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Press Releases

page 1 of data brief07.24.2017 | Today, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) released a data brief analyzing city and state data showing that English Language Learners (ELLs) are under-represented in career and technical education (CTE) programs at New York City high schools. Entitled Missed Potential: English Language Learners Under-Represented in NYC Career and Technical Education Programs, the brief examines ELL enrollment at schools that offer CTE, as well as their participation and completion rates in the CTE programs at those schools.

The paper offers a list of recommended steps the New York City Department of Education can take to begin to address barriers for ELLs, including resolving recruitment and enrollment issues, offering extra training for CTE instructors in serving ELLs, and providing classroom supports in CTE schools—such as bilingual CTE classes and translation and interpretation services. 

Read the data brief [PDF]
Read the press release [PDF]

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

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

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

report cover12.08.2016 | 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.

View the press release [PDF]
Read the report [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.”

View statement [PDF]

09.15.2016 | Today, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) released data showing that schools have continued to become safer: there are record lows in school crime and fewer students arrested for school-related incidents. Despite these improvements, new data reported pursuant to Student Safety Act amendments passed last year illustrates the critical need for the City to embark on a long overdue strategic plan to address significant racial disparities in students arrested, issued summonses, and handcuffed in school. 

“While the data shows a welcome decline in school crime, it’s very troubling to see the continued racial disparities in who is arrested or given a summons, with Black and Latino students disproportionately affected. The City needs to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that tackles these disparities head on and uses data to target its efforts effectively,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.

In addition to the racial disparities, the second quarter data suggests that some school staff have not received appropriate de-escalation training and some schools do not have appropriate de-escalation plans in place to manage students in emotional crisis, as required by the New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor’s Regulation A-411. Consequently, students in emotional crisis as young as 7 years old are getting handcuffed in schools.

The data also shows that students—almost all of whom are students of color—get entangled in the court system for noncriminal incidents at school. Students as young as 16 years old receive a summons to appear in court for minor misbehavior that does not rise to the level of a crime. The City must move quickly to revise the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NYPD and the DOE to decriminalize student misbehavior by clearly delineating the roles of school administrators and the NYPD.

Finally, the data reveals a troubling number of students arrested in school for incidents that occurred outside of school. 38% of student arrests in school were for non-school related incidents. “Schools are places of learning. Students should not fear that they or their friends will be interrogated, arrested, and hauled off in handcuffs by police officers when they go to school,” said Dawn Yuster, School Justice Project Director at Advocates for Children of New York.

View statement [PDF]

07.21.2016 | Today, the City announced its intention to implement the recommendation of the Mayoral Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline to modify the Department of Education’s (DOE’s) discipline code to end suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade and increase support for positive behavior interventions in schools.  Advocates for Children of New York staunchly supports the elimination of suspensions for these students and the use of a developmentally sound approach to address the behavior of young children instead. 

“Suspending a young child from school does nothing to teach social-emotional skills or change the child’s behavior when the child returns, and removing children from the classroom causes them to fall behind in key academic skills, such as learning to read. The City should act quickly to implement the changes recommended,” said Kim Sweet, the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York.  

As NYPD data also released today reveals, our schools have become safer: crime is down, fewer students are arrested, and most police encounters with students are for low-level crimes and noncriminal offenses.  Despite these improvements, new data reported pursuant to Student Safety Act amendments passed last year illustrates the continued need for the City to embark on a long overdue strategic plan to address significant racial disparities in students arrested, handcuffed, and issued summonses, as well as in students suspended.  

The Leadership Team’s report contains a number of additional recommendations that should be implemented, including:  

  • 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, and  
  • Revising the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the DOE to decriminalize student misbehavior by clearly delineating the roles of school administrators and the NYPD, specifying minor offenses that will not result in student arrest or receipt of a summons, and creating an arrest diversion program for lower-level crimes. 

Says Dawn Yuster, Director of AFC’s School Justice Project, “There are a lot of excellent ideas in this report.  Now the City needs to make them happen.”

View full statement [PDF]

06.07.2016 | A coalition of national, statewide and local organizations today urged passage of A.8396, the Judge Judith S. Kaye Safe and Supportive School Act, New York legislation aimed at promoting positive school climates and reducing racial discipline disparities. Their remarks come on the heels of new national data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Eights (OCR) showing persistent racial disparities in student suspensions and expulsions. 

“The U.S. Department of Education data is clear that Black girls are especially vulnerable to racially-biased discipline and school policing, even as young learners. While Black girls make up only 20 percent of preschool enrollment, they are half of preschool girls who receive out-of-school suspensions. When we see such racial disparities in these early years, we know that new approaches are needed,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “The findings confirm that we must support reforms included in the Safe and Supportive Schools Act and continue to work on behalf of children who are at greatest risk for school-based discrimination due to their race.”

View full statement from the New York Coalition for Safe & Supportive Schools [PDF]