Language Barriers Continue to Effect Schools in NY
From El Diario
May 25, 2004

By Claudia Zequeira

The majority of the parent coordinators who work in the city’s public schools, work in schools where there are more languages spoken than they can understand or translate, according to a study by two groups that advocate for the city’s public education system.

The report, published by Advocates for Children and the New York Immigration Coalition, revealed that 63 percent of the parent coordinators interviewed said the language needs of the parents of the students in their schools, went beyond their capacity for interpretation. The Department of Education created the post of the parent coordinator a year ago to take care of problems that directly affect the parents.Although the study revealed that 86 percent of the parent coordinators interviewed said that they provided written translation services, and 94 percent said they orally translated for the parents of immigrant children, apparently they were often incapable of working without the service of a third person. The same study indicated that 82 percent of the parent coordinators reported having used a bilingual person in the school as interpreter. Among those people who the coordinators asked for help translating were teachers, counselors, other parents, and even students.

“ It is encouraging to know that 66 percent of the coordinators interviewed are bilingual, but the study makes it clear that the translation and interpretation work in the schools is much more than one person is capable of handling,” said Jill Chaifetz, executive director of Advocates for Children. Margie McHugh, director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “More than half of the New York students come from immigrant families. . . . The mayor and the school chancellor must create a system to surpass the barriers that separate thousands of parents from the basic information provided by the school.” The Department of Education said the agency is in the process of contracting a person to head a new central division for translation and interpretation services that, beginning next fall, will be capable of helping those parents who do not speak English.

The plans, they said, were made in collaboration with the Advocates for Children and the New York Immigration Coalition. Both groups wanted the city to create a centralized system for translation, like that in Los Angeles, where parents can call a number if they need an appointment with a translator to discuss important matters in the education of their children.

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Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs.

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