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Christiana has a learning disability and recently graduated from high school thanks to AFC's assistance securing the support she needed to learn.

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Policy & Initiatives

Policy Agenda: Students with Disabilities

Policy Agenda: Students with Disabilities

More than 17 percent of students in NYC public schools are classified as students with disabilities. On the 2013 state exams, only six percent of these students were proficient in reading and only eight percent were proficient in math. We hear from hundreds of families each year who are struggling to get their students with disabilities the specialized support required to meet their individual needs.

We advocate for improved educational programs, opportunities, and outcomes for students with disabilities and improved parent engagement.

►  Articulate a Multi-Year Plan for System-Wide Capacity Building and Report Data Publicly:

The DOE must create a strategic multi-year plan to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities and must report quarterly to the Mayor and the public on varied indicators of progress.

►  Build Capacity to Teach Literacy to Students with Disabilities:

The DOE must build systems to train and support teachers in using research-based methodologies to support reading and writing development for students who are struggling, including students with disabilities. This approach may include hiring literacy coaches with expertise in research-based methodologies for students with disabilities, providing ongoing professional development to general education and special education teachers, and expanding best practices.

►  Make the Curriculum Accessible to Students with Disabilities:

The DOE must ensure that schools are properly prepared to offer challenging academic curriculum in a variety of formats to reach all learners, including students with disabilities, by designing curriculum and classrooms using Universal Design for Learning, purchasing fully accessible instructional materials that are aligned to the common core standards, digitalizing commonly used texts throughout the system so students can access the materials using a variety of modalities, and increasing the use of technology to support students with disabilities.

►  Replicate Current Successful Specialized Community School Programs and Create New Ones:

The DOE should replicate models such as those used in ASD NEST/Horizon, Manhattan School for Children, The Children’s School, and D.75 inclusion, programs that specialize in serving certain populations of students, such as students with autism, in community schools. The DOE should use data to determine the need for new specialized community school programs, including programs for students who need intensive research-based reading instruction and students with autism or behavioral needs who need small classes in community schools with specialized support. In addition, the DOE should invest in specialists such as literacy coaches and behavioral coaches to work with students with disabilities in community schools.

►  Change the Tenor of Interaction with Families to Develop Cooperative Relationships Instead of Adversarial Ones:

Revisit the practices of the DOE’s Office of Legal Services. Take steps to increase the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, including mediation and facilitated IEP meetings. Strengthen and publicize the process for parents to obtain assistance with special education issues that require them to seek help outside their child’s school.

We also support the recommendations of the ARISE Coalition, which AFC leads, to the new Mayor. These recommendations are available at

Learn more about AFC's work with students with disabilities.