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05.17.2017 | As the families of more than 190,000 immigrant students across New York State wrestle with the current climate of fear and uncertainty, a new report finds major inconsistencies in how New York’s school districts are responding and the extent to which they are rising to the challenge of protecting and supporting the immigrant students and families they are charged to serve.  

The report, Safe Havens: Protecting and Supporting New York State’s Immigrant Students  [PDF] — released today 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, Inc. — finds that while the New York State Education Department (SED) and the Attorney General’s Office, as well as several individual school districts, have taken a number of important steps, there is much more to do. 

Based on a review of documents from the 25 school districts that together enroll 80 percent of the state’s immigrant students, Safe Havens spotlights positive practices and troubling trends and highlights four critical areas where change is needed:

  • Welcoming all students regardless of immigration status or national origin. 
  • Collection and handling of personal information. 
  • Responding to federal immigration officials. 
  • Supporting students and families when a parent, family member, or guardian is at risk of deportation or has been deported. 

Drawing on the experiences of immigrant community-based organizations, advocates, and service providers, the report includes a set of recommendations for stronger supports at the state, school district and school levels. The report’s recommendations include that SED: assist school districts to provide greater support for immigrant students to ensure their long-term success; 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. 

“The recommendations in Safe Havens provide a clear roadmap for steps that New York State and district leaders should take to ensure that immigrant students and their families feel safe and supported by public schools,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “We appreciate New York State’s and New York City’s efforts to date and believe that the recommendations in the report will assist school districts across New York in meeting the ongoing concerns of immigrant families.”

Read the report [PDF]

04.24.2017 | In response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the City will expand pre-K to three-year-old children starting with District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York, released the following statement: 

“Having achieved universal pre-K access for four-year-old children, the City is now forging ahead with a plan to help younger children get a high-quality early childhood education.  This expansion will have a significant impact in providing children with the foundational skills needed for school success. We commend the Mayor for taking another important step toward narrowing the achievement gap.”

View statement as a PDF

03.21.2017 | Today AFC testified before the New York City Council Committee on Education on the fiscal year 2018 Preliminary Budget. We urge the Administration to include increased funding for DOE social workers for students living in homeless shelters. In addition, we request that the budget include additional resources to expand restorative practices and pilot a mental health support continuum in 20 high-needs schools. View our testimony [PDF]

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]

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.

View statement as a PDF

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.

01.13.2017 | AFC submitted comments to the New York City Department of Education regarding proposed changes to Chancellor’s Regulation A-101, including changes to school selection and enrollment for students in foster care and students in temporary housing. View comments [PDF]

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, ChineseFrench, Haitian Creole, Russian, and Urdu [PDF].