Parent leaders and the nonprofit RISE Colorado have successfully pushed for the Aurora Public Schools in Colorado to improve language services for families. Starting last year, key documents have been translated, staff have been trained to send automated calls in an array of languages, and educators have been banned from asking students to translate important discussions for their parents, notes Chalkbeat.
The 2018-19 budget includes $200,000 to centralize language services. Previously, language services were available through a number of different departments, which confused parents.
With 143 languages spoken by the families in the district, challenges remain. But educators and families are both confident the changes will make their lives easier, and allow parents to become more involved in their child's education.
Educators can't build relationships with families if they can't communicate with them. In an effort to obtain needed translators, schools might certify bilingual staff specifically as interpreters as a form of professional development. They could then make themselves available after their usual work shift to translate documents or interpret at events. District leaders might also partner with local colleges which have programs in translation to work with students. Some immigrant organizations, such as Stand With Immigrants, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and Translators Without Borders may provide referrals.
One idea to facilitate communication, along with bolstering the number of certified district translators, is to print wallet-size cards in the most common languages spoken in a district, including translations of the basic requests a parent might make, such a signing a child out of class, being put in touch with a teacher or guidance counselor, or asking for an interpreter, experts suggest.