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Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Feb 20 18:42:07 UTC 2004

>>From the NY Times,


February 20, 2004
Translations for Students' Parents Sought

A coalition of advocacy groups called yesterday for the city Department of
Education to set up a vast translation network for the
non-English-speaking parents of city schoolchildren. The groups, led by
the New York Immigration Coalition and Advocates for Children, also
released the findings of a survey indicating that many immigrant parents
are often kept in the dark about messages and school meetings critical to
their children's future.

"The New York City school system has systematically failed to provide
translation and interpretation services to parents who require these
services," the report reads. "Despite numerous federal, state and local
laws mandating translation and interpretation for parents with limited
English proficiency, the New York City Department of Education has yet to
adopt policies and procedures to address these issues." At a news
conference in Manhattan, several parents, speaking through translators,
described their ordeals.

Ana Cartagena, a mother of eight from Puerto Rico who lives in Bushwick,
Brooklyn, said she was once told by a principal that if she wanted to know
what was going on in her children's school, she should learn to speak
English. Maria Llivicura, another parent, said her daughter Melissa was
held back last year but she was never given a clear explanation, in
Spanish, as to why.

Advocates for immigrants have long complained about the dearth of
translation services in city schools. In fact, they had cause for
celebration three years ago, when, after years of pressure, the Board of
Education adopted a resolution calling for a new systemwide translation
and interpretation policy, based on the recognition that "communicating
with parents is a fundamental component of their children's overall
academic success." But the Board of Education was dismantled as part of
the recent reorganization of the school system before anything significant
was done, the advocates said.

At the news conference, Margaret McHugh, executive director of the New
York Immigration Coalition, and Jill Chaifetz, executive director of
Advocates for Children, praised Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Mayor
Michael R. Bloomberg for emphasizing parental involvement, particularly by
placing a paid parent coordinator in each school. But without better
translation services for PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences and
informational notices, they said, much of that effort will go to waste.
Paul Rose, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said that many
parent coordinators were bilingual and that language skills were taken
into account when they were selected.

He said that parents who call the mayor's 311 hotline with school-related
questions can get answers in other languages and that messages sent to
parents from the chancellor are translated into eight languages: Spanish,
Chinese, Russian, Korean, Urdu, Arabic, Haitian Creole and Bengali. "We're
interested in the proposals presented by Advocates for Children and the
New York Immigration Coalition and will continue to work with them as we
strive to continually improve our communication to students and their
families," he said.

The report released yesterday surveyed 915 parents whose primary language
was not English and 55 students from immigrant families. Eighty-six
percent of the respondents live in New York City, while the others live in
Westchester County and on Long Island. The surveys were conducted from
October through January, and were distributed by community organizations.
Among New York City respondents, 51 percent said the parent never or
rarely received written school information translated into his or her
native language, while 9 percent reported that the parent always received
such translations. Sixty-one percent reported that the parent never or
rarely received oral interpretation services at school, while 7 percent
reported that the parent always enjoyed such services.

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