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AFC in the News

9.13.2012 | City Limits | This school year the city has undertaken a dramatic transformation of special education to try to improve student achievement. While applauding the push, these writers believe the city has to put more resources into the classrooms where special ed kids are now learning.  Read article

9.12.2012 | New York Law Journal | Jamie Levitt, the President of AFC's Board of Directors, is featured in the New York Law Journal special supplement, "Lawyers Who Lead By Example." In her role on the Board, Levitt has helped to recruit Morrison & Foerster attorneys to represent parents at hearings seeking special education services for their public school children. "To me a child's education is the most important thing in their life," said Levitt.  Read article

9.06.2012 | Insideschools.org | The aim of the special education reform--being rolled out in all schools this year--is to educate special needs children in the least restrictive settings possible, and, preferably, in their neighborhood schools. Is that what's actually happening? Not in all schools, according to Advocates for Children. Before school started, the group heard from 40 parents of incoming kindergarten students with disabilities whose zoned schools could not provide the type of class or services that the child needed. According to a statement issued by Advocates for Children, some schools are just not ready to accommodate all special needs students. Read article

9.05.2012 | DNA Info | Advocates who work with special needs children say the DOE's goal of mainstreaming is admirable, but they worry that many of the city's 1,700 schools are ill prepared to serve the broad spectrum of kids who are now enrolling, including some who need small, self-contained classes. Advocates for Children, which supports disadvantaged children in New York City, has received more than three-dozen calls this summer from parents who tried to enroll their child in their zoned school, as the DOE directed, only to be told that the school couldn't provide the services the child needed. "The problem we're facing is that not every zoned school can serve every zoned student," said Randi Levine, a lawyer with Advocates for Children. "Not every school can have a small class, and not every kindergartner is ready to be in a big class."  Read article

9.03.2012 | WNYC/SchoolBook | Advocacy groups working with students who require special education services in school say many families are facing mixed messages and open questions about the services local schools can provide them, with just days to go before the start of school. Advocates for Children of New York said it has handled at least 30 cases recently involving incoming special education kindergarten students. Read article

9.03.12 | Univision | Parents describe their difficulty advocating for their children with special needs without proper translation and interpretation services. Featuring AFC staff attorney Rigel Massaro.

9.01.2012 | New York Post | At least 40 parents have approached the nonprofit Advocates for Children after being told that their kids wouldn't get small classes or extra services that were promised in official education plans.  Read article

8.28.2012 | Insideschools.org | The beginning of a new school year can be exciting -- and confusing. Some very helpful information is now available for families of students with disabilities. A new fact sheet from Advocates for Children is online in both English and Spanish. It covers a range of issues that often crop up at the beginning of school. For many children with special needs, the start of school will be a smooth process, but if it's not, you can get in touch with Advocates for Children for advice and assistance. Their help line at (866) 427-6033 is staffed Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Read article

8.14.2012 | NY1 News | At Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens, 65 percent of the students live in households that earn under $30,000. That is double the figure of just three years ago.

While Hillcrest saw one of the biggest jumps, student poverty has increased citywide. "An increase in poverty rate means increased challenges for the city schools," said Kim Sweet of Advocates For Children. In 2009, one school had every student qualifying for free lunch, while 15 schools had 97 percent or more. Now, five schools have 100 percent of their students coming from poor homes and 43 schools have at least 97 percent.

About 40,000 more students are now eligible for free lunch than in 2009. Department of Education data shows nearly seven out of 10 students come from poor households. Hillcrest High Principal Stephen Duch said he knew his school would have to do more. "We began to come up with ways in order to support students," said Duch. They reorganized the big school into nine small sections, and have managed to increase their graduation rate, despite the uptick in poverty. Hillcrest's student poverty rate is still close to the citywide average. Other schools face tougher odds. "There is research showing that when a school has more than 50 percent of its students in poverty it will have a harder time achieving at the levels it should be achieving," Sweet said. "And the greater the concentration of poverty, the more of a challenge it is to educate all of the students adequately." It is a challenge more educators face, as the number of schools with the highest poverty rates has multiplied. "Statistically speaking, if a school has a 97 percent poverty rate, you'd would expect that school to have a really hard time making achievement goals," said Sweet.

As NY1 reported last week, schools with the highest poverty rates are also likely to have above-average percentages of special education students or students learning English. But not all their numbers are so high, as many of the highest poverty schools have among the lowest test scores.

7.30.2012 | Insideschools.org | Special education advocate Maggie Moroff of the ARISE Coalition and Advocates for Children says she firmly supports the goals of the reform, but, like many others, she has concerns about how changes will be implemented. "A dedicated hotline is great," she said. "But what happens when families call the hotline is critical. I don't know the skill level of the specialists and I don't know how much authority they have." Advocates for Children already operates a helpline for parents and Moroff said that recent calls indicate that many parents are concerned that their children won't get all the services they need. Read article