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06.02.2022 | Manhattan Times News | Betty Baez Melo, Director of Early Childhood Education at Advocates for Children of New York, said she immigrated to the U.S. at age three and was fortunate to attend a Head Start program, where she learned English and began classroom learning. 

“Unfortunately, not every child has the same opportunity,” said Baez Melo. “No child in New York City should be excluded from early childhood education because of their immigration status. Immigrant children are our future New York City students, our future leaders, and our future workforce.” Read article

05.28.2022 | NY Daily News | “We have learned so much as this model is getting off the ground, and it would be just a real travesty to pull the rug out from under schools that are relying on it to meet the needs of their students,” said Dawn Yuster, the director of the school justice project at Advocates for Children. 

Advocates have been pushing to get the city to invest more in equipping schools with alternatives to law enforcement involvement and hospital trips for kids — and got a big boost last year when the city allocated $5 million in the budget to pilot a new initiative called the “mental health continuum.” 

The program, a partnership between the city’s Education Department, public hospital system, and health department, trains teachers in de-escalation, puts school staff in contact with mental health professionals who can talk them through how to handle the situation, and, as a last resort, sends a “mobile child crisis” team to the school, avoiding a trip to the hospital. 

But now, after only one year of piloting the program in 50 schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the city is proposing cutting its funding, according to Mayor Adams’ April executive budget. Read article

05.26.2022 | Crain's New York Business | In my 25 years as an education advocate in New York City, one constant has been the numerous calls—hundreds each year—from frustrated parents whose children are struggling with reading and cannot find the help they need in the public school system. One of the most fundamental responsibilities of schools is to teach children how to read, yet at Advocates for Children of New York, we regularly work with middle and high school students who are unable to read menus or job applications, much less novels or history textbooks. The scope of the problem is apparent in the city’s test scores: even before the pandemic, only 36% of Black and Hispanic third through eighth grade students, 29% of students who are homeless, and 16% of students with disabilities scored proficiently in reading on the state tests.   

Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David Banks have called attention to the issue and vowed to tackle it, announcing plans for universal dyslexia screening, changes in curriculum, new programs and schools for students with dyslexia, and a Literacy Advisory Council that will bring stakeholders to the table. These proposals represent an historic effort to support students in learning to read and could have a transformative impact if implemented well.  

Fundamentally changing the City’s approach to reading instruction requires a comprehensive plan that reflects the science of reading and the reality of students’ experiences and that encompasses both general and special education, as difficulties with reading are not limited to students with dyslexia.   

For starters, every school in NYC should be using curriculum that is both culturally responsive and aligned with the scientific evidence on reading development. Historically, schools have been free to use any literacy program they like; the Chancellor has said that over the next year, all schools will instead be asked to switch to a “phonics-based literacy curriculum” for grades K-2. Instituting guardrails and consistency in curriculum across the City is a critical first step, and coupling this change with ongoing, job-embedded support and coaching for teachers will be essential to ensure successful implementation. 

Schools must also be prepared to offer effective intervention for every student, regardless of grade level or disability status, who needs additional support with reading right now. While Mayor Adams’ proposal includes new funding for dyslexia screening, what matters most is how the screening results are used. With $250 million in one-time federal COVID-19 relief funding slated for “academic recovery and student supports” in 2022-23, the Administration has an unprecedented opportunity to begin building out a literacy safety net that provides one-on-one or small group intervention to all students who need extra help to become skilled readers. The need is more urgent than ever in light of the pandemic, as many young children struggled to master critical foundational skills via remote instruction and are at risk of falling further and further behind as they are expected to read increasingly difficult texts in all of their academic classes. 

Improving literacy instruction for all students, with and without dyslexia, will not be easy, but we cannot afford to shy away from the challenge. The new Administration has an opportunity to bring together stakeholders, focus on the needs of students, and create lasting change so that all children learn to read, no matter where they go to school. 

Kim Sweet is the Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. Read article

05.26.2022 | Politico (Pro) | Advocates want a $6 million annual investment starting this upcoming fiscal year to develop a permanent, central system for Department of Education officials to communicate with immigrant families. 

A working group — made up of roughly 20 organizations that serve English language learners — has been collaborating with DOE officials on how to use the $4 million that the city committed this school year to improve the way the agency is in touch with immigrant families. 

The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Advocates for Children of New York, the New York Immigration Coalition and other nonprofits are part of the Language Access and Immigrant Family Communication Working Group. Read article

05.24.2022 | Public News Service | Jennifer Pringle, project director at Advocates for Children of New York, said it is disrupting the lifeline education can be for young people. 

"If you want to break the cycle of homelessness, we have to make sure that our young people right now who are experiencing homelessness get an education," Pringle contended. "Because students who don't have a high school diploma are four-and-a-half times more likely to experience homelessness as an adult." Read article

05.23.2022 | NY Daily News | No child should ever have to live in a shelter — but for the thousands of New York City children who do, more support is desperately needed. 

The pandemic has deepened housing insecurity and exacerbated race, class, and gender-based inequities for countless New York children and families. A new report from the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York found that the average length of stay for families in shelter has grown and that 94% of people in families with children who live in shelter are Black or Hispanic. 

At a time when more than 100,000 New York City students do not have a place to call home, our city must do more to meet students experiencing homelessness where they are. 

The city’s Department of Education can rise to the challenge. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the DOE has $33 million in federal funds designated to help students experiencing homelessness. To have the greatest impact, the DOE should use this funding to hire shelter-based community coordinators focused on meeting the needs of students in shelter and ensure that every family and student can access the resources they need to not only recover academically, but thrive. 

The educational outcomes for students in temporary housing are dismal. Last week, Advocates for Children of New York released a new brief that found students living in shelter had an overall attendance rate of 78.9% in October 2021, almost 11 percentage points lower than the attendance rate for permanently housed students. Only 60% of students in shelters graduate high school in four years — 22 percentage points lower than the graduation rate of permanently housed students — and students living in shelters disproportionately lack access to critical supports and educational opportunities, including Summer Rising, afterschool programs, and 3-K and pre-K. 

We desperately need more on-the-ground, shelter-based coordinators focused on tackling chronic absenteeism, supporting families and ensuring children not only get to school every day, but have the support and resources they need. Robocalls, emails or a few targeted phone calls are not enough. It is critical to have Education Department staff at the shelter with the skills to identify and proactively reach out to parents whose children are not regularly attending school, figure out the root causes and partner with parents to overcome the barriers. 

For example, families are often placed in a shelter in a different borough from their children’s school, a transition that can be unnecessarily disruptive, but an on-the-ground coordinator could advocate for a shelter transfer closer to the children’s school. Families need in-person, one-on-one engagement with staff who are empowered to support them effectively and can address educational barriers. 

We commend the DOE for committing to hire 50 shelter-based community coordinators as part of its initial allocation of federal funding. But more must be done to meet the urgent need. 

Advocates for Children of New York — along with 30 stakeholder organizations — believes the school system should launch a two-year community coordinator program, including hiring 100 additional shelter-based community coordinators. By hiring 150 shelter-based coordinators for two years, the DOE could design, coordinate and implement more robust efforts to ensure students are connected to critical services. The city could also learn more about the barriers to regular attendance facing students living in shelters, chronic absenteeism, and how to build a long-term approach to end the devastating effects of student homelessness. 

At a time when so many students living in shelter are not even making it to school consistently, the DOE also must ensure that every position in the DOE’s Students in Temporary Housing Office is filled to help bring resources directly to families. Currently, there are only 14 Students in Temporary Housing regional managers. They have an array of responsibilities — including supporting the 28,000 students in shelters plus more than 73,000 students in temporary doubled-up arrangements and other temporary housing arrangements. That’s more than 7,200 students for a single staff member. The ratio is untenable. 

These managers do necessary work, but there are simply not enough hours in a day for so few managers to meet the needs of every student — and while the DOE approved the hiring of four additional regional managers last year, the current hiring freeze has put a halt to those plans. At a time when the DOE has an influx of federal funding to address this urgent crisis, the needs of students in shelter must be prioritized, not sacrificed to cost-cutting strategies. 

We’re at an inflection point. The DOE must act now to hire shelter-based community coordinators and fill all vacant positions in its Students in Temporary Housing office. Too many students’ futures depend on it. 

With only a couple weeks left to finalize its plans to allocate the remaining federal COVID-relief funds, the DOE must support families in shelters and invest in the people and programs that will break down barriers to education and open doors for students experiencing homelessness. 

Pringle is the director of Project LIT at Advocates for Children of New York. Read article

05.23.2022 | Inside City Hall | Attendance among students living in homeless shelters remains “alarmingly low,” even after full-time in-person schooling resumed last fall, a new analysis from the organization Advocates for Children found. 

Jennifer Pringle of Advocates for Children of New York, and homeless youth advocate Amarantha Dyl joined Errol Louis on “Inside City Hall” to discuss the new report, and provide solutions for how the city can better serve children in homeless shelters. Watch video

05.18.2022 | New York Post | The nonprofit Advocates for Children (AFC) released a report Wednesday calling out the DOE over the plan to spend federal funds on the portal and other new online tools. 

Advocates said the DOE should be spending the cash to invest in staff needed to actually address the barriers these students face to get to school. 

“That requires on-site support,” said Pringle. “It’s not robotic calls, it’s not emails that turn this around.” 

“I have no doubt that it is a robust portal. The problem is if there’s no one in a position to use that information, it’s a waste of money.” Read article

05.18.2022 | NY Daily News | “The administration’s current proposal for spending millions in federal funding does not address the most fundamental problem, which is that children in shelter are not getting to school in the first place,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of Advocates for Children’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. Read article

05.18.2022 | PIX 11 |  With homeless students in New York City missing school at alarming rates, advocates on Wednesday demanded the Department of Education take action and use federal funds to help the city’s homeless youth population. 

The number one factor most closely associated with young adult homelessness is whether or not you have a high school diploma, advocates say. So if you want to break the cycle of homelessness, you need to provide the support to homeless students and give them a fighting change to graduate. Watch video