Buffalo School District Offers Services in 85 Different Languages to Cater to Immigrants

immigrant English learners AP PhotoEmily Varisco
AP Photo/Emily Varisco

A school district in Buffalo, New York offers services in 85 different languages for immigrants and refugees who enroll in school.

The school district recently hired multilingual staffers who can speak to the students in their own language in order to sign them up for school, test their English, assess their prior education, and discuss with parents the expectations of the classroom, according to a report from the Buffalo News.

Buffalo Public Schools made these changes due to new mandates by the New York State Department of Education in order to address the needs of a large population of multilingual students from foreign countries who don’t speak English as their primary language and are struggling in the public school system.

“In the past, we would have done our very best to communicate with the family, either through another family member or sometimes the student,” said Mark Frazier, director of student placement and registration. “We did our best given the circumstances that were given, but definitely recognized the growing need to provide face to face translation services.”

The district hired a supervisor for multilingual placement and six cultural specialists who speak the top six foreign languages spoken in the district.

“When they see someone that speaks their language, it makes them feel more comfortable,” said Abdi Yakub, one of the new language specialists.

English language learners make up 15 percent of the district’s enrollment and are the lowest-performing in the state, state figures show. They are also the fastest-growing segment of the population in Buffalo.

Nearly 1 in 10 students in the country’s public schools are English language learners, Breitbart previously reported.

Buffalo registered more than 1,100 students classified as English language learners between July and November alone.

Buffalo is trying to provide teachers with more background about these English language learners so they can better assess their needs as students and figure out how they should teach them.

That is why students are tested in English as well as their native language.

“They may not know English, but they could be a superstar in their own language,” said Finune O. Shaibi, supervisor of multilingual student placement.

According to the U.S. Census, 25 million Americans don’t speak English very well.


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