Welcome to the page dedicated to improving communication at the Healey.

Updated as often as possible by the growing group of folks working on the OneVille Project; also includes work of the Parent/Student/Staff Partnership Working Group!

We are interested in communications both school-wide, and also between staff and students, and parents and staff. We are interested in improving flow of communication in BOTH directions--out from the school, and in from the community. Are you interested, too?

Then this is your page, too.

Here are some ideas we've been working on in the Parent-Staff-Student partnership group:

-OneVille: Connector preparation: we're preparing a packet of info for the Connectors (a force of liaisons) so they "know everything they need to know in order to support parents with questions." Consider: from your perspective, what would you put in that packet? What information do all Healey parents most need to know, in order to support their children's educational success more effectively?
-OneVille fyi: considering "get an email" events at Healey where parents and other community volunteers show other parents how to get email addresses for ConnectEd blasts and also, for listserv/wiki participation. Also considering a handout to classrooms, particularly non-Choice classrooms, that asks people to share email addresses w/ principal and also, to consider if they'd like to get texts via ConnectEd.

And, here are some other COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS brainstormed w/ Healey folks over past few days:

a. need for a project to link more Healey parents directly to young people as tutors. (that's real parent-teacher-student collaboration.) (Is there a need for some better process? A better coordination of tutors to kids, at the school level? Parents keep saying they have trouble getting their kids needed services. Why? Is a tool needed? Should a handout on "what you could tutor and when you are available" go home to all parents?
b. how about: Literacy Night --> Literacy breakfasts, where the info goes right to the parents. Idea brainstormed w/ Mica's teacher. And, the idea of a Creole/language specific literacy night, with educators-to-be trained by Literacy Coaches to share the info in native languages.
c. googlecalendar for entire school?

Prior COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS brainstormed with Healey parents:

  • The wiki we're now using! Yay.

  • listserv for whole school (with parent training, and computer in PTA room for regular parent use)
  • listserv for each classroom?

  • blog for whole school
  • blog for each classroom?
  • PTA website/school website, already existing

  • Parent Connector Network: parents giving out and getting info, face to face with parents.

- Beyond being available for anytime input, Parent Connectors could also facilitate face to face 'parent dialogues', to give out information but also to gather ideas about how to make the school better.

*Everyone, including Connectors, will need a parent phone directory to do their work.

note on this: apparently, a) the district's emergency cards now ask all parents to list email address and cell phone number, so ConnectEd can reach people using those media. Also, b) Connect Ed can send messages to parents via voice message on cell phones, text message, and email. But, we still may need to get people gmail accounts to be able to participate in any listserv or blog. So, a school event where Healey parents or local volunteers or perhaps, some kids show parents how to sign up for gmail accounts and get on a listserv or the wchool wiki would still be necessary (and fun!). Also, if the school did use ConnectEd even more to contact parents via texting and voicemail, the question is how often this should occur so that people don't get burned out on communications from the school! Also TBD: do parents want texts from the school? They do cost money, but it might be worth it to parents to stay informed.

  • a schoolwide google calendar, linked to district calendaring.

  • a ticketing system, where parents can log issues that need resolution and the principal can respond.

  • multilingual coffee hour is another tool in the toolkit.

(OneVille is also working on prototyping an online "dashboard" that could show parents (privately) how their individual kids are doing - an online report card-- and support common planning for student success. That's another story and we won't clutter up this space with it just yet! You can learn more at oneville.org. But it's another tool for teacher-parent-student communication. We'll invite you to co-design it with us later.)

Below here, we will put a sample of research that we have been collecting on communication issues. This is a very small sample -- the entire OneVille Project is an action research effort designed to both understand and improve communications needed to support young people in our diverse community (and any diverse community! Everything we struggle with is struggled with elsewhere). Here, we'll post some examples we've found from elsewhere, of people experimenting w/ tech in school-home communication. Some of these efforts involve tools created by for-profit companies (we're trying to make and use free tools) and also, most of these efforts are not designed for use in diverse communities! That's why figuring out communication solutions together here in Somerville is so exciting.

Rachel Toon
Literature Review: Using a Combination of Technology and Face-to-Face communication to Reach Parents and Students

Research is very limited about using a combination of technology and face-to-face communication. However, I have found information on both kinds of communication, and can make implications based on these two separate pools of research.

Perhaps because of the current nature of introducing the medium of texting to schools’ communication protocols, most relevant information was found on the internet rather than in published journals.

There are several companies out there that have marketed specifically to educators that could possibly serve as a template for further and more expansive usages. Teachers2parents, for example, is a British company with a software system that allows teachers to disseminate information through texts both for whole-class and individual student-based messages. They tout a “hassle free” web-based system that sends a message to a hundred students with a meeting reminder, or just one with a positive reinforcement comment. Concerns: Cost. For up to 40 kids in your class to contact (less if any have two homes) it is the equivalent of $342.00 per year. If you wanted to provide this system for an entire school of 1000 contacts, $4966 will get you a year of the application. Customizability: They show possible phrases you could be texting like, “Suzie did a great job on her spelling test today. Keep up the good work!” or, “Reminder to all Juniors the MCAS starts on Tuesday 7a.m. in your homeroom.” I’m just not sure how much of those are scripted templates, or if you can really say what you need to say authentically; the fact they say, “Each text message is automatically personalised to include the pupils name” concerned me in this regard. Demographics: I don’t think this would be a big factor given this tool, but it is of note at any rate that this is a British company. Who else does this? I have not uncovered others companies that do just this, but they say they are the “market leaders” and guarantee the “lowest price,” so there must be comparable companies doing the same thing.

Taliaferro, J.D., DeCuir-Gunby, J., & Allen-Eckard, K. (2009). ‘I can see parents being reluctant’: perceptions of parental involvement using child and family teams in schools. Child & Family Social Work, 14(3), 278-288.
This study explores the perceptions among teachers regarding parents’ motivation to participate in their child’s education. The researchers look at CFT’s (child and family teams) and their efficacy in supporting students and increasing student involvement. The study found an important correlation between school personnel’s attitudes and beliefs toward the students in question and toward the process in general. The study refers to “operational citizenship,” which they define as “…the ability to access the rights and benefits of participation in the polity without the burden of inequitable responsibilities” (p 279). In the conclusion, it is proffered that, “it is important that social workers reconstruct notions of parental involvement using collaborative and parallel structures as a means of making purposeful change. Social workers should be at the forefront of facilitating a movement to transform the discourses of parental involvement.”(287) It seems that “educators” or “school administrators” could also be inserted in place of “social workers” with seamless meaning. Technology could be part of the new “notion,” as it certainly fits the bill for a “parallel” structure. Therefore, this research is close to advocating a blend of approaches. The study took place in North Carolina in a small county, with a median income roughly half of Somerville’s. African Americans make up more than half of the population, as opposed to Somerville’s less than 10% (Although I assume the total diversity of Somerville to be more complex than that of this NC county).

Howe, N. (2010). A New PARENT GENERATION: Meet Mr. and Mrs. Gen X. Education Digest, 75(9), 4-12. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
The new generation of parents are extremely savvy of the educational options, and feel more entitled to get the ideal education for their child than the Baby Boomer generation. This article is suggesting that schools need to “market” to these new parents: “Gen-X parents will apply the "FedEx" test to their children's schools, expecting the service to be cheerful, fast, and efficient, with information and options in real time, online, 24/7.” This has far reaching implications as to the necessity of finding more technological ways to communicate instantly with parents, rather than relying on face-to-face communication. Says the article, “Web junkies, [Gen X parents] will monitor Edline and Blackboard sites nightly, send emails to school board members, trade advice on blogs, and look up teacher credentials. Flex workers, they will juggle schedules to monitor their kids' activities in person. Speedy multitaskers, they will quickly switch their kids into — or take them out of — any situation according to their assessment of their youngsters' interests. As The Washington Post recently quipped, ‘Parental involvement in our schools has become an extreme sport.’” (p 5). It was of note, however, that this article seemed to be addressing white upper-middle class most specifically; I saw no reference to SES or racial diversity.

Hohlfeld, T., Ritzhaupt, A., & Barron, A. (2010). Connecting schools, community, and family with ICT: Four-year trends related to school level and SES of public schools in Florida. Computers & Education, 55(1), 391-405. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2010.02.004.
This research study was the most directly applicable to this review; however, I only had access to the abstract. Its demographics could be similar to Somerville, its interest in a network of communication through the use of ICT for individual students was intriguing. I do not know which types of ICT they focused on, or what their recommendations and implications were. Stay tuned for my update on this.

(2006). Fitze, M. (2006). Discourse and Participation in ESL Face-to-Face and Written Electronic Conferences. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 11(4), 511-512. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
This article discusses the challenges in electronic communication for parents and students that are ESL. This will be relevant in identifying ways in which texting may be limiting to non-native English speakers. I am getting this article from Widener Library. I will add to this post then.

Lenhart, A., Ling , R., Campbell, S., & Purcell, K. (2010). Teens and mobile phones. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Teens-and-Mobile-Phones.aspx
This study is extremely comprehensive. They have very current and amazing statistics: “Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month” (p 2). If there were any question whether texting is an efficient way of communicating with teens, this is the study to go to for statistics. “As of September 2009, 75% of American teens ages 12-17 have a cell phone. . . Cell phones have become increasingly important modes for intra-family and external communication” (p 14). It has chapters on acquisition, use, and parents’ and teens’ attitudes about cell phones, as well as parents’ and schools’ regulation of usage and negative aspects of cell phone usage. It is an interesting finding that there was negligible difference in in-class and between-class teen usage of cell phones between schools that had high restrictions and “permissive” schools (pp 83-85). The negative aspects included bullying/harrasment, spam, texting while driving, sexting (although they found this to be minimal) and feeling “hounded” [my word, not theirs] by your parents (pp 67-69, 86-88).

Additional Research/Comments by Jedd Cohen

There is no national, comprehensive online resource about information flow among parents and educators that is accessible to parents. By “accessible,” I mean an online forum, news articles, or searchable database, rather than an academic research paper. The existing resources are more local and/or anectodal. They have a message board question-answer format, but no back-and-forth forum, no facilitated discussions, and little use of multimedia.

• The Berkeley, CA Parents Network (parents.berkeley.edu/) is an impressive local encyclopedia, however. It has a question-and-answer message board format for hundreds of nested categories by topic and/or district/school, ranging from the highly school-specific issues that show up in your fieldnotes to, eg, "Finance" or "Neighborhoods and Moving."

• forums.familyeducation.com also has Q-A message boards about a range of parenting issues including school topics, eg, IEP accommodations.

• There is also a national PTO/PTA website (www.ptotoday.com/boards), with nested Q-A message boards, blogs, and advice articles, mostly focused on PTO-school dynamics, including "building a multicultural PTO."

• NYC DoE is using ePals, an online platform for students to communicate with each other and teachers about school work. Parents get emails about children’s progress and can contact teachers.

• A number of districts, including Boston, have a more didactic, institutionalized "Parent University" model, with classes on academics and "leadership."

Regarding the translation component of information flow:

• The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education's website mentions use of parent translators in the context of parent/community organizing, but no district-specific details: http://corp.epals.com/news/press/press_july15_10.php

• There is lots of information about which companies districts use to provide translation.

Notes from Mica to rest of Parent/Student/Teacher partnership working group, sent over winter break 2010-11; linking Healey parents who have been brainstorming communication solutions via OneVille for a year plus, with parents in the P/T/S working group. It's all one big, connected effort to improve communications!

The working group has 3 core goals:
  1. Consider model for "parent involvement" at Healey.
  2. Consider model for parent and student input in/governance at Healey
  3. *Pursue solutions for schoolwide communication and parent/staff/student communication.

So, here's a list of communication ideas we've all brainstormed. It includes some research citations. I'll post them on the wiki too, but not everyone is using the wiki for actual discussion, so I'm sharing ideas via email too.

(On the OneVille Project we've spent a year plus thinking about/working up tools and strategies that can support necessary communication between people who share individual kids, who share classrooms, who share schools, and who share the city.) I've put various tools/strategies related to the Healey in bold below. A bunch are things the P/T/S working group could take on.

Schoolwide communication:

The wiki is a great place to put notes but not everyone is using it. So:

-How about if the P/T/S working group creates a parent info bulletin board in the school foyer where parents post questions that need community input/feedback, from the various working groups? There could be one (large font) translated question per week, and a space to comment on the question. (version of Donene's idea.) Not sure this would work to get input, but it's a thought.

-How about posting the wiki site link and "how to use the wiki" handouts very prominently on that board? (Will)

-Parents also asked that we put ideas on such a parent info bulletin board from the Multilingual Coffee hours. There were lots of great ideas raised last week at the coffee, but folks there aren't yet on the wiki to go review them. The multilingual coffee hour folks also had an interest in putting a big map in the foyer where parents and kids can put stars showing where we are from and have been. (Consuelo/Sarah) Consuelo also already put up a board of School Leader photos, and, a multicolored school calendar to display events each week. Both are parent info strategies!

-We've also discussed having the PTA room be available a morning or two a week, for parent/parent computer training. (waiting for dates from Maria.)

-to make event planning easier, we've discussed a need for some sort of schoolwide Google Calendar. (Seth, from OneVille, can help whoever wants to make it.)

- To even get on the wiki or an eventual listserv, or to get basic announcements from the Healey or teachers, people need email accounts. (ConnectED also can send text messages, but we don't know if parents want to get them. Research supports the increased use of texting w/ families ( http://www.hfrp.org/ publications-resources/browse- our-publications/logged-in- using-technology-to-engage- families-in-children-s- education <http://www.hfrp.org/ publications-resources/browse- our-publications/logged-in- using-technology-to-engage- families-in-children-s- education> ) and OneVille is exploring school uses of texting at the Full Circle/Next Wave school in Somerville.).

-So, we propose a communication survey and “get an email night” event series. (Rachel, spearheading. We need approval for the survey and dates for the "get an email" events, from Jay.) Here's a googledoc version of that survey/event invite, created collectively by Healey parents who’ve been working on school communications solutions with OneVille. https://docs.google.com/ document/d/1mImRl9- sqF2nkVG5CpNdtiGWh9OQlcGrEO8Z0 nZ7jOM/edit?authkey=CK7a2GA& hl=en# <https://docs.google.com/ document/d/1mImRl9- sqF2nkVG5CpNdtiGWh9OQlcGrEO8Z0 nZ7jOM/edit?authkey=CK7a2GA& hl=en#> . Click on the googledoc and edit by using another color if you want. If we don't hear feedback back we'll just approach Jay w/ the final.

-For classroom or gradewide communication about ways to support kids' reading (our schoolwide focus), some teachers are trying out literacy breakfasts (last year, OneVille piloted Reading Nights; breakfast time might be better for some parents and, having literacy experts there will be better too. Teachers are carrying the ball now on the literacy breakfasts, which is good!). The school might also consider holding some language-specific literacy events. Gina D'Haiti, Creole speaker, afterschool tutor, and Masters student in Education, is ready to do one if Jay wants to pursue that.

-OneVille is working up two other innovations that can support both schoolwide communication and communication about individual students. One is the Parent Connector Network, where parents will help get info to and input from other parents, particularly speakers of languages other than English. (We waited for Connector nominations from teachers and now are waiting on Jay to call nominated parents. Then Consuelo/Sarah will convene the Connectors' first meeting.) The second is a “dashboard” we’re prototyping for parents and teachers; this would be an online report card of sorts, that would support parents and teachers to monitor students' progress in detail and to plan together for student success. We think that Healey parents might be particularly interested in co-designing the dashboard and so we'll approach parents for focus groups this winter/spring. (Research supports both strategies: parents need to stay fully informed about school information and, about their kids' individual progress. On the latter, see http://www.hfrp.org/family- involvement/publications- resources/new-visions-for- public-schools-using-data-to- engage-families <http://www.hfrp.org/family- involvement/publications- resources/new-visions-for- public-schools-using-data-to- engage-families> .)

-How about this for another communication innovation the Healey might want to take on: paying bilingual parents for translation/interpretation. I (Mica) interviewed an administrator from Turlock Unified in CA; they seem to have this down. See the interview below if you want to learn more. I think this would require Jay re-directing some of his translation budget to pay Healey parents to translate documents, interpret for parents needing to communicate w/ teachers, etc. Could be worth an official exploration/pilot by the school.

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A POSSIBLE INNOVATION IN TRANSLATION?: interview by Mica Pollock w/ Nancy Snodgrass in Turlock, CA

I talked to Nancy Snodgrass, a Bilingual Special Education Resource Teacher from the Office of Professional Development and English Learner Programs in the Turlock Unified School District in CA. She was a contact from a former colleague at the Office for Civil Rights who said they were doing good work. I wanted to know: how have they dealt w/ the translation issues that are tough in any truly diverse district? My questions are in brackets. I've put a few other strategies that struck my attention, in bold.

[How at the lowest cost do you translate as much as possible?]District level doc translation: Nancy is a district bilingual special ed resource teacher. She does testing of ELLs prior to them being tested for special ed, and if needed, prior to their IEPs. She herself is bilingual in Spanish and also hired a bilingual paraprofessional who assists with bilingual assessment and is a district translator for Spanish – she translates district newsletters, minutes, etc. So, when the district needs district-level docs translated, the district office administrators first contact her. The administrative secretary in the office of student services, is also bilingual, and she provides their interpreting and translating in their office. So, they have two key translators in two key district offices.

For school sites: the sites that have larger numbers of Spanish speakers – usually a person at the site is available to do translation. If not, there’s a chain of command: site has to pay for it, but if the bilingual paraprofessional who does most of the District’s translations can’t do it, they have a district ‘on call’ list of people who can translate and interpret. Those people are sometimes working as bilingual personnel at other sites but can translate/interpret on their extra hours and get paid through “extra hours in pay” to do translation and interpreting. Or, they are people who have been hired as substitute bilingual paraprofessionals. District interviews them to see their interests and capabilities, Nancy trains them on being an interpreter/translator, what to expect when they are called, how to be an effective interpreter/translator, etc.. If the person is a Spanish-speaker, then a Spanish glossary of school terms is given to them that my contact at OCR gave them, from LA; then if they are going to help w/ interpreting assessments/Special Ed or translating IEPs and/or at IEP meetings, they get specialized training for that. In that training, a team of program specialist or director of special ed does one hour of training for interpreters/translators on what is special ed, what’s an IEP, what is the procedure of an IEP meeting, etc.; then they break into small groups and they have professionals who each explain their field, explain what interpreters can expect to be discussed when interpreting an IEP meeting. Do this training twice a year.

[[note: this saves money b/c IEP translation/IEP meeting interpretation is some of the most professional – it requires serious precision in the translation. They train people from within to handle Special Ed language, and then can employ them at the in-house rate.]]

The other languages – second largest language in Turlock is Assyrian – written language Farsi if from Iran, if from Iraq it is Arabic. Several on call people are fluent in Assyrian or Farsi– some of them have spent time in other countries so are also fluent in other language, like German.

“On call people” for translation/interpretation as needed across the district– these folks are on a list, are hired as a “substitute bilingual paraprofessional” (a formal job in the district), so they can be called by a school site to come in and be “on call” for translation. So: these folks are asked, when they sign up: would they be available for home visits, IEP meetings, parent conferences, written translations? So, administrator at each school site has a copy of this list of “on call” translators/interpreters. That list is kept/centralized at the district office too. And the secretary in the Office of Professional Development and English Learner Programs updates the list in conjunction with the office of human resources. So, these people know that they will be called and used a lot for lots of meetings, but at other times, they might go a few months w/o being called. It is an “on call” role.

The on-call paraprofessionals– include students from local universities – they had some really great ones, who both recently graduated though. To advertise for those on call folks: they look at the languages in the district, the needs – they advertise through EdJoin as they advertise any position in the district. Nancy will be training someone who speaks Cantonese this month and hopefully someone who speaks Hindi. Even if they have maybe 10 people in district who speak that language, they still need interpreters to do assessments and also to provide that communication to parents in home language.

Last month, they created a statement in 10 different languages that read, “if you do not understand how to complete these forms, then please let the personnel at the school site office know and they will contact an interpreter for you.” School sites were directed to post this in the front office right where parents can see it when they come in. That idea came from some Turlock parents – some parents will typically help other parents, and those parents said “if you just posted that in the front office they’d see their language and know to call someone.”

[How about translating docs that go out in writing?] Right now Spanish is the one language that they really try to make sure communication goes out in – but for school-level docs, it is up to the school site to arrange for that in a timely manner. For the other languages, it’s on an as-needed basis. Next year, the page w/ all the languages saying “if you need this translated, contact your school site office,” will go home in the parent handbook.

For large parent group meetings, like the District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) meetings, they always have a district interpreter who comes to all of those; plus director of EL programs who is bilingual. But if someone speaks Assyrian or Punjabi, they get an interpreter. Each school has a DELAC made up of site administrator and parents, and those school-level DELACs send reps to district – they act as an advisory committee to the school, in conjunction w/ school site council. They look at the different procedures at the school related to English Learners. (DELACs are a practice state wide in CA) DELACs discuss all the assessments they do in the district; reclassification; input from parents helps build the agenda; community programs will come speak about what’s available for the community; District-level DELAC meets 4x/year.

As far as interpreting for large group parent meetings – e.g. at large junior high, when they have a meeting for all 8th grade parents, they’ll have a Spanish interpreter but also often Assyrian, Punjabi and sometimes Portuguese.

OCR told them that they should have a translation plan for each school site, so they now have this. This is a template they fill out: what are the languages they have represented at that site? Who do they have available at that site to help w/ interpreting and written translation? When have those people been trained? District was brainstorming this fall that for every back to school night, they need to remind school sites to have somebody available who speaks the main languages they have at their site.

An awareness that District is still trying to achieve – “we’re a work in progress, trying to build an awareness at the school site level. We’re really pretty good w/ Special Ed – we’ve really made an effort in past years – but general ed piece has sometimes been missed in the past; we’re building a real awareness. The visit from OCR has helped us become more proactive,” Nancy says.

Nancy is very open to a call if folks in Somerville want to talk more about this. Nancy has worked with a group at the state level on an ELL Special Education manual – that’s where she met some of the attorneys from OCR who were also working on that w/ them. So, Nancy has become a state contact person on EL special ed issues, and so her district doesn’t mind her sharing out the info. She’s willing to share some handouts also, that they use to train interpreters; they are always revising these, too. They are learning to train interpreters on things like, “what are the questions you should ask the person who is asking you to interpret?” e.g: one person was being asked to interpret at a parent meeting, but she didn’t know she’d be expected to do that wearing headphones and translating simultaneously w/ large group of parents, and she didn’t feel comfortable doing that! So, interpreter should ask ahead: how many parents are you expecting? Will I be interpreting sequentially as you speak or simultaneously?

[how much training do the interpreters/translators need? How “professional” level are the interpreters/translators?] District tries to make it as professional as possible, but there’s still lots of turnover – so, general training with lots of materials has to be repeated– it’s about 1 ½ hrs. Nancy is still planning how to do more “update training.” Interpreters/translators always have Nancy’s phone number and can call her if they ever have a problem. Nancy also is in charge of primary language assessment, so b/c she trains interpreters she can key in on the people who seem like they can help her do language assessments and also do 1 on 1 special ed assessments. She now has a great group of people she’s found this way, several of whom are now working in the district in classrooms or working on their teaching credentials or post-graduate degrees. So, good background knowledge for the interpreters that then can become professionals in other parts of the system. In past 2 yrs District has trained 100+ people on being an effective interpreter/translator. [in verbal or written translation?] They also go over some examples of written documents they may be asked to translate – they give them examples of IEPs, and of standards-based report cards, progress reports, student study team referrals – sometimes they do verbal interpretation, sometimes have to do some written translation. One recommendation she gives the translators is to ‘ask to see the document before you agree to do it, so that you know if you have the written skills to really translate this.’

[do you know how much you pay for translation and interpretation?] Starting at $13.78 for both. Some people are employed just to do this, and some of them, are doing extra hours on top of their regular job. Bilngual paras are hired to be bilingual, but some are not working in a position right now that requires bilingualism, so for interpretation/translation, District pays them at the higher bilingual rate.

Nancy’s email: nsnodgrass@turlock.k12. ca.us

She’d be happy to send me/the district attachments of the docs they use for training. Also: when they hand the interpreters their binder of materials, they tell them to bring it to all the trainings – they have found bilingual glossaries in most of the major languages spoken in their community and have provided those for the interpreters. They give the Spanish-speaking interpreters the bilingual glossary from LA Unified. The translators/interpreters say they “feel important” when they get these binders.

Along with the mandatory English test, the district has a Spanish test they give to bilingual paras/interpreters – but they don’t yet have a way to test people’s proficiency in the other languages. Have to sort of trust what they say about their own language skills. But, Assyrian speakers often check with one another on how to write things. Also, afterschool/weekend program at church teaches Assyrian – a lot of the interpeters/translators they have used also have taught in that program.

[Any use of technology in all this?:]

Headphones in some simultaneous translation;

Only the emailing the translators their translations! District or school will call them first and then email out the doc, and then they email it back or bring it in. With the IEPs – translators have to come to pick them up from the district office; these documents are not sent electronically. Many of the Spanish translators used to have to write out all of the text anew each time. But the District Spanish translator finally made a template in Spanish so she could fill just the new stuff in on the written reports. (B/c the typical template was in English.) Now they might make a template in the other languages, as needed. But for some reason, very few non-Spanish speakers say they want the IEP translated when they are asked.

[where do school sites draw their lines on what they translate and don’t?] that depends on school site – for example, there’s one magnet school for two-way bilingual immersion – from that site everything that comes out is in both languages. You walk in the office and everything is in both languages. Another school site whose population is about 60% English learners, over 90% of whom are Spanish speaking – you also see everything at that school going home in Spanish. It depends on the administration as to how much it is done consistently. “We’re much better now than we were a few years ago.” “OCR told us that anything affecting the child’s education and parents’ access, we should have it communicated in the language the parents understand the best. We have a whole list of e.g.s of things that should be going home in Spanish. So for eg: we’re not sure that for all students the letter this year went home telling parents that kids needed to have PE clothes. We talked about ‘that needs to go home at least in Spanish, not just English.’ Requirements like that.”

[how about translating material on listservs, info going out on websites?] We’ve looked at some of the automatic translation tools and haven’t been so pleased w/ the way they translate – I looked at an IEP from another district – it was translated by computer – no way parent would be able to understand that! literal translation! From a small school district. [right, not for IEPs! .. .Do you have click translation on the district website?] No – on our website we have the school board agenda, board minutes – there’s a link to go to the Spanish – but that translation version was posted online by a human translator.

Like last year – when letter on H1N1 went out – went out in Spanish! If district office generates it, it does go out in both languages, one on each side. School sites – still working on getting them to do it consistently and in a timely manner (not the day before it is needed.)

[How long is the list of on-call people? How many people do you have available as on-call translators and interpreters?] We now have: 75 people on call for translation/interpretation as needed (Nancy’s note: I checked this list and we do have 75 people listed, but many are listed twice because they speak more than one language. As far as specific number of interpreters, we have 57.) On the basic form, they check off what they are trained to do/feel comfortable doing, Y or N, after they come to their first training and once they feel more comfortable – e.g., if they feel more comfortable doing oral parent conferences, IEPs, special testing, phone calls, home visits, written translation, and language assessments, etc. We keep track (on the form about each interpreter/translator) if they have attended a general training and/or a special ed training. So, if needing special ed interpreter, school sites are advised to only use a person who has had special ed training. Also, interpreters and translators are advised to ask ahead of time about ‘what sort of info are you going to ask me to interpret?” e.g., some feel uncomfortable in interpreting expulsion hearings; better to know in advance that that’s your task.

Many are interpreters/translators for Spanish; their hours are limited b/c they work at school site as paraprofessionals during day, do some extra hrs at night. Includes 3 for sign language. (one paraprofessional who is fabulous at interpreting is able to do Sign Language, Armenian, and Spanish!) several Punjabi, Portuguese, and Assyrian, along with Mandarin. German, Farsi, Cantonese, Arabic, Russian and Ukranian.

1x/month, district works w/ key administrator from every school site who is in charge of English Learner programs and services – Nancy gives them the same info that she gives translators and interpreters, so they are also aware of procedures to follow. Also the Director of the English Learner Program and Nancy have trained the assistant principals, who are in charge of the interpretation/translation services at their sites – we train them in how to train the on-site people. They have the option to send site people to the trainings.

“As problems come up, we try and solve them.”

[do you have a lot of parents who have come in the door to district employment this way, as interpreters and translators? ] yes - -a lot of the interpreters/translators are parents of students in our district. We also tell them that we depend on you to tell us if any cultural differences that we need to be aware of – e.g., Assyrians told them that others shouldn’t know about your child having problems in school – so they said, if you decide later in the process to test a student for special ed, use the same interpreter, b/c parents feel more comfortable only sharing the info w/ one person in the same community. So, Nancy wrote all sites to say ‘please have one person doing the testing, health history, IEP meeting for each student.” [as a small community though, is it fundamentally weird to have parent in there translating for other parents? Nancy’s comment—During our training the interpreters are told that in their role as an interpreter, they are a district employee and they need to remain neutral. They are the voice that links the parent with the school personnel and visa versa. This is also when we speak about confidentiality. ] Nancy will recommend specific interpreters based upon their experience. [but is it weird to have a parent in there as an interpreter? Nancy’s comment—It is explained to the parent that the person is there as an interpreter only and as a school district employee. Many of our Spanish-speaking interpreters who also work at school sites know some of their families they need to interpret for. In a smaller community like Turlock, this may be very common.] Nancy typed up a whole thing on confidentiality – never leave anything in your car, viewable through your window – keep it in a sealed place. We talk a lot about the confidentiality piece – it’s to protect them, too.

IN the training, Nancy goes through and gives them scenarios – if you were in this situation, what would you do? And do a quiz before leaving.

[who administers all this?] Human Resources recruits the interpreters/translators and does all the paperwork. Then they’ll let thesecretary in the English Learner Program office (Nancy’s program) know about the new people. The secretary is also in charge of giving Nancy the names of available people and coordinating trainings and photocopying materials for binders. At each school site, schools’ administrative secretary keeps the list of available translators/interpreters in the district. (this is a list not to be distributed to other school staff members – they are to contact the school administrative secretary to then contact the interpreter.) That then ensures that personal info about interpreters isn’t going out to everybody. But also, when the school site (via secretary) needs something translated, they contact someone on the list or call the district office for a rec of who to contact. So, administrative secretary at each school can contact the translator and it’s on the school to budget that.

One Spanish interpreter is hearing impaired and only does written translation, so they communicate w/ her via email. (But no special ed docs can go through email.)

[How big is Turlock Unified?] 13,000 students K-12. 25% English learners, but 30-35% from home where language other than English is spoken (so w/ parents who might need translation.) AERIES database for student language shows “correspondence language.”That’s the language of the parents. (sometimes staff at school sites get confused about this and think they are supposed to write the language of the student in that blank, but it’s the parents at home who will get the correspondence therefore the document needs to be in the language they understand best. Nancy’s comment; On the school registration form, the parents are now asked in what language they would like to receive correspondence; this is the language that is supposed to be indicated in the database )

this allows them to send home targeted translations to individuals: if AERIES database shows that “correspondence language” is Spanish, they know that an individualized letter home needs to go in that language. Usually letters for everyone go home with English on one side, Spanish on other, but, if something individual goes home, they can specify the language for that letter if the info in the database is updated.

[what goes home individually?] e.g., SARB – school attendance review board report – that might be generated just in Spanish if the individual family’s correspondence language is Spanish.

She’s fine w/ all of this info going right to the district. She is constantly in contact w/ other district folks working on the same issues.