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American Annals of the Deaf

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Educational Interpreting: How It Can Succeed

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TABLE 1     Summary of Variables for K-12 Educational Interpreters: Then and Now

Variable

1993 Findings 2001 Findings
I. Group Characteristics    
A. Gender 95% Female 99% Female
B. Race 98% White 94% White
C. Median Age 31–40 Years Same
D. Median Education Voc. Certificate College/No Degree
E. Median Experience 2–5 Years Same
F. Median Salary (per hour) $9.01–$11.00 $11.01–$13.00
G. Job Status 95% Full Time 88% Full Time
H. Experienced Injuries Due to Interpreting 29% 34%
     
II. Sign System Most Used while Interpreting    
A. Conceptually Accurate Signed English/Pidgin Sign English (CASE/PSE) 56% 70%
B. Signing Exact English (SEE II) 33% 19%
C. Signed English (SE) 7% 3%
D. American Sign Language (ASL) 3% 7%
     
III. Certification, Evaluation, and Training    
A. No Certification Held 63% 50%
B. Not Evaluated for Interpreting Skills before Hire 57% 58%
C. Never Been Evaluated for Interpreting Skills 25% 31%
D. Interpreting In-Service Training Never Provided 36% 38%
E. Expressed Need for Continued Interpreter Training 95% 90%

The K–12 educational interpreter performs a variety of duties in addition to the primary responsibility of interpreting in the classroom. Traditionally, these have been assigned because there is no one else to do them and not because an assessment has been conducted of the best practices of educational interpreting nor even an assessment of the parameters of interpreting. Some of these duties vary in frequency depending on which state the interpreter works in and whether the interpreter is employed in a rural or urban setting. On the job, the K–12 educational interpreter transliterates using an English-based sign system. This person will primarily sign using methodical signs, although she (sometimes, he) also may use a manually coded English system. The K–12 educational interpreter rarely (by definition) interprets.

The notion of the “professional educational interpreter” must be introduced into this discussion to help us view the bigger picture. Mills (1996) states that educational interpreters are professionals. This statement sounds plausible but, in fact, is not based on empirical evidence. We simply do not know about 50 percent of the K–12 educational interpreter workforce and, because no uniform standards exist, we cannot say with certainty how many professional K–12 educational interpreters exist. The term professional means “conforming to the rules or standards of a profession (Webster’s 1996, 1998) and one who “possesses distinctive qualifications” (WorldNet 1.6 1997).


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