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Report to State Legislature for 2009-10

An overview of the translation project for the Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents during the fiscal year of 2009-10.

This report to the Legislature is made pursuant to Item Number 6110-001-0890, Provision 26, of the 2009 Budget Act, which allocated $385,000 in federal Title III funds for the translation project of the California Department of Education (CDE) Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents (CMD). The CMD is the CDE’s online resource to help schools and districts find translations of parent notifications that can be used for local school-to-home communications.

The funds allocated were to be used specifically for new translations and for updates and revisions to translations the CMD made available in prior years. (Any revision of a source document, or English-language original, automatically requires that translations be updated or revised to reflect the changes.)

The provisional language also requires the CDE to “submit, on or before September 1, 2010, a detailed report of expenditures of funds…to the Department of Finance, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and the appropriate budget subcommittees of the Legislature.”

This report provides the requested detail of expenditures as well as an explanation of payment rates and a list of many documents translated by the CMD during the 2009–10 fiscal year.


In 2005, with the significant interest and support of the State Assembly, the State Senate, state agencies, and community organizations, the CDE CMD was established as an online resource to help schools locate and access translations of parental notifications. The creation of the CMD was prompted by the various translation expectations incumbent upon schools. In many cases, schools and district offices provide parental notifications both in English and in translation. Such notifications pertain to a wide variety of state and federal programs, ranging from health forms and illness prevention, attendance and truancy, enrollment, accountability, statewide testing, and nutrition programs to surveys and permission forms. District offices or schools had to translate notifications on their own, entailing a considerable degree of expense, work load, time, and duplication of effort.

The CMD now makes it possible for schools to reduce costs and minimize duplication of effort through the use of: (1) translations voluntarily contributed to the CMD by districts, and (2) translations of state-level templates translated and contributed by the CMD as part of its translation project. Since 2005, provisional language in subsequent budget acts appropriated federal Title III funds to the CDE to initiate and maintain a translation project to increase the number, range, and quality of translated parental notifications available to schools through the CMD. The project focuses on notification templates which, for the most part, are modifications of district-provided samples, state documents based upon district-level input and suggestions, or documents resulting from collaborative efforts by districts and the CDE. The CMD’s translations are made available to schools, free of charge, through the CMD and on the CDE Web site. Schools may download a document, paste it on local letterhead, and modify the content to suit local needs. The use of state-level templates helps foster a more consistent dissemination of information to parents throughout California.

As a result of the funding provided by the Legislature for the CMD translation project during 2009–10, the CMD database expanded from 5,000 to more than 6,000 listings. Available documents reflect as many as 29 different languages.

The languages into which the CMD translates notification templates are those that have consistently ranked among the most populous language groups in statewide school enrollment statistics: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hmong, Tagalog, Korean, Armenian, Khmer (Cambodian), Punjabi, Russian, Arabic, German, Hindi, Japanese, Lao, Portuguese, Somali, Samoan, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Urdu, Ilocano, and Farsi (Persian). During the latter half of 2009–10, in addition to the languages above, the CMD added Burmese, Chaldean, Thai, and Tongan because of a notable increase of these language groups in school enrollment figures.

As part of a quality assurance effort, the CMD typically uses a multiple-step translation process. A source document is translated and proofed by a contractor, after which it is delivered to the CMD. The CMD then sends the translation to a second, independent contractor, who critiques the translation and provides suggested changes. After reviewing the comments by the reviewer, the CMD sends the critiqued version to the original translator for resolution (i.e., the CDE and the initial contractor discuss the reviewer’s suggestions and accept, reject, or modify the recommended changes). After the initial contractor has proofed and finalized the translation, the final version is delivered to the CMD.  At that point, the CMD proceeds with uploading and posting the completed translation on the CDE Web site and entering it in the CMD database. (In cases where the differences between translator and the reviewer are irresolvable, the CMD sends the translation for an additional review to resolve differences.)

The translations made available by the CMD assist schools in meeting the translation expectations in law. For example, the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation frequently requires that parent notices be provided “in an understandable and uniform format, and to the extent practicable, in a language that parents can understand.” The translations resulting from the CMD translation project constitute a cost-effective and useful form of technical assistance to schools.

Expenditures During 2009–10

In the 2009 Budget Act, the State Legislature allocated a total of $385,000 for the CMD translation project.

Within the allocation of $385,000, the provisional language earmarked $260,000 of the allocation as a one-time amount to support the translation of new parental notification and information templates.

The remaining $125,000 (identified as ongoing support for the CMD translation project) was to support updates/revisions, as necessary, of parental notification templates that had been initially translated in previous years of the project. The CDE has a number of documents that periodically undergo revision, particularly in the areas of accountability and statewide testing. Legislative and policy changes for the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, and the School Accountability Report Card (SARC), for example, require changes to the parental notification templates that the CDE makes available to school districts.

Of the $385,000 allocation, the CMD’s expenditures during 2009–10 were as follows:

New translations, including quality-assurance reviews: $241,171.56

(NOTE: The term, new translations includes not only new source documents translated by the CMD for the first time but also source documents that, though translated previously, were translated into additional languages during 2009–10 to reach a broader parental population. Further, the term is sometimes used when an older source document has been revised to such an extent that the revision is actually a renovation, consequently requiring new translations.)

Updates/revisions to Prior Translations: $88,223.60

GRAND TOTAL: $329,395.16

Unused Amount of Allocation: $55,604.84

The two earmarks in the provisional language ($260,000 for new translations and $125,000 for updates/revisions) were the direct result of discussions in Assembly Budget Subcommittee pre-hearings in the spring of 2009. The CDE had been asked to provide projections of the likely translation work for the coming fiscal year. The CDE’s estimates represented a point-in-time projection based upon information available at the time.

As the work proceeded throughout 2009–10, the CDE was required to internally revise the point-in-time estimations. Work load and administrative decisions by CDE program offices altered the CDE’s original estimations, which affected the total expenditures necessary for new translations and the updated/revised translations.

The total number of CMD contractors during 2009–10 was 8. The total number translations, reviews, and updates combined was 1,414.

Rates of Payment

A better understanding of the expenditures may be gained by considering the payment rates established by the CMD with its contractors. Reasonable rates were determined after consultation with analysts in other state entities, such as the Department of Social Services, the Department of Aging, and the Board of Equalization.

During 2009–10, the CMD payment rates were as follows:

For standard translations, the CMD’s contracts were set up for a rate of 30 cents per word. The word count is determined by the CDE at the time that a source document is assigned to the contractor. The process of translation is understood to include: (1) the initial translation and proofreading; (2) the consideration of the suggestions made by a second, independent contractor who reviews the initial translation; and (3) the resolution of differences between the original translation and the reviewer, resulting in a final version of the translation.

In the event that a source document consisted of 150 words or less, the CDE paid 40 cents per word for translation, regardless of the language. In today’s economy, small orders can end up costing the contractor more than is profitable. The slight increase in the case of 150 words or less was therefore deemed fair and justifiable.

For reviews, the CMD typically pays 15 cents per word. The per-word price is based on the number of words in the English-language source document, not including headers or disclaimer language intended to remain in English. The word count will be determined by the CDE at the time that the review is assigned to the contractor.

For updates/revisions to prior translations, the CMD typically pays 15 cents per word based upon the number of words in the pre-existing source document and 30 cents per each new word in the revised source document, provided that the total number of new words exceeds 150 words. For Burmese, Thai, and Tongan revisions, the contracts stipulated a payment of 36 cents per each new word.

During the latter half of 2009–10, because Burmese, Chaldean, Thai, and Tongan language groups became more notable in school enrollment figures, adjusted rates were established for translations into these languages because of the comparative rarity of qualified translators possessing the necessary background experience with education-related notifications. After investigating the translation market, the standard rates of 36 cents per word for translation (40 cents if the number of words totaled 150 words or less) and 18 cents per word for reviews were established.

However, during the latter half of the fiscal year, the CMD translated only one document in Burmese, Thai, and Tongan, mainly for the purpose of experimenting with different font options. Fonts are a major consideration whenever documents are to be posted online, as users in the field prefer fonts that are commonly used and easily accessible from free licensing and downloading sites located on the Internet. Moreover, the 2008–09 enrollment figures for the three languages were considerably lower than many other languages, and the CDE intends to compare enrollment data from 2009–10 to determine if a need exists for a major translation effort in these languages.

In the case of Chaldean, consultation with school districts revealed that Chaldean-speaking families in those communities preferred to read documents in Arabic. The explanation given for this was that in the countries or cultures from which the Chaldean-speaking families emigrated, the educational emphasis had stressed literacy in Arabic. The CDE will continue to monitor the enrollment figures for this population. For the time being, however, Arabic translations completed by the CMD are, according to districts, appropriate to address the need.

The Sample List of Translated Documents

The program areas supported by the CMD’s translation project range from English learner, assessment, accountability, health and prevention, attendance and truancy, nutrition programs, and various state and federal programs. The list of documents and Web links provided in the attachment is a sample of the many documents and translations made available by the CMD during 2009–10.

Copies and Contact Information

This report is available on the CDE Document Translation References Web page.

A hard copy of this report may be obtained by contacting Rod Atkinson, Education Programs Consultant, Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents, by phone at 916-445-6109 or by e-mail at

If you have any questions regarding this report, please contact Thomas Adams, Director, Curriculum Frameworks, and Instructional Resources Division, by phone at 916-319-0881 or by e-mail at
Questions:   Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents | | 916-445-6109
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