Fresno Unified School District: Revolutionizing language access in education


The Fresno Unified School District is the third largest district in California with more than 100 schools and 73,000 students. Over 30 languages are spoken throughout the district, with large populations of English, Spanish, and Hmong-speaking families. Fresno Unified is committed to providing a wide range of content in the native languages of their students, including individualized education plans (IEPs), enrollment documents, and board materials.

A Translation and Interpretation Services team was created to centralize translation efforts and provide support for more than 50 departments in the district. They immediately set their sights on increasing efficiency of the translation process to deliver localized materials to students and their families faster.


The newly-formed team set a lofty goal of 30-day turnaround for IEPs and 72-hour turnaround for all other translated materials. They were also concerned with the lack of consistency in materials produced by various translators throughout the district.

Zuleica Murillo, the Executive Director of Translation and Interpretation Services, knew that these goals would not be attainable through the traditional, manual processes that were used in their district, and in educational settings around the country. While manual translation provided high-quality results, it had long turnaround times and could be cost-prohibitive. Technology would be needed to solve this issue. However, this would be a monumental shift from the way things had been done in education for decades.


The implementation of Smartling's translation management solution proved instrumental in addressing Murillo's challenges. By giving the district's translators access to style guides, glossaries, and translation memory, the solution significantly improved consistency across translated materials. Use of Smartling’s CAT (Computer Aided Translation) Tool made the district’s translators more efficient while retaining access to the visual context they were accustomed to in manual translation. Finally, access to centralized reporting made it easier for Murillo to communicate with Board Members and Trustees about translation volume, peak times, and new budget requests.

With support from Smartling and an open-minded attitude, the Translation and Interpretation team are well on their way to achieving both of their turnaround time goals, establishing a reputation for efficiency and reliability within the district. This success has inspired other departments in the district to explore technology for their translation processes, creating a ripple effect of positive change. Murillo hopes that her team’s success can also encourage other school districts to take the leap to revolutionize their translation programs.