02.14.2017 | Today, AFC is testifying at the New York State Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2017-18 Elementary and Secondary Education Budget proposal, urging legislators to invest in education initiatives such as improved access to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities and English Language Learners, the development of performance-based assessments, positive approaches to discipline, and prekindergarten. View our testimony [PDF]
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02.10.2017 | The following is a statement by Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, on today’s release of New York Graduation Rates for the Class of 2016:
We are alarmed by the precipitous drop in English Language Learner (ELL) graduation rates and the sharp increase in ELL drop-out rates for the Class of 2016 in New York City. Only 30.8 percent of New York City ELLs graduated by August 2016 as compared to 40.5 percent of ELLs in 2015, representing a drop of more than 9.7 percentage points. Equally troubling, the drop-out rate for ELLs in New York City has grown 5.5 percentage points, from 21.5 percent to 27.0 percent over the past year. The new data shows that both New York City and New York State urgently need to double down on efforts to improve instruction for ELLs so that they can achieve their potential and graduate with a high school diploma. The decline in ELL graduation rates in New York City is particularly concerning given the fact that the New York City Department of Education has been under a New York State Education Department-imposed Corrective Action Plan for several years now as a result of the City's failure to serve ELLs appropriately. While we very much appreciate recent statements by state and city leaders indicating that immigrant students and ELLs are welcome in New York’s classrooms, they need to do a better job at both levels of government of providing for equitable access to instruction and services that will set these students up for academic success.
We also remain concerned about the sizeable gap between the graduation rates of students with disabilities and their general education peers, with 44.8 percent of students with disabilities in New York City’s Class of 2016 graduating by August as compared to 78.5 percent of their general education peers. Similarly, the statewide graduation gap also remains wide, with only 54.9 percent of students with disabilities graduating in 2016, as compared to 86.3 percent of their general education peers. Although these gaps have narrowed slightly over the past year, both New York State and New York City must step up their game to provide students with disabilities with the supports that they need in order to graduate from high school.
02.08.2017 | Yesterday, Betsy DeVos was sworn in as the new U.S. Secretary of Education. In the months ahead, we expect to see changes in the implementation and enforcement of federal education laws, as well as shifts in funding priorities that may have serious implications for the low-income students and families we serve. We at Advocates for Children of New York remain dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the quality education they deserve, no matter where they come from, how little money they have, or how much support they need. Earlier today, we sent a letter to Secretary DeVos, emphasizing the importance of the federal government’s role in ensuring that all students are safe and supported at school and urging her to prioritize strengthening public education for children at risk of academic failure or discrimination. Read a copy of our letter [PDF].
At AFC, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us as we continue the fight for opportunity and equity in education so that all children may realize their potential. With your support, we’ll be ready to meet whatever challenges lie ahead.
No matter what happens in Washington, we will always be steadfast in our commitment to protecting the rights of all students.
01.24.2017 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement regarding the release of the Preliminary Budget: “We were glad to see Mayor de Blasio include increased funding for the City’s special education data system in the Preliminary Budget. It is critical that the City have a data system that can track whether and when required services are provided to students with disabilities. A reliable data system will allow the City to identify where students are not receiving mandated services and to take the necessary steps to ensure that students receive the educational support they need and is guaranteed by federal law.” View statement as a PDF
01.17.2017 | Today at 5pm, the United States Senate will begin the confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos, who was nominated to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Advocates for Children of New York believes that this position requires extensive experience with public education and a strong record of working to strengthen public schools, which serve the vast majority of our nation’s children. Ms. DeVos does not have sufficient experience with public education. She has focused her education advocacy on opposing school accountability measures that help protect students’ rights and on supporting school vouchers that divert funding from public schools. Therefore, AFC opposes her nomination and sent a letter to New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand [PDF], urging them to oppose her confirmation. See our letter for more information, and call your Senators and ask them to vote against confirming Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. You can call 202-224-3121 to be connected to your Senators’ offices.
01.06.2017 | Advocates for Children has a new fact sheet on bullying, harassment, and discrimination based on race, national origin, immigration status, or religion. The fact sheet, which explains NYC Department of Education policy and what parents can do if their children experience bullying or discrimination, is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Urdu [PDF].
12.08.2016 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) is releasing a report, Obstacles and Opportunities: Creating Career and Technical Education Pathways for Students with Disabilities [PDF], which analyzes access to high school-level career and technical education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities in New York State. In 2015, less than 50% of students with disabilities graduated from high school in four years, compared to about 83% of general education students. The new report, which analyzes public data on outcomes for students in CTE programs, finds that more than 75% of students with disabilities who completed at least two-thirds of a CTE program went on to graduate, compared to about 90% of general education students—effectively cutting the graduation gap in half for these students.
The paper finds that 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, AFC recommends changes to policy and practice to address barriers to CTE.
12.01.2016 | Advocates for Children recently submitted “friend of the court” briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District and Stacy Fry and Brent Fry, et al. v. Napoleon Community Schools, et al.
Endrew F. presents the important question of what makes an education “appropriate” as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP drafted the brief on behalf of AFC. View the amicus brief [PDF]
In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, AFC and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) submitted an amicus brief in support of petitioners Stacy and Brent Fry, the parents of a student with cerebral palsy who was prescribed a service dog to aid her with everyday tasks. The brief argues that parents and children should not be required to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative remedies when the relief is available only under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and not the IDEA. View the amicus brief [PDF]
10.31.2016 | Today, the City released 2015-2016 school year data pursuant to the Student Safety Act showing the number of suspensions totaled 37,647, which is a decrease by approximately 16% compared to the previous year and by almost 46% compared to five years ago. Despite these improvements, Black students and students with disabilities continued to be disproportionately suspended from school.
In the 2015-2016 school year, Black students were suspended at 3.61 times the rate of White students—down from 3.94 in the prior year. In the same year, although students with disabilities comprised about 18.7% of the student population, they comprised 38.6% of the total number of suspensions—up from 38.2% in the prior year.
While the total number of suspensions decreased, the data released today reveals that the number of teacher’s classroom removals increased to a total of 11,943, nearly 5% over the prior year. The City also publicly released for the first time the number of students in temporary housing suspended from school and the number of students suspended more than once in the 2015-2016 school year. Students in temporary housing made up 10% of the student population, but accounted for 12% of the total number of suspensions. 25.24% of students suspended were suspended more than once.
“We are pleased to see the numbers continue to go down. We hope to see the City make a long-term commitment—with the funding and the inter-agency collaboration to back it up—to continue to move from a punitive and exclusionary approach to discipline to a preventive and restorative one, while ensuring that all children have the social-emotional supports they need and eliminating disparities by race and disability in disciplinary practices,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.
NYPD data for the third quarter of 2016 also released today shows significant racial disparities in students arrested, handcuffed, and issued summonses. Additionally, the data reveals a mismatch in city agency intervention: 25% of police interventions in schools had nothing to do with law enforcement, but rather involved students in emotional distress.
Dawn Yuster, Director of AFC’s School Justice Project, said, “The Administration should immediately adopt and implement the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline’s recommendations on mental health—namely, by launching a pilot program providing a comprehensive mental health service continuum in 20 high-needs schools, including using hospital-based clinics and providing whole-school Collaborative Problem Solving training to support these schools.”