President’s Council Raises Member Concerns About Inconsistent NIC Ratings

Text of the letter submitted by the President’s Council expressing member concerns over seemingly inconsistently NIC ratings.

October 21, 2009

To Mr. Clay Nettles, Ms. Phara Rodrigue, Ms. Cheryl Moose, NIC Task Force, Certification Council, and Board of Directors of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf:

We, the RID Region V Presidents’ Council, as the elected representatives for our collective regional membership, bring before the National RID Leadership a matter of utmost importance that warrants your immediate consideration. Over the past several months, our members have shared with us their concerns regarding inconsistencies in the NIC Certification ratings. We discussed these concerns as a group of leaders and decided to take action on behalf of Region V. We are aware that the Board of Directors has brought together a task force to begin investigating the test and certification process. We assume that suggestions and concerns outlined in this document will assist the task force and others in effectively evaluating where we currently stand and where we need to head.

In order to gather as much information as possible, we developed a survey and distributed it to our respective membership. The results of this survey reveal that public confidence in the NIC certification test has been shaken because of Inconsistencies in the skill level of interpreters and their corresponding NIC certification level.

There is further concern regarding the pass rate of the NIC. The NIC pass rate for the period ending August 2008 was 44%. The NIC pass rate as of July 2009 was 81%. In one year the pass rate almost doubled. We find this exponential increase in the percentage of the pass rate to be alarming in comparison to the pass rate of the CI/CT tests. In 2000 the pass/fail rate of the CI/CT was 64.4 & 57.7, respectively and in 2001 the rate was 63.3 & 50.3. With an unprecedented pass rate of 81%, the validity and reliability of the NIC test comes into question. Additionally, these numbers are alarming because of the nature of the test. Though we understand the CI/CT tests and the NIC are not truly comparable, the NIC ideally is testing both skill sets (transliterating and interpreting), which conceivably would make it a more difficult test than the CI and CT.

We ask you, the RID Board of Directors, National Office, NIC Task-Force, and the Certification Council to carefully consider the important responses in this survey. In light of the seriousness of our members’ concerns, we ask you to urgently consider these possible courses of action as suggested by our members:

  1. Re-evaluate & change the criteria and tested content for the system

Although it has been repeatedly explained that the test is valid and reliable, we feel there is more work to do here. The test may certainly have inter-rater reliability, but the reliability between the years, as stated above, is appalling.

Additionally, we understand the test is considered valid. However, validity is based on content and we suggest that a large segment of both our field and the Deaf Community would argue that the content upon which the validity may be based may not truly reflect what our field and the Deaf Community needs. This is indicated by the testing prep workshops that took place during National Conference; interpreters are not receiving training on language and interpreting processes, nor are they receiving training in ethical decision-making. The training is geared towards knowing how to answer a set of ethical questions. By our estimation, the test content is based on ability to follow an algorithm of how an ethical dilemma is approached, not if it is approached correctly. Interpreters more and more are not engaging in skill-based preparation or practicing the application of the Code of Conduct to ethical dilemmas, but are taking workshops on how to formulate an answer in the interview- and then receiving “master” status.

2. Change the rating system to pass/fail

Though the membership seemed to initially be in favor of a tiered system, it is proving to not serve us or the Deaf Community as we had all envisioned. We need to determine if we truly have a system that screens for minimum competency, or something other than that. It seems inherently contradictory if we have a minimum competency exam, with levels. If the test is no longer ascertaining entry-level skill set, then we need to be told that. Additionally, the exam levels seem to create more of the alphabet-soup credentialing issues we deal with in our field, thereby making it difficult for hiring entities to know who or what they are getting in terms of service. As seen over the last couple of years with the NIC, words such as “advanced” and “master” are subjective adjectives that hold different meaning for different groups of people.

We invite you to test the reliability of our survey findings by replicating this survey and disseminating it to the membership at large. We anticipate you will find similar results and concerns across the nation.

As one member stated in the NIC Rating Survey: “I would like to see the Board listen to the members of the organization. If RID is a member driven, member-led organization, then the RID Leadership needs to listen to the members more carefully and make the changes that the MEMBERS suggest.” We, the Region V Presidents’ Council, wish to thank you for your urgent and careful consideration of our members’ concerns. We offer our support and help in working to address the concerns presented to us. Please contact us with any concerns or questions regarding the survey and let us know of anyway in which we can further support you in addressing these concerns.

The Region V Presidents’ Council

Gayle Hadley, Alaska
Robin Dragoo, Arizona
Susan Conway, Central CA RID
Greg Haretos, Northern CA RID
Alexis McMannis, Sacramento Valley RID
Rick La Bar, San Diego County RID
Robin Taylor, Southern CA RID
Jenny Blake, Hawaii
LaVona Andrew, Idaho
Kim Holloway, Nevada
Jan Humphrey, Washington State RID
LeeElle Jex Tullis, Region V Secretary