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Micaela is a dual-language learner who is on the autism spectrum and needed an appropriate school placement for kindergarten.

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AFC in the News

07.02.2016 | Huffington Post | Abja Midha is a project director with Advocates for Children of New York, one of two organizations that filed the complaint against the New York City Department of Education. Midha says there is still a disconnect between policy and practice. Few parents know about the language access complaint line, and even some who file complaints do not have their problems resolved. And, Midha says, staff at many schools still do not know the coordinators exist as a resource to help manage language assistance. “It really does deny the parent the ability to exercise their right to participate in their child’s education,” Midha said. Read article

06.15.2016 | Education Week | Abja Midha, a project director for Advocates for Children, an organization that supports multiple pathways for high school diplomas, said in an interview with Education Week that the new option is welcome—but that it comes with some concerns. First, it makes it even more complicated for families and schools to figure out just how a student can earn a diploma, though she said that concern is eased by the requirement that this option be considered automatically. Parents don't have to request it. Second, the local diploma option is primarily available to students with disabilities, and could be stigmatizing for them—particularly if they remain in New York, where the public better understands the difference between the diploma options. Midha said that the state should consider changing the number of Regents exams required for a diploma. "There's nothing magic about the number five," and the new rule shows that the board may be open to considering this, she said. The organization would also like to see the state move to performance-based assessments as an option for all students, not just students with disabilities. "We appreciate the changes that are being made, but we do see a need for a wholesale review of what a good exam requirement is here in New York state," Midha said. Read article

06.14.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Several advocates for students with disabilities said easing graduation standards could help students earn a diploma and enable them to apply for a vocational program, get a job, or join the military. Those options were not available under a previous credential New York offered for students with disabilities that has since been eliminated. “We have some of the most onerous exit exam requirements in the country,” said Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children who runs the organization’s statewide coalition that advocates for students to have more options to earn a diploma. “We’re hoping this is the beginning of thoughtful changes to exit exam requirements more broadly.” Read article

06.09.2016 | Chalkbeat New York | Some observers said there is still room for improving the new report cards, which can help families make informed choices. “Some of them could and should be more nuanced, but I think they’re valuable nonetheless,” said Maggie Moroff, a special education policy expert at Advocates for Children. “Students with disabilities across the board should have the same kinds of school choice options” as typical students, she said, and “in order to have choice, you have to have information about the schools and programs you’re looking at.” Read article

06.08.2016 | SiriusXM, The Hoda Show | AFC client and 2016 Spring Benefit honoree Yshamar Gestine shared his story with Hoda Kotb on SiriusXM. He was joined by his AFC attorney, Ashley Grant, and his teacher, Anna Spoden.

05.31.2016 | Politico New York | “From what we see with the kids we work with, these programs are worth expanding, they work, and they prevent disciplinary incidents from occurring,” said Sweet, the director of Advocates for Children, in an interview. “Our issue is just that we need more of it, there are 1,800 schools.” Sweet noted that students with disabilities continue to be suspended at significantly higher rates than their peers, and said her office sees “so many cases of kids with disabilities who get caught doing something bad because of their disability.” Read article

05.26.2016 | Gotham Gazette |  Advocates for Children began the School Justice Project to address the root causes of suspension and help keep students out of the criminal justice system. The project also helps students in juvenile detention or those returning from detention stay on track to reach their academic goals. “When students are suspended, it increases their likelihood of not graduating from high school, it increases their likelihood of being involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Paulina Davis, supervising attorney of AFC’s School Justice Project. “There are high stakes outcomes on the line every time a student is suspended. So it’s really a process that we need to be very thoughtful about.” Read article

05.17.2016 | Chalkbeat New York |  Advocates who have been pushing for more inclusion for [District 75] students say it should continue to exist, even though figuring out exactly who it is for “is a really hard question,” according to Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children...The district has sometimes been viewed as a dumping ground for students with emotional or behavioral problems, but who have no cognitive deficits, Advocates for Children’s Moroff said. That attitude could disproportionately affect black and Latino students. Read article

May 2016 | Voices in Urban Education (VUE) | The Turning 5 work group – a collaboration between Advocates for Children of New York, the New York City Department of Education, and other partner organizations – provides support to families of students with disabilities facing the challenges of transitioning to kindergarten. This article by Randi Levine, director of AFC's Early Childhood Education Project, was published in the May 2016 issue of VUE, a publication of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Read article

04.29.2016 | DNA Info | Until this spring, only students with special needs were eligible for the alternative graduation credit program. Disabilities advocates, however, fought to expand it to all students, arguing that schools needed an incentive to bolster these career-focused programs and put more resources into them. “By limiting [this certificate] to students with disabilities, we had concerns that it would stigmatize students with disabilities,” said Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children. 

Midha and other advocates have been pushing the state to create additional avenues for students to get their diplomas ever since it transitioned away from a local diploma option in favor of the Regents test-based diploma. “There was no plan focusing on how do we best serve the needs of all students or recognition that a one-size approach does not fit needs of all students who aren’t good test takers,” she said. Read article