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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Regarding the Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents (CMD).

For easy reference, the questions and answers have been grouped into five sections:

Section 1 (Questions 1.1 through 1.13)
What the CMD is, why it exists, and how it works

Section 2 (Questions 2.1 through 2.2)
How local educational agencies may register to use the CMD

Section 3 (Questions 3.1. through 3.4)
About the CMD database

Section 4 (Questions 4.1 through 4.15)
About translations, contributors, formats, and languages

What the CMD is, why it exists, and how it works
1.1 What exactly is the Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents, or “CMD” as you call it?

The CMD is an online resource that helps local educational agencies (LEAs) to locate, access, and share parental notification documents that have been translated into non-English languages. (LEAs include districts, county offices, and charter schools.)

Through the CMD, LEAs voluntarily provide information for translations that they are willing to make available to other LEAs. The information includes:

  • The links for translated documents provided by LEA contributors
  • The language in which each translation is available
  • The programs served by a translation
  • Contact information in the event of questions

Through the CMD, registered LEA users may locate a translation, access and review it, download it, and adapt or revise it to suit local needs.

1.2 Why does the California Department of Education (CDE) provide this service to LEAs?

Effective communication between school and home is a vital part of a child's success in school. Schools send a number of notifications to parents during the course of a school year. A number of these notifications pertain to the day-to-day operations and events during a typical school year: field trip permission forms, publicity for a school play or carnival, a newsletter about back-to-school night, and notifications regarding parent conferences. Other notifications relate to more critical issues, including school accountability, statewide testing, health, attendance, suspension and expulsion, curriculum, and federally-funded instructional programs.

Moreover, some state and federal laws specify conditions under which schools must notify parents, sometimes requiring that notifications be provided in translation to ensure understanding by all students' parents.

Because many parental notifications contain much information in common, districts throughout the state have found themselves translating much of the same information. The result is an unnecessary multiplication of effort.

The use of CMD translations can help schools reduce redundancy in translation and reduce local costs and workload. Through the CMD database, registered LEAs may access translations and then revise them to suit local needs.

1.3 How does an LEA register for the CMD?

Registration is a very simple process. For specific registration information, please scroll down to Section 2 and see the response to Question 2.1.

1.4 Does it cost anything to register or to use the CMD database?

The service is free of charge.

1.5  You mention LEAs, but what about the general public? Is the CMD intended for them, too?

From the outset, the CMD has been intended as a resource for LEAs. These agencies are the primary users. Only registered LEAs can access all the information in the database or enter, edit, update, or delete information about their translations.

However, in the interest of public awareness, the CMD system allows members of the general public to search the CMD database and access some of the information. The link, “For public access to the search page,” is provided on the CMD home page.

1.6 If I were a parent, would I search the CMD database in order to find the notifications that my child’s school is supposed to send me? That is, should I bypass the school and go right to the CMD?

As indicated above, the CMD is intended primarily for LEAs. It is not a posting site for parental notifications or a replacement for school-to-parent communications.

A good rule of thumb: A parent’s questions regarding a school’s notifications should be directed to local school personnel.

1.7 You mention that state and federal laws require the translation of parental notifications. What laws are you referring to? And how do they affect school notifications to parents?

The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) specifies that certain parental notifications be sent "in an understandable and uniform formal, and to the extent practicable, in a language that parents can understand." Other federal laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), contain similar requirements that spur translation efforts by schools.

In state law, California Education Code Section 48985 states that when 15 percent or more of the students enrolled in a public school speak a single primary language other than English, a school is required to send home parental notifications in both English and the non-English language.

Using a fictional example, this means that if 20 percent of the students enrolled at Glade Arbor Elementary School speak Vietnamese, the school is required by section 48985 to send parental notifications in both English and Vietnamese to the parents/guardians of the Vietnamese-speaking students.

But if two percent of Glade Arbor's students speak Samoan, the school may send - but is not required by state law to send - parental notifications in that language as well.

Each school's enrollment figures are unique. This explains why Glade Arbor Elementary, in complying with state law, might send out translations in Vietnamese solely, while a sister school across town might send out translations in Spanish - or possibly in two or three additional languages, depending on the percentages in the enrollment data.

As a school's enrollment percentages change from year to year, so might the languages in which the school provides translated parental materials.

Section 48985(a) External link opens in new window or tab. requires the California Department of Education to notify districts regarding schools enrollment data and language groups. The required notification by CDE to districts takes place August 1 of each year.

In complying with state and federal laws, schools must ensure that appropriate programmatic funds are used for each notification and translation.

1.8 What exactly are the benefits of the CMD to schools, districts, and county offices? And how do those benefits relate to parents?

The vast majority of documents in the CMD database are the result of the CMD's own translation project, which focuses on the translation of statewide templates. Users can download a translation, copy it, paste it on local letterhead stationery, and modify it to suit local needs. In this way, the CMD can help schools to reduce translation costs and workload. And the use of statewide templates not only reduces redundancy of effort but also fosters a more consistent dissemination of information to parents across the state.

As LEAs gain access to a greater array of parental notifications and language options, they can more readily expand communications with non-English-speaking parents and guardians in their communities. This can promote broader understanding and encourage greater home participation in the education of children.

1.9 If I become a registered user of the CMD, and if I log into the system, how do I find documents that I am looking for? Are they posted from the CMD site?

After logging in, registered users are led to a powerful search engine that provides an array of options for defining and refining a search. Translations may be located by title, topic, program, language, contributor, and other options.

When search results appear on the screen, the user sees a list of titles, including the languages in which the translation appears. By selecting a title, users will see a Document Information page that typically contains hot links to the English source document and to the particular translation of interest. Users find that at all times the CMD information is clear, helpful, and easy to understand.

In general, the CMD is not a posting site for translations. The Document Information page for each entry provides the links for any document available on the Web. This is the case for thousands of entries in the CMD. In a minority of cases, translations not available on the Web are available electronically, by fax, or by paper copy from the contributors.

1.10 Are districts or other agencies required by law to provide information to the CMD database?

No. Participation by districts, county offices, and charter schools is entirely voluntary.

We are grateful to the local educational agencies who contribute information to the CMD in order to share with others. Without their important contributions, the CMD might not exist.

1.11 How long has the CMD been in existence? And whose idea was it?

The CMD officially began in mid-September 2005. The creation of the CMD was a direct result of interest by the State Legislature, state agencies, and community organizations. Drawing upon suggestions from local educational agencies and community groups, staff in the California Department of Education’s Technology Services Division designed the present online structure.

1.12 If I’m at the California Department of Education home page on the Web, is there a way to get to the CMD without having to “drill down” so much?

When you are at the California Department of Education’s home page, look in the lower right-hand corner under “Resources.” The words “Multilingual Documents” are listed there. Click on those words and you will be taken directly to the CMD home page.

1.13 Where may I find additional information about the CMD? And whom do I contact if I have questions?

Additional information is available elsewhere on this CMD site. For example, an audiovisual tutorial for new LEA users is available as well as a presentation that reviews the features of the CMD. Questions may be e-mailed to

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How local educational agencies may register to use the CMD
2.1  How do we register so that we can make full use of the CMD database?

A county office, district office, or charter school first selects a local staff person to serve as its CMD contact or coordinator. That person can e-mail at and requests an access code on behalf of the LEA.

In reply, the CMD provides access codes and other necessary information. The local contact/coordinator can then register to the CMD using one of the access codes provided by CMD staff. There is a link on the CMD home page specifically intended for the registration of new users.

An LEA’s CMD coordinator/contact may share access codes with as many other staff members or superiors as the local organization requires.

After registering, a user may go to the CMD site and log in. Once in the system, the user will find a “Main Menu” offering a number of options, including links for searching the database, entering information into the database, e-mailing other users, and editing or updating information.

2.2 What if I have trouble registering? Or what if I’m not sure if anyone in my district has already requested access codes?

If you have trouble in registering, or if you would like other assistance, CMD staff will be happy to assist you. You may e-mail your questions to or you may telephone CMD staff at 916-445-6109.

If you are uncertain if someone in your agency has already registered, please go to the List of Registered Agencies on the CMD home page. There you will find a list of the currently registered districts and county offices, organized by county as well as the names of persons who registered as the CMD contacts for their agencies.

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About the database
3.1 As a registered user, how do I search the database for translated documents?

The CMD offers registered users a powerful search engine that enables them to conduct either general searches or specific searches for translated documents.

After registered users log in to the system, they will see the “Main Menu.” In the "Select Action" field, you will see "Search/Edit/Delete Documents in the CMD.” Click on the gray "Go" button.

  • Search for documents: The search page provides a number of fields that enable users to refine their search for specific documents, if they so choose. More than one field may be used but the search system works best when no more than three fields are used at one time. Click on the gray "Search" button near the bottom of the page. For a general search of the entire database, leave all of the fields in their default settings and click the search button.
  • An important tip about search results: After clicking on the “Search” button, users sometimes think that nothing has happened— that they are viewing the same page on which they just clicked, with no results in sight. In such instances, check first by scrolling down to see if any titles are listed in the lower part of the page. Sometimes the search results appear below the screen. If there are no entries in the database for the topics that a user selected, a statement to that effect will appear near the bottom of the screen.
  • When the search results are listed: Users click on the title to access information about the listed translation. If the translation is posted to a contributing user’s Web site, the search results also will include a link, “Link to Translated Document,” in which searchers may click to find the actual translation.
3.2 Last year I entered into the CMD database the information for a translated notification provided by our district. That notification is now out of date and obsolete. How can I delete the entry that we made for that translation?

Deleting an entry is simple. After you have logged into the CMD system and view the “Main Menu,” click on the "Go" button for, “Search/Edit/Delete Documents in the CMD.” You will be taken to the search page.

At the search page, scroll down until you come to the heading, “Search My Agency.” Using the so-called “radio buttons” provided there, select either "Only my agency,” which lets you search for records contributed by all users within your agency, or "Only my documents,” which lets you search for records contributed by you personally. Then click on the gray “Search” button.

The search results will list the documents you specified. Click on the title of the one you want to delete. When the Document Information page appears, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the gray button labeled “Delete this document.” Mission accomplished!

Note: An LEA’s official CMD contact (the “Level One” user) has the capacity to delete or edit any entries made by any registered users in that agency.

3.3  In the CMD database, how many entries are there for translated documents?

As of September 2008, the total number had increased to more than 3,000 entries. The total number of entries is not fixed; it changes as contributing agencies add entries in the CMD database.

Because the CMD system allows contributors to delete old entries or URLs that are no longer valid or current, conceivably the total number of entries could decrease on certain days, too.

3.4 Are any schools actually using the database?

During 2007–08, documents were accessed through the CMD nearly 3,000 times. This number continues to grow as the number of registered users and the number of entries increase.

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About translations, contributors, formats, and languages
4.1 On the CMD home page I noticed a link titled "Translation References." I clicked on the link and discovered that CDE provides translation glossaries of educational terms. Is there any plan to add terms to the CDE glossaries? And will you be providing glossaries for other languages?

The glossaries developed by CDE are intended for use by CDE translators, but the glossaries are posted at the CMD site so that LEAs and their translators can refer to them as they choose.

The CDE Plans to add terms to the glossaries on an ongoing basis as well as provide glossaries for other languages. These will be posted as they become available.

Suggestions regarding the CDE's translation glossaries may be relayed to

4.2 Someone told me that the CMD has begun an effort to translate various parental notifications into various languages. Is there any way I can access some information about translations now available?

The CMD’s translation project is an ongoing effort, so the number and range of available documents changes as new translations are completed or old ones replaced. For additional information, schools and districts may contact the CMD at

4.3 What can our district do to improve the quality of our translations? And what is the CDE doing to improve its translations?

You may be interested in a new publication from CDE Press, Quality Indicators for Translations and Interpretation in Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve Educational Settings: Guidelines and Resources (PDF). This book offers valuable, practical information for improving the quality of local translations. It provides useful information regarding translation and interpretation, guidelines for translators and interpreters, and valuable local, state, and national resources.

Hard copies of the publication are available for purchase from CDE Press Sales Office at 800-995-4099.

The CDE has begun to establish and implement quality controls for the translations it will make available through the CMD. For example, the CDE currently is working toward the establishment of such controls as:

  • The development and use of translations glossaries for the purposes of achieving greater consistency in the translation of educational terms and reducing some of the potential disagreements among different translators
  • The use of qualified translators, proofreaders, and independent reviewers to help ensure that translations are accurate and of good quality
  • The use of translators and reviewers who have acquired certification from a language professional organization or (in the case of languages for which certification is not currently available) who possess experience in the translation of education-related communications
  • The use of translators and reviewers who are native-level language speakers and who are specialized (i.e., understand cultural context) in the target language

The CDE realizes that by improving the quality of its own translations, the number of quality translations in the Clearinghouse will increase. We encourage districts to make a similar commitment. Only when LEAs share good quality translations through the CMD will the usefulness of the Clearinghouse be expanded and improved.

The CMD database does provide some information that users may take into account when selecting a translation. For example, the database requires contributors to provide information about the source of their translations (for example, if the translation was done by a professional translation service, a certified translator on staff, and so forth). In addition, the data entry template allows contributors to provide quality-related information under “Comments” for users’ consideration.

A level of quality may be ensured if, after downloading a translation of interest, users have it reviewed by their own qualified translator. The translation can be modified as necessary to suit local expectations or needs. This can reduce the time and workload ordinarily required for translation.

4.4 For translating parental notifications, our district uses an online, computer-assisted translation site. We only need to select the language, and a computerized translation is immediately available to us. This is a ‘least cost’ solution. Why doesn’t the CMD do more to recommend computerized translations?

The use of computer-assisted services as the sole means of translation can present problems. Members of the educational community have reported that a number of machine-output translations have proven to be inarticulate, inaccurate, or (at times) embarrassing in the ways information is mis-communicated.

Essential considerations— word connotation, context, translating for meaning instead of word for word, an intimate sense of the cultural connotations of certain words, for example— these are among the skills and knowledge that qualified translators provide. As yet, machine translations are not competitive in this regard.

There are, of course, qualified translators who use computer-assisted software to create a first draft, which they then revise and polish into a final version. But this practice is significantly different from the one of using a machine translation without proper review by a qualified translator.

4.5 May we send our translations to the CMD in order to have them evaluated and revised, if necessary?

The CMD is a clearinghouse—a channel for the sharing of information and assistance. It does not provide translation evaluation services.

4.6 Parental notifications contain a lot of local information that isn’t applicable to other schools or districts. How is it that another district will be able to use our translations?

While it is true that a district will not be able to use verbatim other districts’ translations, districts can reduce their workload by revising a CMD contributor’s completed translation rather than translating an entire source document from scratch.

4.7 How do LEAs find the original English-language document— the one that was the basis for the translation?

Through the CMD database, users may locate both the source document and its translation. Contributors provide information about the English-language source document and the translated version. If the documents are located on the Web, contributors also provide links both to the original English document and to the translation.

4.8 What if a district has a copyrighted translation or has a contract with a translation service that prohibits sharing the translation with others? Should the district go ahead and enter the translation into the CMD database?

One of the conditions of CMD registration and use involves a commitment by LEAs regarding copyrighted materials. In accepting the CMD “User Agreement,” LEAs agree to “comply with any proprietary, intellectual property, or copyright restrictions imposed by the owner or copyright holder of all translated documents.”

In some cases, LEAs have contracted with businesses or independent translators who, by terms of their agreement, may own or reserve the posting rights or sharing rights for translations provided to the LEA.

In all such instances, LEAs should secure permission from translators, contractors, or copyright holders prior to entering the specific translations into the CMD database.

Often, however, translations are provided to LEAs under a “work for hire” agreement, in which case the LEA may own all rights.

4.9 You’ve mentioned the efforts of LEA contributors. What is the California Department of Education (CDE) doing to increase the number of translations and languages available through the CMD?

The CDE has begun an effort to identify priority parental notification documents and to have them translated into various languages. The CDE is working with contracted translators to provide translations of many of the identified titles.

As a part of this process, each translation will be reviewed by at least two qualified translators in order to increase the likelihood of accuracy and appropriateness.

As translations are completed, they will be posted to the CDE Web site and entered into the CMD database.

4.10 Our district has identified a couple of parental notifications for which no translations seem to be available anywhere. Can we come to you for help?

The CDE actively welcomes suggestions from LEAs about specific parental notifications required by law but not readily available in certain languages. LEAs are invited to e-mail their suggestions to Please provide as an attachment an electronic copy of the English-language version of the notification in question. While the CMD may not be able to provide the translations on the spot, users’ suggestions will aid the CDE in identifying priorities for translation.

4.11 How can I find out what language groups are represented in my school district? I also would like to know which schools in the district should be translating notifications, and into what languages, according to the "15 percent and above" statistics.

DataQuest, the CDE’s online resource for statistical information about California districts and schools, provides a data report that answers this particular question. After going to DataQuest, follow these simple steps to access reports for the district in which you are interested:

  • Begin by selecting “District” from the pull-down menu for “Select Level.” NOTE: If you are interested in schools overseen by a county office, you still should select “District” for the purposes of this report.
  • From the “Subject” pull-down menu, below the heading “Student Demographics,” find and select “English Learners.” Then click “Submit.”
  • On the resulting page, enter the first four letters of the name of your district or county office. Click “Submit.”
  • On the next resulting page, select the name of your district or county office from the pull-down menu. Then, under “Select a Report,” select the very last report in the list, “Language Groups by School Determined to Meet 15 Percent and Above Translation Need.” Click “Submit.”
  • The resulting report will show a table that lists schools and the “15 percent and above” language groups. For more complete information about the language groups at a particular school, you may click on the name of the school. In cases where a district has no schools with language groups in the “15 percent and above” range, according to 2006-07 statistics, the report will so indicate, in place of any data.

The DataQuest statistics are based upon information provided to the CDE by the districts themselves: the annual California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) report and the annual Spring Language Census or R-30. The CBEDS enrollment data are used as a denominator in calculating percentages for language groups at each school.

Each summer, by August 1st, the CDE’s Data Management Division will update the “15 percent and above” statistics. Each update will reflect the statistics provided by the district for the previous school year.

4.12 We just learned that our school must translate notifications into languages for which we have no translator. We are hoping that other schools who translate into the same languages might be willing share some of their translations. Is there any way we can find out the names of other schools in California who are required to translate into the same languages as we are?

The data you are looking for are contained in a report entitled,”Language Data for Districts and Schools by Language Groups.” The report, which is updated each summer, is provided under the sub-heading of Language Data for Districts and Schools.                                                          

4.13  Our county office is thinking of forming a translation consortium involving our direct service schools. We are interested to know the translation data (schools and languages) for our county and the surrounding counties. Is there some way we can find out this information?

The data you are looking for are contained in a report entitled “Language Data for Districts and Schools by County Office Service Regions.” The report, which is updated each year, is provided under the sub-heading of Language Data for Districts and Schools. For more information abut translation consortia and the time-savings they can bring to schools within a consortium, see How to Use These Data Reports.

4.14 When our district posts translations on our Web site, is there a particular format that we should use? And when we enter the translation in the CMD database, are we prohibited from contributing documents in certain kinds of formats?

The CMD does not impose on contributors any prohibition regarding formats. In fact, the data-entry template allows contributors to indicate if a translation is available in a particular electronic format (for example, Microsoft Word, .PDF, text, Rich Text, or other format) or in “paper form only.”

Recently, the CMD informally surveyed CMD users about the formats in which they prefer to access translations on the Web. The survey was not intended to be definitive, and the number of responses was not exhaustive. But the information gleaned from the survey provides a bit of insight into the format preferences of CMD users.

Effectively all the respondents stated that they prefer using Word documents as the primary file type for accessing translated documents. This was due to the ease of modifying files by using Microsoft Word. Forty percent of the respondents indicated that .PDF files also would be acceptable as document types, while a very small margin of users responded that .HTML formatting would be acceptable.

Despite the limitations of the survey, the responses may prove helpful when districts consider format options. Text file formats have an advantage of allowing other CMD users to more easily customize translations to suit local needs. Formats such as .PDF can be less useful due to the relative difficulty in modifying the document quickly. Contributors to the CMD are encouraged to consider the advantages of various format options when making parental notifications and translations accessible to local communities and to CMD users.

4.15 Our district would like to contribute translations to the CMD, but we are a very small district and do not have any translations to offer. May we still use the CMD to find translations, even though we can’t contribute any at this time?

Indeed you may. That is consistent with the CMD’s purpose.

Appreciation is extended to all LEAs who, by their willingness to make translated parental notifications available through the CMD, make it easier for schools to meet legal requirements and to improve effective communication with the communities they serve.

4.16 Our district just paid a good price to obtain a translation from a translator, so why would we want to share it with somebody else through the CMD?

Participation in the CMD is entirely voluntary. Please see the second paragraph of the response to Question 4.11, above.

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Questions:   Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents | | 916-445-6109
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, January 25, 2017
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