Sign Language Interpreters Seek Clarity to Defend RID NIC Certification

July 17, 2012

Dennis Cokely shares the RID/NAD written response to his initial letter requesting clarification on the “enhanced” NIC test with annotations on the report provided by the governing entities.

I want to thank StreetLeverage for creating a forum where issues affecting sign language interpreters and the field of sign language interpreting can be raised and discussed thoughtfully and respectfully. This forum has allowed me the opportunity to share my communications with the RID Board on questions I believe need to be answered regarding the “enhanced” NIC certification test. My last posting on this topic resulted in a rich and stimulating discussion.

The questions raised in my post, Defenders of Certification: Sign Language Interpreters Question “Enhanced” RID NIC Test, and that will be raised here, are not raised out of nostalgic ties; not raised out of a desire to cling to the past; not raised out of a desire to foment dissent. In truth, I raise these questions to provide certified sign language interpreters (and, indeed, all members of RID) with the information and facts necessary for us to serve as defenders, not critics, of the current NIC evaluation. Sadly I believe that, to date, we have not been provided with such information or facts.

What follows is a letter I sent to the RID Board on June 25, 2012 in response to the “comprehensive report” that was released by the Board on June 7, 2012, which was in response to my March 18, 2012 letter questioning aspects of the “enhanced” NIC test.

My Intent

I want to explicitly state my intent in writing these letters and raising these questions is not to spur divisiveness but rather to garner transparency and to seek the underlying rationale for decisions that were made without full involvement of the certified membership. To date I have not received a response from the Board to this letter, although I have received an acknowledgement that my email letter has been received.

I truly hope that a meaningful response to the issues I have raised will be provided in a timely and public manner. If such a response is forthcoming, I would suggest that the approach of “It is because we say it is” is decidedly not a useful strategy in addressing an issue as important to RID certified members as this is; the response must be one that comports well with the more than forty years of experience RID has assessing interpreting competency and that comports with the real world experiences of practitioners.

My hope is that my postings on this issue can, and will, spur discussions that can better inform our decision-making process and, ultimately, improve our assessment of who is qualified to become “one of us”.

My Letter

June 25, 2012

To Presidents Prudhom and Scoggins and members of the RID Board:

Thank you for your letter dated June 7 and for the “comprehensive report” that was attached. Following you will find my response to the report and some additional issues/questions I have that were raised by the report.

You are correct that my letter was made public. But, please know that it was made public only after more than a month had passed after I had sent the letter to all members of the Board during which time its receipt was not even acknowledged by the Board. While I appreciate the demands on a volunteer Board, I would suggest that the serious questions I raised deserved a much more timely response (and at least the courtesy of an acknowledgment of receipt by the Board) and the answers which I requested should not have taken three months to assemble. I also believe that the “community discussion” its release created is definitely a positive discussion and one that should have occurred as the “enhancements” were conceived and most definitely before they were implemented. I hope that continued, open and public discussion will only help to strengthen our decisions and more fully engage the RID membership in these critical decisions and programs. I must tell you that I do intend to post this letter to you in a public forum in a couple of weeks – I firmly believe that providing a forum for members discuss these issues not only allows a fuller airing of issues, but also allows the Board to have a more accurate picture of the pulse of the membership than it appears to have on this issue.

I am sure you can appreciate the fact that the report that was generated in response to my letter is, based on the numerous emails I have received and numerous postings on social media, viewed by many as quite a defensive, reactive and inadequate response. My intent here, and throughout, is not to create an atmosphere of confrontation or to incite divisiveness. Rather, my intent is that, unlike decisions taken in the past, we can all agree that the decisions we make in the certification program are based on empirical data, not the feelings or beliefs of a small group that may not well-represent the membership. In your letter to me you state “NAD and RID fully support the work and direction of the enhanced NIC…”. I humbly and respectfully strongly disagree. At the very least in the case of RID, I think it is much more accurate and truthful to state that the RID Board fully supports the “enhanced” NIC. I say this because there is considerable discontent and unrest among the membership regarding the “enhanced” NIC. I also believe there has been anything but acceptable and appropriate levels of transparency regarding decisions surrounding these “enhancements” which is quite surprising for what the Board claims is a “membership driven” organization. I think that it is fair to say that for many members there is a clear sense that critical decisions that define who we are as interpreters have been made without significant and meaningful involvement of, and engagement with, the members and most definitely without meaningful discussion at our regional and national conferences, again belying the notion of RID as a “membership driven” organization. I certainly urge you to make good on your pledge to “…dedicated communication effort…now and in the future” and hope you do so proactively rather than reactively.

The “comprehensive report” provided many statements that asserted that the “enhanced” NIC was valid and reliable but provided no empirical or psychometric data to support such assertions. Unfortunately I see no proactive involvement of the membership in many of the issues I have raised; I see no checks and balances built into the current “enhanced” NIC that can ensure impartiality and objectivity; I see no independent checks and balances of the design and implement work off the consulting group; I see no concern for the negative reactions and responses of members that this “enhanced” NIC is not based on sound empirical data; and unfortunately I see no evidence in the Board’s actions that can support its claim that RID, in this arena at least, is a “membership-driven” organization.

I fully appreciate the pressures and demands on an all-volunteer Board having been there myself. I trust you will accept my response and the questions I raise below in the spirit of moving toward a stronger and more cohesive RID.  However, as I stated before, the fact is that there is growing discontent among the membership with the manner in which decisions are taken within the organization and a growing feeling of complete disenfranchisement within the organization. There already is a growing number of members and an increasing number of states in the US who believe that RID certification has become meaningless and irrelevant. More importantly, there is an increasing chorus of RID members crying for an alternate organization and that chorus grows as members take the “enhanced” NIC. I, for one, am saddened to see that number grow. But if sound, logical answers to the questions I have previously raised and also raise below cannot be provided then, unfortunately, I would have no option but to join their number and advocate loudly and passionately for creation of an alternate organization. I would be incredibly saddened should that come to pass.

I thank you for your willingness to engage in this discussion and I am willing to continue this very important discussion in any forum you feel will be beneficial (email, VideoPhone, phone, face-to-face meetings, etc.).

I eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

dennis

Dennis Cokely, Professor
Director, American Sign Language Program
Director, World Languages Center
Chair, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Northeastern University
Boston, MA 02115
 

My Response to the June 7, 2012 “Comprehensive Report” on the NIC “enhancements

1) Before raising specific questions generated by the report, I ask that the Board offer an explanation to the membership for why the same consultant firm that was directly responsible for the design and implementation of the “enhanced” NIC was also asked to write the interim report which asserts that the “enhanced” NIC is valid and reliable. While I, in no way, intend to cast aspersions on the Caviart group, I believe it is incumbent upon the Board explain why this is not a clear conflict of interest and why an independent psychometrician was not engaged to review the overall process and write the report? Given the catastrophic recent NIC history and the absolute appearance of a possible conflict of interest, I would urge the Board to address this as quickly as possible. Why should we have faith in the validity of the Caviart report? Why is this not a conflict of interest given that Caviart has a vested interest in convincing the Board and members that its initial test development is valid and reliable?

2) It comes as quite a surprise to me and I am sure to most RID members that, on page #2 of the report, we learn that the profile of a “certified NIC (level 1) interpreter” was developed by 14 members of the NIC Task Force, an NIC Scoring Group (whose composition is unknown) and an unidentified group of “subject-matter experts”. This means that, if one includes the Board (which, I assume, approved the profile), it would appear that fewer than 100 members had a hand in determining this profile. This represents less than .009% of the membership. Why was this profile not circulated to the membership for comment and input? How is not circulating this profile consistent with claims of a “membership driven” organization?

3) It is also troubling is that the profile of a “certified NIC (level 1) interpreter” is offered without any rational, explanation or justification. What empirical basis is there to support this profile? What data is there to suggest that a “…vocabulary at a first year undergraduate level…” is appropriate? What is meant by “…quickly adapt to different situations and communication styles”?

4) But what is even more troubling on page #2 is the incredibly dismissive tone in the report intended for those who might question or challenge (“That is fine.”). While it is certainly true that “…no profile will satisfy everyone”, I believe that the leadership owes it to the members to create an environment in which questions and challenges are welcomed because, presumably, the leadership has data to support its choices and decisions and thus can appropriately respond to such questions and challenges. The tone here smacks of “it is because we say it is”. If this tone emanates from the consultant group then perhaps we have retained the wrong group. If the tone emanates from the leadership, then the situation is even worse that I thought and we definitely have a crisis of leadership. How is such a tone consistent with a “membership driven” organization? Does the membership not, at least, deserve the courtesy of opportunities to discuss the definition of the threshold that marks who is “one of us”?

5) Also, on page #2, it appears that a decision has been made that there will be “levels” to the NIC (“currently called Level 1”). If this is indeed the case, this represents a significant departure from past practice (the recently aborted iteration of the NIC notwithstanding) in which we have had a “generalist then specialist” approach to certification. I ask that the Board release the overall comprehensive master plan mentioned on page #3 for the certification program as well as the specific criteria for determining “…higher and specialized levels”. What is the overall master plan for the certification program?

6) Again on page #2, I believe it is totally inaccurate to make the claim that “…this statement summarizes what both organizations believe…”. At the present time I believe that it is accurate to say, in the case of RID at least, that this statement summarizes what the Board, the NIC Task Force and an NIC Scoring Group whose composition is unknown believes. The membership were not at all engaged in this discussion nor invited to provide feedback on this issue.  Can the RID Board explain how it purports to represent the membership on this issue when it has not fully engaged the membership?

7) On page #3, it is extremely troublesome to read that the claim “…more interpreter/consumer interactions occurred remotely…” is based on the feelings of the NIC Task Force rather than on empirical data. In fact, according to a recently completed survey of RID Certified and Associate members conducted by the National Interpreter Education Center, 70% of interpreters who responded report they do absolutely no work in VRS and 92% do no work in VRI. These data make it clear that it is still the case that from interpreters’ experience, the overwhelming majority of the work that interpreters do is conducted in face-to-face interactions.  While it may be that Deaf people are using more VRS/VRI, at this point in our history the fact is that the vast majority of interpreters do not work in those settings. This begs the question of why we developed an assessment approach that appears predicated on beliefs, settings, assumptions in which only 30% and 8% of us work?

8 ) Given the fact that some members of the NIC Task force have VRS/VRI ties, one also has to wonder again about the wisdom of relying on feelings rather than empirical data. Why are feelings used over empirical data? Again I do not intend to cast aspersions, but when segments on the “enhanced” NIC have durations of three to five minutes (which resemble durations found in VRS calls), one wonders what response the Board might have to the fact that there is the appearance of a conflict of interest for members of the NIC Task force who do have VRS/VRI ties?

9) On page 5 the process by which the “content and format” of the “enhanced” NIC is described. The logic of this process seems, to me, to be somewhat circular and rather flawed. If I understand the process correctly, raters used the previous NIC exam, material with which they were intimately familiar having viewed the material dozens and dozens of times. They were then asked to identify portions of that material that they believed “…most effectively discriminated the skills of interpreters at the level described”. From a linguistic and sociolinguistic perspective, what is critical is that they selected these portions from within a larger context and those portions were taken from within a larger sample of a candidate’s work. Thus raters had significant background information influencing the choice of segments that they believed “…most effectively discriminated the skills of interpreters at the level described”.  Scoring criteria were then identified using a “proven algorithm”. While the algorithm may be “proven”, the elements (and the empirical support for those elements) to which the algorithm was applied need to be known. This is especially true since the previous iteration of the NIC listed rating elements that conflated language elements (e.g. articulation, use of space) with interpretation elements. What are the elements to which raters will apply the scoring algorithm and what is the empirical basis for those elements?

10) Having demonstrated that portions from within a larger context and taken from within a larger sample of a candidate’s work could be reliably rated, how then is it reasonable to conclude that portions generated with no larger context and from no larger work sample could or would suffice as a valid indicant of a candidate’s competence?

11) Having the Scoring Group finalize the profile, develop the scoring criteria, rate previously rated samples and then discuss their holistic ratings, places enormous and unchecked power in the hands of a small group. Why was there no independent confirmation of the Scoring Group’s work? Why were not different groups engaged in segments of this undertaking? How large was the Scoring Group? Who were its members?

12) On page 6 we are told that the final vignettes were “…believed, by the Scoring Group, to have the most appropriate content, vocabulary and stimulus material”. The Scoring Group then developed new scoring criteria – again enormous and unchecked power in the hands of a small group. Is there a rationale for this? Are we to believe that there is a different set of criteria for each vignette? If so, what is the full set of criteria used to rate a candidate and what is the empirical basis for each criterion? Why should we believe the Scoring Group is qualified to make such determinations?

13) I submit that the assertion that “While content validity is critical, face validity is not” critical completely ignores the recent past with regard to the NIC and reflects a complete lack of understanding of our assessment and institutional history. Certainly face validity is unquestionably important for market acceptance. And most certainly one incredibly important segment of that market is the RID Certified and Associate membership and students in Interpreter Education Programs. If certification is to have any value, these stakeholders simply must feel and believe that the high-stakes assessment that is the NIC, at least looks like what interpreters do regularly. While it may be true that an assessment of interpretation skills does not have to look like what interpreters do regularly, one would think that, given the last significantly flawed iteration of the NIC, the Board would most definitely want the assessment to look like what interpreters do regularly. Given the incredibly negative issues surrounding the last iteration of the NIC, why would the Board, the NIC Task Force and the NIC Scoring Group endorse an assessment approach that most clearly lacks face validity and seems not to be widely supported?

14) On page 8 the dismissive tone of this report continues with the assertion that there is “…absolutely no merit to this suggestion.” In the present climate, I assert precisely the opposite – if the members of RID do not believe that the assessment is valid and looks valid, if we cannot defend it, if we cannot/will not encourage those who are not yet certified to seek certification, then the assessment process is seriouslyflawed. I believe that there is incredible merit to the need for face validity of the NIC. The report asserts that the “enhanced” NIC “…has significant face validity…”, but this is just another example of “it is because we say it is”. No empirical data is offered here. However, candidates who have taken the “enhanced” NIC and who have contacted me almost unanimously say that they think that the “enhanced” NIC did not fairly sample their interpreting skills, did not look like what they do on a regular basis and did not allow them to demonstrate what they do when they interpret. Can the Board, the NIC Task Force or the NIC Scoring Group provide empirical data that candidates do indeed feel the “enhanced” NIC fairly samples and assesses their work? What percent of those who have taken the “enhanced” NIC report that it “fairly sampled” their interpreting competence? I doubt such data even exists or is collected.

15) On page 8 the report states that panels were asked to “…identify the amount of time that it takes to accurately assess a candidate’s skill.” Again I ask whether there is any empirical data to support this approach; what we have is self-report data, drawn from an individual’s various experiences that are based on samples that are highly contextualized. If I state that in a given real-world context I can determine in two or three minutes whether I can accurately assess skill for this particular situation, I cannot validly apply that determination to other contexts. Why have we have taken timing information based on contextualized self-reports and applied that timing information to de-contextualized vignettes? Is there any empirical support for doing so? Are we asking raters trained to assess the former NIC to make this determination? If so, by what justification? Or is this another instance in which the ubiquitous Scoring Group

16) The unidentified subject matter “experts” (number and qualifications unknown) believe that “niceties” can be excluded because they “…provide little information about a candidate’s skill”. It certainly is true that, from an interpreter’s perspective, the beginnings of interactions are often not challenging and thus may not be fully representative of a candidate’s skill set. However, there is clear linguistic empirical data to show that these “niceties” are often essential to an interpreter’s overall ease, comfort and comprehension of a speaker/signer and thus important to rendering successful interpretations. Indeed, one cannot “…go right to the heart of the communication encounter.” Linguists and Sociolinguists have shown clearly that successful communication is an evolved and negotiated interaction; one cannot properly and fully understand “the heart” of an interaction while ignoring or not having access to the “skeleton” and the “flesh” that surround the “heart”. We return again to the face validity question. How is it that we can warrant that those who pass the NIC can “…relay the essence of a message…” when our assessment strips away all of the context, linguistic background and interactional unfolding that leads up to “…the essence of a message…”? What is the empirical data to support this decision? Certainly the “comprehensive report” does not address this question.

17) The use of “tower crane operators” is an insulting and ignorant analogy at best (no offense intended to tower crane operators). Granted there is considerable pressure in being a crane operator. However, there is also a clear “right and wrong” result, the ball is manipulated correctly or it is not; the result is black or white. The results on a crane operator test are plain for all to see – the wall comes down or it does not (true some might be more efficient than others; but ultimately if the wall does not come down the operator has not been successful). However, as any interpreter knows, interpreting is anything but a “black or white” cognitive task. There are a finite number of moves that are possible with a tower crane. However, as any interpreter knows there are myriad possibilities for rendering successful interpretations in any interaction because we are dealing with people not machines. And while the obstacles through which crane operators must move to demonstrate their skill are finite, interpreters clearly know that because communication involves a range of human beings, a range of situations, and a range of communicative goals, the obstacles through which we must maneuver are virtually infinite. It does not follow logically that because tower crane operators can be assessed by an examination that lacks face validity that interpreters should accept, much less endorse, any examination that lacks face validity. Why should we accept a lack of face validity?

18) The use of “police officers” is also not an appropriate analogy for our purposes. Police officers spend months and months training at the police academy; they do not get to take their performance exam until/unless they have performed well in their training routines during which they have fired their guns countless times. The police officer test itself is valid because it presumes months and months of training that is specific to being a police officer. However, in our case, the claim that NIC “…standards include requirements for education…”(pg. 6), make using police officer testing a false analogy. Our forthcoming “requirement for education” is, at this point, only a BA/BS degree but not a degree in interpreting. So, even though the police officer test may not be indicative of what they do on a daily basis, police cadets have had months of training and practice to demonstrate what they will do on a daily basis. RID has no such warrantied, specific interpreter educational background requirement for NIC candidates. Lacking the focused, specific training/education that is required of police officers (and tower crane operators) and that forms the foundation on which their tests can rest, why would we adopt an assessment approach that presumes such focused, specified training/education when we do not yet have such focused, specified training/education?

19) On page 9 the report asserts that a testing program is fair if “…every candidate has the same opportunity to demonstrate his or her competence.” Again, based on the numerous comments I have received from those who have taken the “enhanced” NIC, the majority feel they did not have an opportunity to demonstrate their competence. All candidates may be presented with the same logistically structured opportunity with the NIC, but if that opportunity is believed by a majority of candidates not to afford them an “…opportunity to demonstrate his or her competence” or is believed by them to be a flawed opportunity, how can such a program be judged as fair? How does the Board respond to candidates who feel they did not have an opportunity to demonstrate their competence?

20) Page 9 states that there is “…no evidence…that suggests that physical endurance is required for the job.” This patently ignores significant research in signed and spoken language interpreting research on this matter.  It patently fails to realize that physical endurance is not the critical issue in interpretation — cognitive endurance definitely is!!!! This is extremely well documented in the literature. With the “enhanced” NIC vignettes ranging from only three minutes to five minutes in length (although one LTA emailed me saying that they carefully timed each scenario and the actual range was between 1:20 and 3:20!!), it is virtually impossible to see how we assess cognitive endurance. This is, after all, one of the most important reasons why we advocate for the use of teams in many situations. If there is no evidence in the “Role Delineation Study” that speaks to cognitive fatigue, then I suggest that that study is seriously flawed. If there is such evidence in the Study and the “enhanced NIC” ignores this, then the program is seriously flawed. Why do we think that cognitive fatigue is not a critical factor to assess? And why was the “Role Delineation Study” not more widely vetted and shared?

21) Page 10 states that “…RID has carefully specified the testing conditions…”. Based on information I have received from candidates who have taken the “enhanced” RID, this means that candidates must be seated and must remain so for the duration of the test. As any interpreter knows, when an interpreter is seated, his/her range of motion is severely restricted and thus his/her use of space for semantic/linguistic purposes is also restricted. Given that we have never restricted candidates in this manner, what empirical evidence is there that placing interpreters in such restricted conditions will produce samples of their work that are indicative of their overall competence? Why would we want to restrict/constrain the use of semantic/linguistic space?

22) Page 11 proclaims the hope that the “enhanced” NIC will “…earn the value and respect from consumers that it deserves”. I submit that the “enhanced” NIC cannot earn respect from consumers until and unless it is accepted, embraced and valued by practitioners. This status report references a number of reports and studies that, to my knowledge, have not been made available to the RID membership. When can members expect release of all reports that are referenced in the Status Report?

My Previous Questions

In my initial letter to the Board, I asked nine questions. I was told that a “comprehensive report” would be issued that would address these questions. Unfortunately, I do not believe that any of the questions has been answered satisfactorily.

1) RID members need a more thorough explanation of why time and a simple mathematical formula should be the primary drivers behind the format of the certification test; if this is not true, then a clear explanation should be provided for how the current 4-minute per vignette test segmentation was determined.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

2) An explanation for the process/principles used in the selection of and/or development of the vignettes be made known to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

3) A full explanation of the empirical justification for this 4-minute approach must be provided to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

4) A clear explanation of the rationale and justification for placing candidates at such an interpreting disadvantage must be provided to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

5) A detailed explanation of the rational for, and empirical support for this decision and this deviation from forty years of experience is also needed by the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

6) If there is evidence that supports the claim that a 4-miute sample can validly and reliably assess a candidate’s ability to assess sustained quality over time, then it must be made known to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

7) What are the various English and ASL grammatical and semantic features in vignettes that raters will be assessing and do these five 4-minute vignettes provide sufficient linguistic and discourse variation to elicit an appropriate range of English and ASL grammatical and semantic features?

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

8 ) Since using discretion in selecting assignments is one of the core operating principles of our long-standing Code, the rationale for adopting an “all or nothing” approach must be made clear to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

9) A clear, empirically supported explanation of why the current NIC assessment is valid and can be reliably assessed by raters must be provided to the membership.

Answer provided in the “comprehensive report” is inadequate

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox? SignUp!

Stay Current

Want to be among the first to know when we publish new content?

Are you an interpreter?

We respect your privacy.
We will never share your info.

Conversation

Leave a Reply

33 Comments on "Sign Language Interpreters Seek Clarity to Defend RID NIC Certification"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Member
Trudy Schafer
I am in full support of the issues raised by Dr. Cokely in both his letters to the RID Board. Those of us who were around in the late 1990s (when the NIC was in development) may recall that the Board assured the membership that the new evaluation process would be shared with the membership prior to implementation. That did not occur and the resulting morass reflected the lack of thoughtful member input. It is unfathomable to me that the same mistakes are being made. However, the point of my post here is to take issue with the editors of… Read more »
Brandon
Trudy, Thanks for your comments and thanks for your candor regarding the images initially selected for this post. With regard to the reasoning behind the imagery of military personnel, first, this was an extension of the imagery used from the previous post on this topic. Second, the images were chosen in an effort to demonstrate the dedication of sign language interpreters to their craft and certification and that they are committed to ensuring that certification is a valid and reliable indicator of their skills and accomplishment within the profession. The images were not intended to incite nor convey that what… Read more »
Member
Trudy Schafer

Thanks Brandon, this allows focus to remain on the issue at hand.

Dennis Cokely
Member

Thanks Trudy –

I totally agree that when we forget the past and our organizational past commitments, we set ourselves up for failure as we have seen lately. Your comment regarding the images used on these postings reminds us all that what and how we communicate is not always verbal — the visual and subliminal are ever so important!! Thank you very much for taking note of this and effecting a change!!! Well done!

dennis

Member
Paula D. Browning
Dennis, thank you for this very transparent report you have compiled regarding your interaction with the RID board concerning the “enhanced” NIC certification examination. As a mentor to pre-certified and even post-certified interpreters, I find it difficult to help them access their readiness for certification…. mainly because of the apparent arbitrariness of eventual certification awards. I have seen interpreters with an MCSC whom were my own mentors and I highly respect be awarded an NIC while recent graduates of ITPS are awarded NIC-Masters and consider themselves cream of the crop. I for one would need validation and explanation to convince… Read more »
Member

Paula –
Thank you for the suggestion of “townhall meetings whereby more of our colleagues can have a more public and documented forum in discussing something as important as the public validation of our competence as interpreters.” I have been craving an open, honest dialog with my local peers on this issue and I believe that organizing a town hall discussion would be a great start.

Dennis Cokely
Member
Paula Thanks for the post. I think one of the key things that we have lacked since implementation of the NIC (all iterations) are transparently demonstrable examples of what minimally acceptable performance should look like in order to earn certification. And I believe that the certified membership (and not just a small committee) should have a hand in determining what that acceptable performance should be. Until we have such a level of transparency I believe we will always have difficulties. When I can’t see examples of what is and is not acceptable and when the certified membership is not involved… Read more »
Member
Daniel Greene

I have noted over the past year that every StreetLeverage post title contains the phrase “Sign Language Interpreters” but I don’t think it’s appropriate to call one writer “sign language interpreters.” I would like to respond more fully to the content of this discussion, but I just wanted to make this one point for now.

Member
Kimberly Duncan
I have been reading Mr. Cokely’s postings and letters with with extreme interest. I am disheartened, although not at all surprised, by RID’s response to the questions raised. As a member of RID, and a freelance interpreter in the field for nearly 10 years, I would like to add my two cents and air the reason as to why I have added my name to the growing list of angry members. I took the “enhanced” NIC January 13, 2012. Without going into details, to make this long story short, I filed a complaint about the test and testing environment on… Read more »
Dennis Cokely
Member
Kimberly Thanks for the post and I am very sorry for the ordeal you have had to endure. Yours is but another sad example of how the development and, in your case, implementation of the “enhanced” NIC was terribly botched. The initial pool of candidates should have been told up front that raters had not yet been selected and trained; that levels of acceptable performance had not yet been determined, that it would be several months before results would be made available. Additionally I believe that candidates taking the “enhanced” NIC during the first 3-4 months should have received some… Read more »
Member

Dennis,

Your words are words of encouragement. I took it back in Feb and needless to say, I don’t find that test valid or worthy of regulating interpreters on a certified basis.
I still am seeing inconsistency with who they are passing as compared to others. There is no baseline and this test is still very subjective. I am thoroughly disappointed with the process. I look forward to hearing what RID has to say, if anything at all.

Member
Kimberly Duncan, After reading your post, I must tell you that you are not alone in this matter. So many questions have been raised since the implementation of the “Enhanced NIC” was forced upon us. I too add my name to list of angry members. I feel that test is completely invalid and the questions raised by Dennis only raise more questions regarding the ethics of RID as they have monopolized the industry. I would prefer RID to halt the continuation of handing out this test until we can more fully validate the process. Needless to say, I have been… Read more »
bcolonomos
Member
Dennis, First let me express my gratitude for putting together a comprehensive, structured, detailed, and scientifically solid response to RID. The amount of time and effort it takes to do what you did is substantial. The knowledge and expertise you bring to this undertaking is clearly evident and, from what we have seen, it helps us to understand how these processes should have been (and should be) in order to achieve content and face validity. Your patience and professionalism is admirable. I seriously doubt that we will get anything from RID that will show that they take this seriously enough… Read more »
Dennis Cokely
Member
Betty Thanks for posting and thanks for the kind words. I am inclined to agree that a meaningful response will not be forthcoming, given the way that the past iteration and the “enhanced” NIC have been handled. I also agree that much should be done at the national conference next year. I would also suggest that conversations also occur during the Regional conferences that remain. I do think that we will be at a crossroads at the next national conference. If, as you suggest, there is not ample time and space given to this most critical issue concerned members will… Read more »
Member

Dennis,

So what can we do to help the situation? Do we even have a voice or are our hands tied? I would rather not sit and complain about what is going on, but move forward and help to improve the future of RID since they are the only entity that govern interpreters on a national level.
Any suggestions? I have never served on a board or been truly involved, so I don’t know what or if there is anything I can do.

Member
Lauren Potempa

Like Beth, I wonder what we can do.

Is it possible to submit a petition to halt all testing until this is resolved? That would mean a lot of people waiting for a testing opportunity and several financially lean years at RID, but creating an appropriate test has to be the top priority.

~Lauren

Member

Unfortunately I do not think that these issues will not be fixed before mine and others’ written tests expire within the next few years.

Member

Exactly, I have been through the process for the past few years and very disappointed. My written will expire soon and I amn forced to try the performance again soon or ???

Member
Dennis, Wow, thank you for all of your time and effort in compiling this challenge. It’s always a mystery to me why, in a field in which clear communication is vital, the leadership mask and camouflage (it seems to be in an effort of concealment) one of the most important topics for the membership to discuss and be involved in. I am one of those who took the “enhanced” NIC this past January and even though I “passed” I feel as though I have been given a false certification. The only reason to have it is because it is required,… Read more »
rpeterson
Member
Rico Peterson
Dennis, Re: Mr. Chaffee’s Findings I am much obliged to Mr. Chaffee for his learned disquisition, Building Value in Certification—A Status Report on the Enhanced NIC Interview and Performance Examination, a paper which finds that as it stands, our current certification examination is good enough. This important finding lays the perfect foundation for the next question, which I suggest must be “Is good enough good enough?” Shouldn’t our test excel? Shouldn’t it be a model from which others might learn and improve? I understand clearly why NAD-RID and their corporate partners need “..to strengthen the effectiveness and increase the value… Read more »
Member
Dennis and my fellow peers, I have been following discussions around the NIC test with great interest. As your discussions have highlighted, this is a complex and multifaceted issue – one whose roots run deep. For that reason I almost hesitate to respond, and yet I feel compelled to add one additional consideration to this dialogue. I know that this idea has surfaced in other arenas, in other dialogues and in other venues but I’ll reiterate it here in the hopes that we can get a better sense about whether or not this may be an option. Perhaps we are… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes

Like

Member
WOW, Dennis and Betty Kodos to you both! What was written was what a lot of us have been thinking and feeling for some time. So many people I have spoken to have something negative to say about RID, how sad for us. When I entered this field, I thought RID is the bomb! but what I’ve experienced is dysfunction. This may be off the point but what happens to the many interpreters who are wonderful at what they do, yet struggle at test taking? What happens to those people? There are so many “variablies” to this test assessment. Secondly,… Read more »
Member
Terri Hayes

I’m grateful to see this converstation going – and especially that the orignal questions are not being laid by the wayside to pend indefinately –
but I’m not holding my breath for any lucid answers.
For all the talk about elevating the profession through education – I do not believe RID can respond to these academically appropriate questions because they dont know the answers.

Member
Terri Hayes

would be nice if my fingers typed at a speed appropriate for correct spelling: conversation. (or some way to effect corrections?)

Member
laurie shaffer
On June 7th 2012, RID released a report outlining the steps taken to make the newest iteration of the RID test valid and reliable. Prior to this report, Dennis raised serious questions about the methods used to determine the test’s validity and reliability (see previous posting). The report issued by RID did little to respond to the questions raised. Dennis, it appears you are particularly disturbed by the fact that the NIC’s two ethical and five performance scenarios last at most 4 minutes each. The segments of our “industry” that operate in these microbursts of interpreting are Video Relay Service… Read more »
Member
On the flip side to asking whether there is any research to show that an interpreter’s skill can be assessed in five minutes or less, I suggest we ask whether there any research that shows that it can’t be. Are we ASL/English interpreters looking outside our language pair and seeing how interpreters of other language pairs in the US and around the world are handling certification? I Googled “interpreter certification exam minutes” and found this site, Panoltia that has sight translation exams that last only five minutes from the moment the interpreter is given the text to the time they… Read more »
Member

P.s. Sorry about my editing errors.

lwickless
Member
Laura Wickless

Hi Daniel:
Do you happen to know if the certifying body was accredited by someone like ICE’s accrediting wing NCCA? Are they a client of Caviart Group? Just some thoughts. Good point about other ways of evaluating interpreter qualities. It seems to have become very necessary in recent years to evaluate interpreters on something other than certification status.

Member
Daniel Greene

Good questions, Laura. I don’t know.

lwickless
Member
Laura Wickless
I agree that we can learn from the field of spoken language interpreting, yet I think RID should be cautious with any direct comparisons or in transferring standards without verifying if they actually apply to what we do. I may be the only one bothered, so forgive me if my comments are off-putting. This is slightly off-point but has relevancy to testing standards. There are several socio-cultural reasons this comparison disturbs me. One is that users of spoken language, who may or may not be marginalized, are not automatically labeled as having a disability by virtue of the language they… Read more »
Member
I am in complete support of the issues addressed by Dr. Cokely. I also appreciate the responses and general dialogue occurring here in regards to the “enhanced NIC.” I took the “enhanced NIC” and was absolutely disappointed and disenfranchised by my experience. I too felt that the structure and content of the test were not adequate nor appropriate to test my skills. Passing or failing isn’t the issue here- I can objectively say that this exam doesn’t test an interpreters ability in a manner that suits the work we do. I say this because I’ve been working long enough to… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Forward-looking organizations committed to retelling the story of the interpreter.

(National)

(Nevada)

(New York)

(California)

(Wisconsin)

(Massachusetts)

(Pennsylvania)