Limited-English Students Lack Services At New Orleans Schools

Apr 19, 2013

In a report out today, New Orleans students from Vietnamese and Latino families say they are not getting the resources they need at school. The Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA) surveyed 100 students across six schools and collected stories from students and their families. It found a lack of services for Limited-English speakers.

Students describe being placed in English as a Second Language classes below their skill level. Juan Fortanel, 17, says his middle school ESL classes did not feel serious.

"The stuff we were learning was like 6th, 5th grade work and it kind of bothered me," he says. "All we did was go over vocabulary and work on some program on the computer. And at the end of each class we got little animal crackers. It reminded me of kindergarten."

In the report, students who grew up speaking English say they get put in ESL classes because of their last name or ethnicity, and they get called to interpret conversations between parents and teachers. Myra Silva, 18, was once pulled from social studies to make phone calls about an early dismissal to non-English speaking parents.

"I lost like 30 minutes of my learning time," Myra says. "I felt like I was being treated as a staff member - as an adult - and I was just thirteen years old. Students need to be students, not adults."

VAYLA staff member Cristiane Wijngaarde recalls similar treatment when she moved to New Orleans from Brazil.

"I was in ESL 20 years ago. We just need to call attention to it and make it stop now. If we start working on it

now we don't have to worry about 20 years from now students having to go through that experience."

The report's recommendations include more adult interpreters and hiring more certified teachers for English as a Second Language.