Campaign For Language Justice

Schools have a responsibility to provide ALL children a great education, including those that are English language learners.

Immigrant students who are learning English have been traditionally neglected by the New Orleans school system. They are faced with a heartbreaking 35.6% graduation rate. In order to better voice the experience of parents and identify gaps in EL instruction/support in the city, OVNV parents launched Language Justice.

The first phase of the campaign began with a city-wide school survey. 70 schools in the city completed surveys about language services and programs available to their students and families. The survey indicates the level to which schools are providing ethical and consistent translation and interpretation support, accurate reporting of student progress and services, and proactive strategies for addressing issues such as bullying and law enforcement presence on campus. Parents arrived at school sites with the survey, and asked each survey question directly to staff.

The Report

Our Voice Nuestra Voz parent leaders sat down with staff from 70 schools in New Orleans to administer the hour-long 50 question survey. Every charter network and school in the city was interviewed and surveyed except for Algiers Charter Association (ACA). Despite multiple attempts from OVNV parents and staff, ACA declined to participate stating that they had no interest.

Each survey was administered to either a principal, an EL coordinator, or an ESL teacher. In addition, parents completed an observational portion of the survey by observing information available at the front offices for 80 schools. While Algiers Charter Association declined to participate in the self-reported part of the survey, parents were still able to conduct the observational portion of the survey. The self-reported and observational data was then compiled and analyzed to create this report.

0 Schools surveyed
  • 96% of schools allow bilingual family members of Limited English Proficiency students to interpret communications
  • 47% of schools will allow a minor to interpret communications to other students or families
  • 100% of schools employ at least one bilingual staff
  • BUT only 53% of schools train/assess interpreters
  • 75% of schools report they translate signs and posters announcing the availability of language assistance services at their schools
  • BUT in reality only 40% of schools observed as having signs announcing language accessibility
  • 95% schools translate vital documents (incl. consent forms, enrollment forms, notice of rights, notices of disciplinary action, and applications for programs and services) into languages other than English
  • BUT only 27% of schools translate complaint forms into a language other than English
  • 49% of schools do not assess newcomers on content in their native language
  • 38% of schools don’t assess literacy level in their native language
  • 71% of schools do not assess incoming students who are English Learners for past trauma
  • Only 48% of schools require ESL teachers have a teaching certification.

The Department of Education recommends that students who are EL aren’t separated from their English speaking peers for longer than absolutely necessary.

  • 83% separate EL students for less than an hour per day.
  • Only 7% separate them for longer than 2 hours
  • 100% schools we surveyed had a general bullying policy in place.
  • BUT only 20.6% of them had any policy specific to students who are English Learners.
  • Only 60% of schools trained staff on their legal responsibilities should law enforcement arrive on campus.
  • 36% of schools report training all staff on working with LEP families. Most only trained the few teachers that worked directly with EL students.
  • 40% schools don’t train staff on the cultural barriers often faced by English language learners.
  • 80% of schools are celebrating the cultures of non-English speaking


  • Schools need to leverage and properly train bilingual staff for interpretation. They must cease to use minors. Interpretation services that are available should be made well known to parents.
  • Student content knowledge needs to be evaluated in their native language.
  • All staff at schools with students who are EL need to be trained in serving them. Additionally staff need more training on cultural competency and common barriers immigrant students face.
  • Students must assess students who are newcomers for trauma.
  • All documents and signage, even less “critical” ones, need to be translated into a language parents understand.
  • Schools need increased accountability to go along with increased resources they will be receiving under the new differentiated funding formula. This includes the creation of a public tool that tracks how each dollar that is earmarked for students who are EL is being spent.
  • NOLA Public Schools needs to create an accountability system in regards to how schools are serving students who are EL. This information needs to be provided to parents so they can make informed decisions.
  • In 2017, OVNV worked with NOLA Public Schools to pass policies protecting students from ICE and law enforcement on campus. Similar policies need to be passed at every school in the city.