Advocates for Children. Read article

11.14.2013 | Gotham Schools | Tougher graduation standards and the elimination of the local diploma for the majority of students have left some without a high school diploma because they scored just a few points too low on one Regents exam. Abja Midha, project director for the nonprofit Advocates for Children, said the full impact of the rule change would not become clear for another year or so, when some students who narrowly missed the score cutoff stop trying to earn their diplomas and turn instead to GED classes or work — a risky route that could limit college choices and future wages. The Coalition for Multiple Pathways to a Diploma, which includes AFC, has called on the state to add non-test assessments — such as final projects or portfolios — as graduation options. It also urged the state to expand the number of tests and range of scores subject to appeal, and better publicize that process. Read article

11.07.2013 | NY1 | A state investigation has revealed that the city's Department of Education isn't doing enough to help special needs students with behavioral problems. The state Department of Education says that the city "systemically violated the law by failing to provide crucial behavioral supports for students with disabilities." Advocates say that city schools are not following required procedures to identify causes of the challenging behavior or provide appropriate supports to prevent the behavior from occurring, and the state agrees. "The DOE really needs to work harder to get these schools using these type of methods so that they can prevent problem behavior before it occurs, and when it does occur, so they can manage it appropriately," said Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children of New York. Read article