Language Access Policy

I. Mission and Background

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) educates over 1.1 million pre-kindergarten–grade 12 students in over 1,700 schools. Students and their parents communicate in over 180 different languages. It is the responsibility of the DOE to ensure that all parents[1] are given a meaningful opportunity to participate in their child’s education program. The DOE has developed this Language Access Plan to ensure the provision of appropriate translation and interpretation services for limited English proficient (LEP) parents are in accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation A-663.

II. Language Access Goals

Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 establishes procedures for ensuring that LEP parents are provided with a meaningful opportunity to participate in and have access to programs and services critical to their child’s education. (The term “parent” means the student’s parent[s] or guardian[s], or any person[s] in a parental or custodial relationship to the student). Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 requires language services in the nine most common languages other than English spoken by parents of New York City school children. Based on the DOE’s Home Language Identification Survey these languages are Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu (hereinafter referred to as the “covered languages”). These languages, including English, account for over 95% of student households. Support in additional languages is available through contracted vendors.

The regulation sets forth requirements for:

  • Translating documents containing critical information regarding a student’s education in each of the covered languages.
  • Making available translation and interpretation services for parents.
  • Collecting data regarding the primary language spoken by the parent of each child enrolled in school and whether such parent requires language assistance to communicate with the DOE.
  • Increasing parental awareness regarding their right to and the availability of language services.
  • Developing school-based languages access plans.

III. The Translation and Interpretation Unit

The Translation and Interpretation Unit is responsible for spearheading all efforts related to language access at the DOE. It operates within the Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) to ensure that language access is a key consideration in all parental engagement initiatives and communications. The Unit:

  • Oversees and monitors the DOE’s provision of language assistance services to LEP parents;
  • Works closely with schools to ensure that the DOE’s translation and interpretation services support the needs of the LEP parent population;
  • Serves as primary contact for schools for ongoing guidance and support;
  • Provides input regarding appropriate budget allocations for translation and interpretation services, and monitors and evaluates how schools use translation and interpretation funds;
  • Develops and provides training to relevant school staff;
  • Develops and provides Language Access Kits to schools. Kits include a multilingual welcome poster, a Language Identification Guide to help determine the language spoken by a parent, sample I Speak Card for parents, sample Multilingual Language Access flyer for parents, an information brochure about the services provided by the Translation and Interpretation Unit, and an over-the-phone card for school safety agents that outlines how to obtain an interpreter.
  • Works with the Office of School Facilities to ensure that school-based language assistance signage is posted; and
  • Maintains outside language services vendor contracts.

IV. Service Provision Plan

A. Interpretation

Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 requires that the DOE provide interpretation services, either at the school/office where the parent is seeking assistance or by telephone, to the maximum extent practicable, during regular business hours to parents whose primary language is a covered language and who request such services in order to communicate with the DOE regarding critical information about their child’s education.

Over-the-phone interpretation services are available to all schools and offices during regular business hours in over 150 languages. These services can be accessed by contacting the Translation and Interpretation Unit but are provided by a contracted vendor. Language identification is done by either:

  • A DOE staff person identifying the language
  • The limited English proficient parent identifying their language from a Language Identification Card
  • The vendor identifying the language with the use of specialized linguists over the phone
  • Interpretation services also must be provided at the following citywide meetings:
    • Panel for Educational Policy meetings
    • Citywide ELL parent meetings
    • Citywide/Community Education Council meetings
    • Other citywide parent meetings organized by central offices

These events are conducted throughout the City and are typically covered with interpreters from a contracted vendor. Languages to be provided are pre-identified by either:

  • Analyzing Home Language Identification data or census data for the location of the event
  • Responding to specific language requests made by expected attendees or the organizers of the event
  • Analyzing data from previous events held at the location

B. Translation

Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 requires that documents produced by central DOE offices and schools which contain critical information regarding a child’s education must be translated into the covered languages.

Documents containing critical information that are translated include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Registration, application and selection
  • Standards and performance
  • Conduct and discipline
  • Safety and health
  • Special education and related services
  • Entitlement to public education or placement in any special education, English language learner or non-standard academic program
  • Transfer and discharge
  • Legal or disciplinary matters

The Translation and Interpretation Unit is responsible for translating the majority of these documents into the covered languages. Translations into non-covered languages are obtained from qualified contracted vendors.

All of the translation work produced by the Translation and Interpretation Unit is translated by DOE employed translators and go through a quality control review before being finalized. DOE translators are aided by translation tools, such as translation memory software, bilingual glossaries of DOE terminology, and foreign-language style guides.

V. Outreach

The Translation and Interpretation Unit distributes multilingual posters to all DOE public schools and district offices throughout the City at the beginning of each school year. Schools are required to post these posters in a highly visible location. These posters provide LEP parents instruction on where and how to obtain interpretation services. The Unit also makes available, on its website, additional multilingual signage (including directional signs) that schools and offices can download, print and post. FACE conducts spot checks on schools throughout the year to ensure that appropriate translated signs are visible to parents who visit the school.

The DOE makes available to parents the Parents’ Bill of Rights and A Parent’s Guide to Special Education in the covered languages (linked below). Both resources:

  • Make parents aware of their rights to languages services.
  • Are distributed to parents at the beginning of each school year

Find Out More

VI. Training

Training of field staff is critical for the success of the Department of Education’s language access initiatives. Training on the requirements of Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 along with the available resources to comply with these requirements, is provided to appropriate school based staff and field personnel.

The training module includes information on:

  • The school’s role in facilitating the provision of Language Access services
  • Accessing translation and over-the-phone interpretation services from the Translation and Interpretation Unit
  • Obtaining translated signs for posting and Language Identification Cards for identifying parent’s primary language
  • Resources and support available from the Translation and Interpretation unit
  • Accessing school translation funds and options for using these funds

VII. Monitoring

Ensuring the quality of our language services is critical to communicating effectively with our LEP parents. The Translation and Interpretation Unit works in collaboration with other DOE offices to roll-out the following evaluation mechanisms to ensure the successful implementation of its language access initiatives:

  • Principal Satisfaction Survey – Survey distributed to all school principals to assess the central supports provided to schools, including the provision of language services by the Translation and Interpretation Unit and external language service providers.
  • Translation and Interpretation Customer Satisfaction Survey – Survey distributed to all Translation and Interpretation customers to assess provision of language services by the Translation and Interpretation Unit.
  • School Survey for Parents – Survey made available to all school-aged parents to assess their child’s school, including whether or not the school is communicating with the parent in their native language.     
  • Monitoring of Multilingual Welcome Poster – Site visits to determine if schools have the required multilingual welcome poster visibly posted at the entrance of the facility.

In addition, the Translation and Interpretation Unit maintains records of all service requests received for written translation services, on-site interpretation services, and over-the-phone interpretation services from all DOE schools and offices.