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Educational Interpreting: How It Can Succeed

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We have come a great distance since the 1960s when interpreting was portrayed as a paternal helper model (Quigley and Youngs 1965). However, a difficult road lies ahead. We presently are facing an underqualified field of K12 educational interpreters and have been for more than two decades. This underqualified field has done (and is doing) a disservice to deaf and hard of hearing students, those students parents, and their LEAs in this country.

Standards are here. Expectations are on the rise. This change will strain the system, but it is necessary to reach the goal of equal access for deaf and hard of hearing students attending public school systems in the United States. The question becomes (and has always been), What must we do to meet the expectations that deaf and hard of hearing students deserve and achieve the qualifications necessary to serve this population?

WHAT MUST THE INTERPRETING FIELD DO?

Interpreting in the K12 educational setting is a specialization within the field of interpreting. Interpreting for children is not the same as interpreting for adults (Schick 2001). Likewise, evaluation of interpreters who work with children is not the same as evaluation of interpreters who work with adults (Schick and Williams 2001). Specific steps such as those that follow must be taken to address this specialty.

Standards for K12 Interpreters, with evaluation of skills, must be established and put into practice. (See chapter 9.) We have discussed the beginning of this effort, which involves using the EIPA as the cornerstone skills evaluation instrument. Individual states and the Regional Assessment System Project of state departments of education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (RAS 2002) have begun using the EIPA. This start is commendable, but much more needs to be done. It is appropriate to use an instrument that can be recognized throughout the United States. Qualifications would be reciprocal between the states, and interpreters could move into new districts with less of a disruption for the deaf and hard of hearing students they serve.

Standards for evaluating the knowledge of K12 interpreters must be established and put into practice. One instrument by which to evaluate this knowledge might be in the form of a written test designed to evaluate the variety of knowledge required to function properly in the public school setting. Fortunately, this type of test is being designed. Through the collaborative effort of Boys Town National Research Hospital (EIPA Diagnostic Center); the University of Colorado, Boulder; and the Regional Assessment System for K12 Interpreters, the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment Written Test (EIPA-WT) has been created for this purpose. As with skills qualifications, mentioned above, knowledge qualifications can now be reciprocal.

Deadlines for compliance must be reasonable and enforced. Any practice to grandfather experienced interpreters is inappropriate. Indefinite extension of deadlines for demonstrating qualifications is also inappropriate. Experience alone is not enough to interpret in K12 public school settings. Experience, with no education-training intervention, will not improve interpreting skill. Good intentions are not enough when dealing with the future of the deaf and hard of hearing population in the United States. Results and accountability (i.e., professional interpreter qualifications) are the keys to success.


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