Posts tagged "Advocates for Children"
February 21, 2013
Five weeks ago, what happened at P721 in Manhattan on Wednesday would not have seemed extraordinary: Yellow buses pulled up by the main entrance and assistant teacher Miguelina Valerio took attendance and greeted students as they headed into school.
But after a bus drivers’ strike that lasted over a month, the yellow buses marked the end of nightmarish commutes for many parents and, for many students with special needs, a long-awaited return to class.
P721 is a District 75 school that provides occupational training to high school students. During the strike, Valerio said, only 70 or 80 students came to school each day out of a student body of 200. “More than half the students were missing,” she said. “Little by little they’re coming back.” (more…)
June 20, 2012
Advocates filed a federal complaint today against the city Department of Education that they said represents years of troubling reports from parents who don’t speak English.
Hundreds of those parents have come to the advocacy groups with concerns that the department doesn’t provide sufficient language services for navigating special education. And with extensive special education reforms in progress, the need for language services is more pressing than ever, said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children.
AFC, which represents low-income students and students with disabilities, joined with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to file the complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights on behalf of 19 city families. The complaint charges the city with violating federal, state, and city laws by failing to provide translation services for the parents of children with special needs.
The complaint profiles one of the parents in detail. Nyuk Siem Looi, who speaks only Cantonese, has two sons who are autistic and cannot speak. According to the complaint, Looi has been told to bring her own interpreter to meetings and pressured to sign documents about her sons’ educational programs that she could not understand.
Parents named in the complaint were joined by dozens of others at a rally on the steps of City Hall today after the complaint was filed, many holding umbrellas to relieve themselves from more than 90-degree heat. (more…)
June 19, 2012
For months, advocates for students with special needs have been pushing the state to reconsider a safety net meant to help those students graduate.
But when the state’s top education policy-makers sat down in Albany Monday to discuss the issue, they instead floated the idea of making graduation requirements even easier for students who have disabilities.
This year, for the first time, all students in New York State will have to pass five Regents exams with a 65 or higher in order to graduate. In the past, students have had the option of getting a less rigorous “local diploma” with some scores of 55 or higher, with the number of 65′s required inching upward each year.
But the elimination of the local diploma doesn’t extend to students who require special education services: They will still be able to graduate with 55′s on their transcripts, even on all five required Regents exams.
Advocates say that leniency runs the risk of creating a second-class diploma for students with disabilities, similar to the IEP diploma that is being eliminated. Students had to pass exams known as Regents Competency Tests to get the diploma, but earning one did not qualify graduates for college, work, or the military. (more…)
June 18, 2012
New York public school students have fewer options for recourse against discrimination today than they did a week ago.
The state’s highest court ruled last week that public school students cannot use New York’s human rights law to seek recognition of discrimination — or get financial compensation when discrimination has taken place.
Never before have courts ruled that such a large group of constituents is not protected by the law, said Rebecca Shore, the director of litigation for Advocates for Children, which aims to protect low-income students from discrimination.
New York’s human rights law, the first of its kind when it was passed in 1945, prohibits discrimination based on “age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex or marital status” in a variety of settings, including “non-sectarian educational institutions,” according to the State Division of Human Rights. Individuals can file complaints with the state’s Division of Human Rights and seek restitution, all without paying for a lawyer.
But after two school districts contested the human rights division’s jurisdiction to investigate and fine them, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled in a 4-3 decision that the division cannot probe discrimination claims in public schools. (more…)
May 23, 2012
Tougher graduation requirements almost two decades in coming are putting thousands of city students at risk of not earning a diploma this year.
Advocates are asking the state to give more students more time before fully implementing more stringent graduation requirements, but city officials say educators and students have had plenty of time to prepare.
For the first time, students in New York State will only be able to graduate with a Regents diploma, requiring they receive a 65 or above on at least five Regents exams. In the past, students could graduate with a local diploma, allowing them to receive a 55 on at least five exams. In the 1990s, state officials initiated a change to make requirements for the local diploma increasingly stringent, until it could be phased out. Last year, students were able to receive a local diploma by passing four Regents exams with a 65, and one with a 55.
It’s impossible to know how many students will be affected, but the Department of Education estimates that 10 percent of the city’s class of 2011— almost 8,000 students — received a local diploma. (more…)
May 8, 2012
For 18 months, Eric Degiaimo could barely leave his apartment, paralyzed by fear of the outside world. Today, he’s a junior in high school who just celebrated his 19th birthday with friends in Times Square and harbors goals of becoming a musical engineer.
He’s also the recipient of a city advocacy groups’s annual award for students who have overcome great obstacles to attend schools that are right for them.
Eric’s path to isolation and back took him through rough terrain. By the time he was 15, he had incurred a lifetime of trauma while being raised by drug addicts, sexual predators, and a sister’s abusive boyfriends. Eric was kicked, spit on, and his apartment raided by drug dealers. He was forced to panhandle and fake Tourette’s Syndrome so people he lived with could collect disability to pay for their next high. Time and again he was hurt and exploited by the same people who were supposed to keep him safe.
His early life, as he puts it, “belongs in a horror film.”
The experiences made him emotionally fragile, unable to complete even the most mundane social interactions. Riding the subway or going to the store frightened him. A psychiatrist diagnosed him with posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety problems.
Then named Eric Velazquez, he had been removed from his sister’s custody and placed in a group home when he met a social worker, Angela Degiaimo. The pair felt an immediate bond and within months, Eric had moved into Angela’s Flatbush apartment. Last year, she officially adopted him.
“He just has this loveable thing about him that people are charmed by,” Angela Degiaimo said. “I tell him that we were meant to be a family.” (more…)
November 7, 2011
As the director of special education at the DREAM Charter School, Jacqueline Frey knows firsthand the difficulties charter schools face when serving students with disabilities.
One issue, she said, is convincing the city that her school’s plan to serve each disabled student is sound.
And when she wants to bring her teachers up to date on the best ways to serve students with disabilities, she has to figure out how to compensate for the training that pricey consultants might be able to offer.
“If I’m a mom and pop charter school, I can’t afford to do that for myself,” Frey said. “It helps to find other schools in the same situation.”
Connecting charter schools with similar special education needs is the chief goal of the New York City Charter School Center’s Special Education Collaborative, which builds off of local efforts to boost special education at charter schools that have been going in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn since 2007. The $1,500-per-school entry fee pays for monthly training sessions, access to counselors and consultants, and an annual conference.
The citywide collaborative, which about 90 of the city’s 136 charter schools have already joined, comes at an opportune time. Both of the state’s charter school authorizers, the State University of New York and the Board of Regents, are pushing new charter schools to build capacity for more higher-needs students, including more special education students, this year, into their school designs. And at the collaborative’s first conference last month, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE would be pressing charter schools to “up the ante” in how they serve special education students.
The pushes are in part a response to criticism that charter schools do not enroll a fair share of special needs students. In recent years, the proportion of students with disabilities at charter schools has actually risen to nearly the city average. The challenge now, advocates say, is to serve disabled students well. (more…)
November 3, 2011
This story originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario, which supplied the translation.
The city’s school system has a new person in charge of helping the parents of the 1.1 million children in public schools. The problem is that many have not heard of him since he was appointed last July.
After three months in his role as “chief parent” of the New York City Department of Education, organizations that defend parents’ interests said they have not yet heard from Jesse Mojica and do not have knowledge of his plans to improve the troublesome relationship between the department and families throughout the city.
Mojica was recruited in July by new Chancellor Dennis Walcott to occupy the $138,000 a year position as executive director of the office of Family and Community Engagement.
Placida Rodriguez, from the parent action group Make the Road New York, an organization based in Queens and Brooklyn, expressed her dissatisfaction at the little attention Mojica has paid so far.
“Basically I have had no contact with Jesse Mojica,” said Rodriguez. (more…)
August 1, 2011
The Mabel Barrett Fitzgerald Day Care Center sits within the Amsterdam Houses public housing complex, recently the site of a sweeping drug bust. A few blocks away, however, glitzy Lincoln Center is flanked by some of the most expensive apartments in Manhattan.
The location provides rich field trip opportunities for the Fitzgerald program, which this year received city funding to serve 58 low-income children. But now the center’s zip code could take a toll on its budget.
The threat comes from the funding structure underlying EarlyLearn, the Administration for Children Services’ ambitious reform of the city’s public daycare system. This summer, ACS is requiring that all public centers, including Fitzgerald, submit applications showing why they deserve continued funding, and next spring, some programs will learn that they have not made the cut.
The evaluation process will focus on quality. But it will also take into account something outside centers’ control: their address.
Under EarlyLearn, the number of city-funded daycare seats across the city will drop, and ACS plans to allot a larger portion of the remaining seats to neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of needy families. To assess need, ACS is looking primarily at the poverty level in the zip code where each center is located. That means that centers in high-poverty zip codes stand a greater chance of receiving continued funding, while the number of slots in more affluent neighborhoods could decrease sharply.
Childcare experts and center directors say this approach could shut out poor New Yorkers who live in relatively affluent areas. In particular, they say, residents of some housing projects are at risk of being left without the childcare on which they’ve come to rely. (more…)
July 20, 2011
Advocates are worried that the city’s new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs.
The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers.
Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC’s concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won’t see the gains in test scores that other teachers will.
That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
“Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they’re so heavily reliant on test scores,” said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. “We’re worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes.” (more…)