Schools Told Translators Are Needed for Parents

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue May 25 15:36:39 UTC 2004

>>From the NYTimes,  May 25, 2004

Schools Told Translators Are Needed for Parents

A coalition of advocacy groups charged yesterday that parent coordinators
in New York City schools do not have enough translators to help the large
number of parents who do not speak English.

The coalition called for the Department of Education to provide a more
centralized system of translation services to improve the parent
coordinator program, which was started last year as a centerpiece of Mayor
Michael R. Bloomberg's sweeping changes in the educational system. A
spokeswoman for the Department of Education said the department was trying
to hire someone to create and run an expanded translation system.

The criticisms came from Advocates for Children, the New York Immigration
Coalition and seven other nonprofit groups that surveyed 111 of the school
system's 1,200 parent coordinators. While 66 percent of those surveyed
said they were bilingual, three-quarters said that more than one language
other than English was spoken in their school. Eight of 10 said that they
had to improvise to communicate with parents, often asking other bilingual
staff members to act as interpreters.

"Parent coordinators are meant to be a bridge between the school and the
parents," said Jill Chaifetz, executive director of Advocates for Children
and one of the report's authors. "If you have a fundamental breakdown
where you literally can't speak to each other, there is a real problem."

Margie Feinberg, a Department of Education spokeswoman, said the
department was seeking to fill a new position called the director of
translation and interpretation services.

The department said a centralized translation unit is to begin operation
in September. The unit would expand the current translation of school
documents and work with parent coordinators on interpretation issues.

The department currently translates important parent documents into the
eight most commonly spoken non-English languages, which account for about
95 percent of all the non-English speaking families with children in
public schools. Those are Spanish, Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Bengali,
Russian, Arabic, Urdu and Korean.

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