3 Ways ESSA compliance helps close the multilingual communication gap


3 Ways ESSA compliance helpsBridging the gap between teachers, students and parents presents a daunting proposition to many school districts, particularly those located in areas where many languages are spoken throughout the community.

Increasing parent engagement through parent notifications represents a key component of the engagement process and is required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and its amendments, most recently the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

As a school administrator, federal compliance can be daunting. Communicating with parents in a language they understand presents an imposing challenge for school districts without translation services or additional infrastructure to facilitate effective communication. Additionally, expertise in the nuanced requirements for communication under federal laws and civil rights is an ever-evolving and time consuming endeavor. However, with the proper preparation and resources, parent notices and other forms of school-to-home communication provide an opportunity for your district to more effectively engage families, bridge the multilingual communication gap, and positively impact student achievement.

1. Protecting English Learners

Effective parent notification systems can have a profound impact on school and district English Learner (EL) programs. Utilizing the right resources, including guidance and notice templates from TransACT, can improve EL parent engagement and provide evidence of implementation.

ESSA requires communications with parents to be "to the extent practicable, in a language that parents can understand". This guidance represents the next step in advocacy for students and their families which has roots in the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Lau vs. Nichols. The court’s decision affirmed the Department of Education memorandum of May 25, 1970, which directed school districts to take steps to help limited-English proficient (LEP) students overcome language barriers and ensure they can participate meaningfully in the district's educational programs.

2. Promoting At-Home Learning

By providing expertly written notifications, your district can ensure parents get the information they need in order to to engage in their student's education. Keeping parents invested offers a key to paving the right educational path for students and positively impacts achievement. This school-to-home communication includes parents in the education process and facilitates better at-home learning for students.

At-home learning and parent involvement in students’ learning process serves as a critical factor in educational achievement. However, promoting at-home learning can be difficult for school districts with a high percentage of non-English speaking parents. Appropriately translated ESSA compliance notices offer an opportunity to bridge that multilingual gap, providing parents with the necessary information to facilitate student achievement.

3. Ensuring Translation Accuracy

School administrators need to ensure the accuracy of translated parent notices to avoid compliance risks. Online translations and untrained staff members can unintentionally alter word meaning during translation, resulting in the omission of critical information or impacting the message. Possible translation errors include:

  • “Accommodations” - Low-quality translations often result in this word indicating the need for housing, as opposed to adjustments in curriculum for diverse learners.
  • “Make-up Day” - How confused would your district’s non-English speaking parents be if communications were sent out about a cosmetics day as opposed to an additional school day being required due to an unplanned school cancellation earlier in the year?

Accurate translation, on the other hand, can facilitate engagement and better connect parents with their student’s education.

Bridging the gap between school and home is critical to supporting student achievement in your district, regardless of a student’s native language. Parents and family members can profoundly influence student learning and achievement and school districts must work to facilitate effective and accurate communication processes to maintain parent involvement and buy-in.

The TransACT® Parent Notices subscription reduces both spending and compliance risk by providing unlimited district-wide access to the most frequently used, federally-required parent notices. All notices come in multiple languages and are continuously reviewed and updated, allowing school districts to operate more efficiently and increase parent engagement. 

Download our eBook, Creating a Parent Communication Strategy in Multiple Languages, to learn more about how to meet parent notification compliance requirements and enhance parent engagement.

Creating a compliant parent communication strategy in multiple languages

Alyssa Thornley

About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.