Sunday, March 23, 2014

New Orleans charter schools scramble to teach non-English speakers | Hechinger Report

New Orleans charter schools scramble to teach non-English speakers | Hechinger Report:



New Orleans charter schools scramble to teach non-English speakers

By
NEW ORLEANS — Every school night, Ramon Leon helps his older son, a third grader at a New Orleans charter school, with his homework. Typically, they speed through the math worksheets. Word problems take longer because Leon’s son has to translate them into Spanish for his father, who speaks little English. Grammar worksheets sometimes stump them both. (Leon does not want to identify the school to protect his sons’ privacy.)
Leon, who moved to New Orleans from Mexico with his two sons just before the start of the school year, is an involved parent: He attends all report card conferences — using his third grader as an interpreter. On the nights when he can’t help his older son figure out an assignment, he won’t sign the homework form. Instead, he writes “No entiendo” — Spanish for “I don’t understand.”
Usually, the teacher responds with a note to him in English. And the confusion goes on.
Ramon Leon helps his son, third-grade Ramon Leon Jr., 10, by using the Google Translate app which will scan words from a page and translate them from English into Spanish at the VAYLA community office in New Orleans East in New Orleans, La. Sunday, March 16, 2014. VAYLA community organizer Cristiane Wijngaarde, left, also helps out the Leon family with translation. (Photo:  Matthew Hinton/New Orleans Advocate)
Ramon Leon helps his son, third-grade Ramon Leon Jr., 10, by using the Google Translate app which will scan words from a page and translate them from English into Spanish at the VAYLA community office in New Orleans East in New Orleans, La. Sunday, March 16, 2014. VAYLA community organizer Cristiane Wijngaarde, left, also helps out the Leon family with translation. (Photo: Matthew Hinton/The New Orleans Advocate)
The Leon family’s dilemma is typical of the challenges facing families that speak Spanish and Vietnamese in New Orleans. Households where the two languages are spoken make up the overwhelming majority of non-English-speakers in New Orleans; and most of their children attend a decentralized school system dominated by independently operated charter schools. Interviews with a dozen families whose children are enrolled in a range of schools found that many charters fail to 

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