New tool helps to bridge language barrier in the Austin School District

Brett Bachtle
Created: January 10, 2020 07:11 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It's being called a breakthrough in education. Austin Public Schools is piloting a first of its kind program allowing families and teachers to communicate through a translator.

On any given day, around 50 different languages are spoken within the Austin Public School District.

"That’s over a thousand students who their primary language is not English. The families are even larger where their primary language is not English, double that, so you have that communication gap. If we're trying to work together, that makes it pretty difficult,” said Superintendent of Austin Public School David Krenz.

For the district, finding the right tool to help bridge that communication gap between parents, students, and teachers was critical. They found their answer with the use of the Phrazer.

"We initially started with the device to look at onboarding of students during the registration process, and then specifically we really saw a benefit in our EL Program,” Krenz said.

"We teach so many students of different home languages. It's really hard to try and contact home. We want to be able to say hey this is how awesome your student is, this is what they did. Then they feel better like they know exactly what is going on in school,” said Stephanie Garbisch, EL program teacher at Neveln Elementary.

"It then allows that communication from that family in their language, back to the teacher in English for the teacher to go back and forth. It really is outstanding,” Krenz said.

"It can say different things in Spanish and English. If my mom or I have a question, we could just ask Mrs. G by the text messages,” said Neveln 4th grader Osmara Ryna.

"We don't have to worry about can we get them on their cell phone, are they at work? They just take it home. They can watch our videos or our little messages and we can connect with them that way,” said Nicole Thompson, EL program teacher.

Now dubbed the 'Althing program,' Austin Public Schools' use of the program is the only successful example in the nation. Soon the Althing Program will be used across the entire Mower County community.



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