‘Getting It Right’ Guides Support Schools in Registering Students with Non-English Names

June 2016
four young children embracing

REL Northwest has released Getting It Right: Reference Guides for Registering Students with Non-English Names. For students whose home language is not English, properly recording their information can be more difficult for school personnel who are not familiar with naming conventions from other cultural backgrounds. Incorrectly entering student names can mean that the same student is listed in different databases in various ways and often with incomplete records. Students who are eligible for services such as English learner support can be unidentified or overlooked.

“While working with school districts on studies related to English learners, we began to notice a problem of students with non-English names having multiple student IDs and having their name entered multiple ways in school databases,” said Jason Greenberg Motamedi, lead author of the guides. “In addition to ensuring students receive appropriate services and have complete records, getting a student’s name right is the first step in making them feel welcome at school.”

The Getting It Right reference guides provide districts with guidance for accurately and consistently entering students’ names in school, district, and state databases. The guides are available for students with home languages of Cantonese, Punjabi-Muslim, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. For each home language, the guides provide information on the typical number of given names or family names, the order of the names, and where the names might fit into common database fields. Because naming practices within a single language group can vary, schools are encouraged to use the information in the guide to ask parents and families questions about their students’ names.

In addition to facilitating accurate data entry, the guides can help ensure that front office staff and registrars address and greet parents and other family members in a culturally responsive and respectful way.