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What School Translation Services Look Like in New York City


While the federal government requires school districts to communicate with immigrant parents "to the extent practicable" in languages they can understand, doing so is seldom a simple matter. An article that ran Aug. 13 in The New York Times provides insight into the challenges of translating school documents into many different languages.

I wrote about the New York City Education Department's decision to set up a centralized office for translation and about efforts by other school districts to communicate with parents who don't speak English in October 2004.

Readers, I'd like to hear how your school districts are trying to meet the challenge of communicating with parents who don't know much English.


First, there is a company that translates State and district forms. The School District contracted with them and schools were able to access via a website. Then the school district identified all district personnel who spoke other languages and identified them, their location, and language spoken. Also, there was an outreach to Parent Leadership Councils, School Improvement Committees, and PTAs to identify members, schools, and languages spoken. A local tourist council offered a list of members and languages spoken for any community agency requiring translation services. Finally, one of the most creative and useful approaches was shared by an elementary teacher. There was a student in her class who spoke a language that one of the staff members at school spoke. She would hand the parent letter to the staff member and record the translation. She would give the tape to the student to take home so the parents could hear the info.

I can tell usually it takes all our life to learn some language. As for example I have studied Spanish since my childhood and can't say that I know it well.

Is there a legal decision or federal rule that REQUIRES local school districts to translate information/materials for LEP parents?

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