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Coalition’s Education Collaborative Launches New Campaign; Calls for Improving Translation and Interpretation for Immigrant Parents


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Press Contact: Thanu Yakupitiyage,  Main Phone: 212-627-2227 x235,  Cell Phone: 413-687-5160,  E-mail: tyaku@thenyic.org
New York  (Tuesday, February 17, 2015)

Coalition’s Education Collaborative Launches New Campaign; Calls for Improving Translation and Interpretation for Immigrant Parents

 Immigrant Communities Urge Department of Education to  Include Translation and Interpretation Responsibilities in New School Support Structure

(New York, NY) Today the New York Immigration Coalition’s Education Collaborative launched “Build the Bridge,” a new campaign calling for immigrant parents to have access to quality translation and interpretation services to engage in their children’s education. Dozens of immigrant public school parents, community leaders and advocates from New York City’s diverse communities highlighted the serious challenges to immigrant parents’ abilities to support their children’s academic success– ranging from long wait times, to inappropriate individuals providing interpretation, to lack of access to any translation services. The Collaborative called upon the Department of Education (DOE) to have New York City districts proactively identify schools’ ability to provide translation and interpretation, provide more support, and ensure that parents get services that meet their needs.

“Parents have a right to translation and interpretation,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “In New York City, these services should at least be available in the top 9 languages spoken – Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu – according to the DOE’s own regulations. But the reality is that parents often don’t get these services, because of gaps in the system. While the additional funds for over-the-phone translation and interpretation and outreach are a positive step, there is much more work to be done.”
Nearly half of public school students speak a language other than English at home – almost half a million families. According to the DOE, more than 180 languages are spoken by NYC school families, underscoring the tremendous diversity of the City’s public school community, and the essential role of translation and interpretation services in engaging parents.
The DOE currently has only two people who are responsible for monitoring and supporting more than 1700 schools on translation and interpretation. However, the DOE is in the process of setting up a new school support structure for the 2015-2016 school year that expands superintendent offices and creates Borough Field Support Centers to deliver support to schools. Today, the Collaborative called for this new structure to also include staff focused on overcoming these language access barriers for parents.
At Tuesday’s press conference, several advocates and New York City parents spoke about the barriers to engaging in children’s school lives.

NYIC's education collaborative, including immigrant parents and children, call for adequate translation and intepretation
at the launch of the "Build the Bridge" campaign today. 

“I am a parent of a public school student in the Bronx and have faced challenges in getting the proper translation to understand why my daughter was falling behind in math. The teacher said there was no translation available and that she didn’t speak Spanish. I finally had to ask a local organization to come help translate. Ultimately, I felt discriminated against,” said Wendean Ulloa, New York City public school parent associated with MASA.
“Many school staff do not know that translation and interpretation is not a nice-to-have, it’s required. This kind of culture change comes from sustained support and monitoring, and the system needs more capacity to provide it,” said Aracelis Lucero, executive director of MASA.
"As an active parent in the Asian American communities in Queens, I have seen a huge increase in many new immigrants arriving and enrolling their families in schools but having issues with getting the proper language support. Many feel intimidated to approach the schools and ask for help and are unaware of their rights. We need to make sure schools know how to get interpreters and translated documents and make parents feel safe, welcome and supported in getting translation and interpretation," said Minwen Yang, parent leader with the Coalition for Asian American Children and families (CACF).

"In New York City, Asian Pacific American (APA) students make up 15% of the city’s public school population and represent over 25% of English Language Learner (ELL) students. The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) sees language access for parents in the NYC education system as a paramount issue for our community. By increasing schools’ capacity to provide adequate, culturally appropriate translation and interpretation, we will enhance immigrant participation and ensure the right steps to support our immigrant communities to a more successful future," said Sheelah Feinberg, executive director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF).
“I am always asked at my child’s school whether I need an interpreter. I always say yes. But the interpreter never comes. This is discouraging and makes it very hard for me to help my child in school,” said Samsun Nahar, public school parent with DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving.
“The DOE needs more people working with schools on translation and interpretation to figure out why these types of problems happen, help fix them, and make sure parents get good services,” said Kazi Fouzia, parent organizer with DRUM - Desis Rising Up and Moving.
“Many of the parents in our community are recent immigrants. Many are having issues with getting translation in Spanish, even though they speak Portuguese and can’t understand Spanish. Schools need more guidance to understand the importance of knowing their local community and the CBO resources that can help them,” said Claudiana Smith, lead organizer of Cidadão Global.
Marie Charles, deputy director of Haitian-Americans United for Progress (HAUP), said, “Even though parents have rights and now there are translators and interpreters for schools to use, there are still problems. Fixing these problems requires knowing where they’re happening, understanding the cause – whether it’s centrally provided services or a need for training at the school – and of course, support and accountability. All of this requires capacity, and a lot more capacity than two people can provide.”
“After parents weren’t given interpreters at the new parent-teacher conference last September in our community, they were afraid to come forward to anyone in the school system. They worried their children would be seen as problems if they complained,” said Emilia Yanyak, public school parent with Metropolitan Russian American Parents Association (MRAPA).
Vladimir Epshteyn, president of Metropolitan Russian American Parents Association (MRAPA) stated, “Immigrant parents are often worried to tell someone when they haven’t gotten translation and interpretation. We can’t depend on immigrant parents to identify all of the problems. Translation and interpretation is so important. The DOE needs to have people who check how it’s going proactively and help make improvements.”
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The New York Immigration Coalition’s (NYIC’s) Education Collaborative works to improve the quality of education for New York’s English Language Learner (ELL) and immigrant student population and to ensure that parents have opportunities to meaningfully engage in their children’s education. The Education Collaborative comprises more than 20 groups and is multi-ethnic, bringing together leadership from grassroots immigrant organizations representing the diversity of New York’s immigrant communities. Members also include advocates from legal, policy and education organizations, including experts in ELL education. Through the Collaborative’s regular meetings, members discuss issues that ELLs and immigrant students and families are facing and coordinate advocacy to improve outcomes for our students and better engage immigrant parents.

The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.


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