Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced that language access services for families from Harlem to Hollis tripled during the 2016-17 school year, compared to the previous year. With families in New York City schools speaking over 180 languages, this administration has made significant investments in the expansion of written and over-the-phone interpretation services and on-site interpreters at events to ensure families with limited English proficiency have access to critical information about school programs.
The DOE’s Translation and Interpretation Unit offers over-the-phone interpretation services in over 200 languages – including Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu – and in-person interpretation services at DOE events across the City. In 2016, the DOE significantly expanded these services by hiring Field Language Access Coordinators, designating Language Access Coordinators in each school, and giving schools direct and after-hours access to over-the-phone interpretation services. Easier access to over-the-phone services led to a threefold increase in the number of interpretation services provided to families, up to 52,850 during the 2016-17 school year, from 16,722 during the 2015-16 school year.
“Families are important partners and the language someone speaks should never be a barrier to engagement in their child’s education,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “These services are a game changer – we are reaching families beyond the traditional school day and in their native language, and we’ll continue to increase accessibility and awareness of these services to ensure we’re delivering for students and families.”
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“We are proud of the work we have done to make information more accessible, and we will continue to prioritize these important services to meet the needs of all families,” said Maite Junco, Senior Advisor for Communications and External Affairs.
Chancellor Fariña made this announcement at PS 186 in Brooklyn this morning, where approximately 60 percent of school parents are limited English proficient and speak 19 different languages and dialects. PS 186 families have benefited from over-the-phone interpretation services in over 10 languages this school year.
The DOE has made significant investments in additional programs and supports for families with limited English proficiency. Since January 2016, nine new full-time Field Language Access Coordinators were hired in Field Support Centers and the Affinity Group. Field Language Access Coordinators assist schools in developing a comprehensive approach for communicating with limited English proficient families and have since trained nearly 2,500 school staff on the importance of language services for parents and the resources available. In addition, they ensure that all schools have a Language Access Coordinator (LAC) – a designated staff member who has received training on how to maximize the provision of language services to parents. Newly designated LACs will be trained this fall. This year, the DOE has also established LAC Advisory Boards throughout the City – comprised of school-based LACs – to continue to identify language access challenges, develop and replicate best practices, and increase family engagement.
The DOE is taking steps to further increase awareness of these services and piloting new strategies to reach more families, including text messaging and robocall service applications. In November, a multilingual “NYC Public Schools Speak Your Language” campaign will appear on the subway to raise awareness of services available and encourage families to share feedback.
“Thanks to the expansion, schools are better able to serve families,” said Kleber Palma, Director of the Translation and Interpretation Unit. “The wide range of supports being provided are a testament to our commitment to providing schools and families with the tools they need to communicate effectively in numerous languages.”
Last school year, the DOE also hosted Family Engagement Conferences for families in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and Bengali to provide parents with information about programs and resources in their native language.
“Ensuring parents remain engaged and active members of their school communities is my priority,” said Yolanda Torres, Executive Superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement. “These expanded supports have made a real difference for parents by ensuring they have the information and resources they need throughout their child’s education.”
“In Brooklyn, where 47 percent of people speak a language other than English at home, providing translation and interpretation services is vital to building communities and empowering parents, I commend Schools Chancellor Fariña for tripling these language access programs,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “We must continue to support our borough’s non-English-speaking parents with the right tools so that they can guide their children through their schooling. Only by understanding administrators, teachers, and the curriculum will parents and guardians be able to make informed choices, and this expansion achieves that mission.”
“As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the unique challenges immigrant families often face—and it’s crucial for all families to be able to receive information in their preferred language,” said Council Member Mark Treyger. “Making sure New York City’s schools have a variety of language services is the best way to ensure all of our families stay informed. The Department of Education’s increase in language access services will greatly benefit families throughout our diverse city.”
This announcement will be available in all 10 DOE languages online.