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Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies

February 12, 2015

Over the past few years, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) has assisted an increasing number of parents who have contacted them with concerns about charter school suspensions and expulsions. In helping parents with these cases, AFC found that charter school discipline policies were not always readily available.In this report, AFC sent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the three New York City charter school authorizers and, to the extent possible, charter schools opening in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year seeking, among other things, copies of their discipline policies. Charter schools are required to comply with FOIL requests, and most charter schools responded. From the FOIL responses and charter school websites, AFC was able to review 164 discipline policies from 155 of the 183 charter schools operating in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year. These discipline policies came from large charter school networks as well as from small, independent charter schools. While charter schools should be able to discipline their students, they must uphold the rights of their students and provide them with a fair discipline process. The Charter Schools Act requires charter school authorizers to ensure that charter applications include discipline policies and procedures that comport with the law. Yet, all three authorizers of New York City charter schools have approved charters for schools that have legally inadequate discipline policies.

Essential Voices, Part II: Engaging Students and Parents in the Implementation of a New Teacher Evaluation System

October 17, 2013

In June 2013, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) announced a new teacher evaluation system for New York City, which is being enacted citywide in the 2013-14 school year. The implementation of a new system for evaluating the 75,000 teachers who work in New York City's public schools is a massive undertaking -- one that will change how principals use their time, how teachers direct their efforts in the classroom, and, ultimately, how students experience school. State Education Commissioner John King has said, "These evaluation plans will help principals and teachers improve their practice, and that in turn will help students graduate from high school ready for college and careers. That's our goal in everything we do."As the intended beneficiaries of this major reform effort, students and their families have an enormous stake in its success. This paper makes the case that the New York City Department of Education (DOE) must include them in the policy implementation process.Students and parents should have the opportunity to actively contribute to the policy changes that affect their lives; reforms are more likely to be successful, sustainable, and responsive to local needs when students and families are engaged as partners and supportive of such efforts. As theNational Parent Teacher Association (PTA) notes, "Because parents, teachers, students, and the general public are affected by school policy, it is appropriate that they participate in its determination. We believe that such sharing of responsibility will result in greater responsiveness to student and societal needs and therefore improve the quality of educational opportunity."The voices of actual New York City public school parents and students echo this desire for participation with respect to teacher evaluation policy. One New York City high school student told us, "Since the students are the ones subjected to changes in the system (as well as the teachers) they should be allowed to have a say in what they think will benefit/hurt them. They should be able to say what they think makes their teachers effective/ineffective, and what can be done to fix any problems with the new policy."Similarly, Diana M., the parent of an eleventh grader in Queens, affirmed, "We have a voice, we have many concerns and as parents should be included in these new policies that are taking place....Students as well parents have ideas and we can change the school system for the better [for] students, the DOE and the parents alike....The change starts with all three parties, parent, student and educator!"With this paper, we are calling on the DOE to include students and parents when putting the new evaluation system into practice by establishing a stakeholder advisory group to provide feedback throughout the implementation process and ensure open discussion and sharing of responsibility take place. We begin by setting forth the arguments for including parents and students in the implementation of the new policies and conclude by providing examples of structures established for this purpose in other cities and states.

Effective Accountability Mechanisms for New York State's English Language Learners

September 27, 2012

In September 2011, the New York State Department of Education convened a School and District Accountability Think Tank to provide public input regarding the creation of a second generation educational accountability system for the State's Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver application. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) participated in the Think Tank and submitted a set of comprehensive recommendations regarding sound accountability practices for English Language Learners (ELLs). In May 2012, the U.S. Department of Education granted New York's waiver application, which included several of AALDEF's and AFC's recommendations. We believe our ELL accountability recommendations have relevance beyond the ESEA waiver, and now release this paper which sets forth key principles for a sound ELL accountability framework in New York State.

Meeting the Educational Needs of Students in the Child Welfare System: Lessons Learned from the Field

July 1, 2012

Education can be a powerful tool for child welfare-involved youth to overcome their circumstances and become successful adults. Sadly, educational outcomes for young people in care are notoriously poor. Students in foster care have lower standardized test scores, and they repeat grades and are suspended much more frequently than other students. They are significantly over-represented in special education programs, change schools repeatedly and often miss substantial amounts of school. Youth who age out of foster care are more likely to drop out of high school than other young people; most do not enroll in college or other post-secondary programs, and few ever complete a college degree.Over the last decade, child welfare agencies and advocates have begun to recognize that the students they serve need access to greater educational opportunities, and that education is critically important to child wellbeing, permanency planning and a successful transition to adulthood. In particular, best practices research has consistently identified education advocacy as an effective strategy to improve school stability and educational outcomes for this population of vulnerable youth. This report offers insights from one program, called Project Achieve, which pairs Advocates for Children of New York ("AFC"), a non-profit that provides education advocacy to low-income students in New York City, with local foster care and preventive services agencies. The report explains how Project Achieve works and examines its long-term impact on the children and families served by these agencies, the people who work there and the city's child welfare system itself.

Essential Voices: Including Student and Parent Input in Teacher Evaluation

June 1, 2012

In this paper, we describe the need for student and parent input in teacher evaluation in New York City, summarize research demonstrating the validity and reliability of such measures, describe efforts other states and districts are undertaking to incorporate student and/or parent feedback into their own teacher evaluation systems, and provide recommendations to the DOE.

More than a Statistic: Faces of the Local Diploma

October 1, 2010

In 2009, 14.5 percent of students in New York State graduated high school with a local diploma. The State is in the process of phasing out the local diploma as an option, requiring students to achieve the more rigorous Regents diploma or drop out and seek their General Educational Development (GED) diploma. For now, students with disabilities have the additional possibility of leaving school with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) diploma, which is basically a certificate of achievement that carries few of the benefits of the other graduation credentials. Policy makers reason that without the local diploma to fall back on, schools will push harder to prepare more students to qualify for the Regents diploma and thereby graduate young adults who are better equipped to succeed in higher education and the job market. What will happen to the young people who previously depended on the local diploma to graduate from high school? Will they be able to achieve the more challenging Regents diploma? Or will they be left behind? And would they have derived any benefit from the local diploma in the first place? In this paper, we explore the potential loss of opportunity that individual students are likely to experience as a result of the phasing out of the local diploma. We first explain the current diploma options available in New York State and identify the demographic profile for each type of diploma. We then provide a closer look at nine students who graduated with a local diploma in recent years and what would have happened, from their perspectives, if the local diploma had not been available. We conclude by urging the State to develop pathways to graduation for struggling students, particularly students who are unable to pass the Regents exams.

Students with Interrupted Formal Education: A Challenge for the New York City Public Schools

May 1, 2010

Addressing the needs of Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) is critical to raising English Language Learner (ELL) achievement and graduation rates overall. SIFE, along with other high needs ELLs and newcomer ELLs, make up the majority of ELLs in New York City middle and high schools. SIFE also represent a subpopulation of ELLs who have some of the biggest obstacles to acquiring the English language skills and content knowledge necessary to graduate from high school. Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), Flanbwayan Haitian Literacy Project (Flanbwayan), Sauti Yetu Center for African Women (Sauti Yetu), YWCA of Queens Youth Center and other community-based organizations have worked with a number of SIFE, some of whom are profiled in this paper. These students' experiences in the New York City public schools present a more nuanced picture of SIFE, their needs and the challenges they face than does currently available data on SIFE. Their stories illustrate how far behind their peers these students often are when they enter the City's schools and their complex and sometimes intensive need for psychological and social support. Due to their low literacy skills, many end up in the special education system, and many struggle for years, fail to make progress, become overage and ultimately drop out.

Empty Promises: A Case Study of Restructuring and the Exclusion of English Language Learners in Two Brooklyn High Schools

June 1, 2009

Since 2002, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) has attempted to reverse the city's severe drop-out crisis through a large scale restructuring of high schools, focused mainly on closing large, comprehensive high schools and replacing them with small high schools that offer a more personalized learning environment. Unfortunately, this reform effort initially included a policy that allowed new small schools to exclude English Language Learners (ELLs), and many small schools still do not provide the programs that ELLs need. Lack of access to new and promising programs is reflected in ELL performance data. While the City's overall graduation rate climbed to 52.2% in 2007 from 46.5% in 2005, the rate for ELLs dropped from 28.5% to 23.5% over the same period.To understand how the small schools movement has affected ELL students in New York City, we studied the restructuring of two large Brooklyn high schools -- Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst and Tilden High School in East Flatbush.

Our Children Our Schools: A Blueprint for Creating Partnerships Between Immigrant Families and New York City Public Schools

March 1, 2009

Eighty percent of immigrant parents surveyed indicated that they would like to be more involved in their children's schools. However, immigrant parents are often under-utilized as critical resources in their school communities. In New York City, where more than 60% of students are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, schools cannot afford to allow immigrant families to remain alienated. Schools need to determine what keeps immigrant parents away and address these hurdles proactively. In this paper, we offer a comprehensive picture of what hinders immigrant parent participation in the New York City public schools and what can be done to make schools more inclusive of immigrant parents so that they can be active partners in their children's education. We asked 82 immigrant parents and representatives from ten community-based organizations (CBOs) that work with immigrant parents across the City's diverse communities to tell us about their experiences in the schools and what could be done to improve those experiences. Their stories and recommendations are the heart of this paper. We also identified a number of promising practices in New York City and other cities around the country and provide a number of concrete steps the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and individual schools can take to build true partnerships with immigrant families.

A Bad Start to the School Year: Despite New Regulation Immigrant Parents Still Face Major Language Barriers

September 28, 2006

This report reveals serious lapses in the provision of language assistance services to immigrant parents found during Advocates for Children of New York (AFC)'s month-long monitoring of high school registration centers and a survey of select parent coordinators.