Translation for LEP Students and Families: 7 Types of Paperwork to Translate Now (and 3 to Translate Later)

By United Language Group

It may be the middle of summer, but schools and school districts are already gearing up for fall. In all the preparations, are students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and their families being left behind?

As of 2013, 25.1 million people living in the U.S. reported having Limited English Proficiency. Schools and school districts have a responsibility, both moral and legal, to ensure that LEP students have access to education and that LEP parents can still be involved in their children’s academic lives. With that in mind, here are seven types of paperwork to translate for your LEP students and families now (and three more types to translate as the school year goes on).

Enrollment forms

Obviously, it’s important to get started off on the right foot. Translating enrollment forms into the most common home languages of the LEP families in your area saves time and streamlines the enrollment process, especially if many of the families in your district don’t speak English at home.

Paperwork for School Activities

LEP students have the same rights to participate in school activities as other children do. And their families have the same right to information as other families. According to the 1970 Memorandum issued by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, “school districts have the responsibility to adequately notify” parents of the same school activities they inform other parents about. The key word here is adequately.

If the parents can’t understand it, it’s not adequate. Translation is often necessary to reach LEP families effectively.


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Information About the Availability of Interpreters and Translation Services for Families

Simply offering translation and interpretation services is not enough. LEP families can’t take advantage of those services if they don’t know they’re there.

Some states and school districts offer premade notices or templates that can be customized for individual schools, but be careful with these. Cutting and pasting or otherwise attempting to manipulate translated text can backfire. If the software you’re using doesn’t adequately support the language, the text that shows up after you hit Paste might not be the same officially-approved translation you cut. The result? Unexpected errors you won’t catch without a native speaker to review.

Home Language Surveys

These surveys are sent home at the beginning of the year to identify LEP families and the languages they speak. But those families aren’t likely to respond to surveys they can’t read. So home language surveys need to be translated into the most common native languages of LEP families in each community.


In our digital world, more and more families go online first for information on their children’s school. Accurate website translation has never been more important!

Information about Special Programs and Services

Does your school have a gifted and talented program? Does your district have magnet schools? What services do you have available for LEP students? What about information on free or reduced price school meals? All of this information and more must be available in the native languages your LEP families speak.

School Handbooks

Another item to translate now is the school handbook. To succeed, parents and students alike need to know what the school expects of them. How will they know if they can’t read the handbook?

And what about during the school year? A little bit of planning now can save you time when school is in session.

Test scores, Progress Reports, and Report Cards

Anything that has to do with a students’ academic achievement more than likely requires translation under the “No Child Left Behind” Act. And with good reason. Deycy Avitia of the New York Immigration Coalition explained why in a 2007 New York Times article. She said, “We have parents coming to us after a couple of semesters of their kids getting failing grades. They didn’t realize it because the kids were doing the translating, and they would say that an ‘F’ stands for fabulous.”

Well, no. No, it does not. Parents need accurate information about how their kids are performing in school.

Requests for parent/teacher conferences should also be translated, with interpreters available for the conferences as needed.

Notices About School Performance

And what about report cards for the school? LEP families also need access to translated versions of notices regarding school performance and teacher qualifications. This includes school ratings from state and local educational agencies. Schools are also required to notify parents, in their own language if necessary, if their institution is identified for school improvement. These notices must include:

  • Why the school needs improvement
  • How the school plans to improve
  • What parents can do to help
  • And finally, how can they transfer to a higher-performing school if desired?

IEPs for Special Education Students

Parental involvement is important for all students, but even more so for special ed students. Each special education student is supposed to get an Individualized Education Program or IEP. But in order for the IEP to be implemented effectively, parents must be able to understand it. That means it needs to be available in their language.

How VIA Makes It Easy to Stay in Compliance

Both federal and state regulations govern translation requirements for LEP students and their families, and it can be hard to keep up. Of course, the current federal administration may not enforce these requirements as vigorously as the last administration.

But regardless, compliance still matters. Districts that provide inadequate translation services leave themselves open for lawsuits. More importantly, studies show parental involvement leads to student success. Society benefits when children do well in school. That’s true no matter where those children come from or what languages their families speak.

VIA’s team of experts makes it easy to stay in compliance with current regulations. Our native-speaking translators are also subject matter experts. Their knowledge and skill makes us the nation’s leading online translation service for educational institutes and school districts.

And for a limited time, we’re offering a 10% discount on new back-to-school translation projects placed through the VIA Translation Platform through the end of August.

Want to learn more about our award-winning translation services for schools and school districts? Give us a call at 1-800-737-8481!

United Language Group

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