New York City?s Department of Education has responded to our participatory action research, direct action, and strategic policy advocacy by issuing new Chancellor?s Regulations that require translation services at all New York City schools and by investing over $12 million annually in a new Translation and Interpretation Services Unit to ensure that hundreds of thousands of New York City parents with limited English can participate meaningfully in the education of their children.
Last February, immigrant parents and advocates joined with Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Klein, Speaker Quinn, and City Council Members to announce the expansion of language assistance services for limited English proficient parents. This initiative will ensure expanded access for hundreds of thousands of immigrant parents and thereby benefit one out of every four New York City schoolchildren.
Catalina Martinez, a Make the Road New York Parents in Action member and an immigrant mother, spoke at the press conference. She said, "I am a mother of a boy who is in seventh grade at IS 93 in Queens. I value education a lot and I want the best for my son. I want to help my son succeed at school. I want to collaborate with his teachers to be sure that he is doing his homework and making academic progress.
"Today, I feel very happy that Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education are taking steps to eliminate language barriers and to guarantee that every parent in the city has the opportunity to support their child to succeed at school."
Although we applaud the Mayor?s commitment to translation services, actual change is lagging behind. In September 2006, Parents in Action and allies held a press conference to bring attention to the fact that schools are still not providing adequate translation services even with these new Chancellor?s Regulations in place. In response, the Department of Education has scheduled the first meeting of a new Taskforce, which will include a Make the Road New York representative, to make sure that schools are providing requisite services to parents.
Advocating for Better Schools and an Expanding Parents' Role in Their Children?s Education
Members of Make the Road New York?s Parents in Action committees in Brooklyn and Queens joined with other parent organizing groups citywide to found the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ), a new voice for parents and community members in the New York City school system. Led by parents, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice is organizing a movement to end the inequities in the New York City school system.
CEJ calls on Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein to implement the most important recommendations of the City Council Middle School Task Force in the city?s lowest-performing middle grade schools.
1. Redesign the School Day and Add More Time for Learning:
Hire teachers on a voluntary basis to work extra hours for more pay, stagger their work schedules and/or partner with community organizations to cover the extra hours;
Add daily classes in art, music and physical education;
Focus on literacy across the curriculum;
Offer Regents-level Math and Science courses; and
Provide small group and individual tutoring for struggling students.
2. Turn the lowest performing middle grade schools into Professional Learning Schools that attract and keep the strongest teachers and principals:
Offer strong incentives and intensive mentoring;
Reduce class size;
Provide enhanced professional development on adolescent learning; and
Add time for teacher planning and learning during the school day.
3. Provide the academic, social and emotional supports necessary for students to be successful:
Increase the number of school counselors;
Hire a dedicated high school and college counselor;
Coordinate school and community services in one location to better meet student needs; and
Emphasize college awareness for all students from day one.
"Today, with 12,600 dues-paying members, MRNY is a unique amalgam of worker center, legal clinic, citizenship school, mutual aid society, policy shop, protest factory and church. Its four offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island are an egalitarian oasis for members, who gather there for conversation and classes..."