There is a new bill in the House and Senate that could potentially impact our current educational interpreter standard.
The Washington legislature passed HB 1144 back in 2012, which mandates all interpreters working in the K-12 setting meet a minimum qualification. HB 1144 granted authority to the professional educational standards board to determine which test Washington would use to assess interpreters. After a lot of research and debate, the board narrowly voted to adopt the EIPA test (recognized by RID and used in most states) instead of the ESSE (a test administered by the SEE Center). SEE advocates have been really, really upset about that decision ever since, and they have tried numerous times to introduce legislation that changes the standard to include the ESSE. DPAC, WSAD, and WSRID have collaborated to block this legislation from moving forward in the past. The legislature has only been hesitant to adopt this ESSE loophole legislation because there is no validity or reliability data to support the ESSE.
On January 13, 2017, the Senate introduced 5142 (and companion HB 1303. See here http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5142&Year=2017
This bill would do 2 things
1) This bill gives interpreters who have not received a passing score on the EIPA one more year to be able to take the test again, and
2) This bill asks the office of the superintendent to provide a report about how much it would cost for the legislature to actually pay for the ESSE validity and reliability data.
1) One Year Extension
- This could be a good thing as long as 1) the extension is for one year and one year only; 2) the legislature properly funds mentorship and training opportunities for interpreters that need to retake the test, AND 3) the legislature properly funds school districts to be able to better recruit competent interpreters to replace interpreters that are not able to pass the EIPA.
2) Report About Funding ESSE Research
- This part of the bill is a bigger concern to me because it is addressing a made-up, fantasy problem designed by SEE advocates to tug at the heart strings and the pocket books of the legislature. The SEE advocates have convinced representatives that there are all these deaf students in our school system that only understand SEE and are deprived of interpreters under the current standard.
- First, we do not need a test that assesses SEE because the EIPA already adequately assesses the competency of SEE interpreters. We do not want to create an ESSE loophole for incompetent interpreters.
- Second, the legislature seems to be considering paying for research for a private, for-profit school, which has a harmful educational philosophy.
- Third, a competent ASL interpreter can learn SEE in a very short amount of time, but the opposite is not true. If there was truly a lack of SEE interpreters, competent ASL interpreters could be quickly trained and reassigned to those placements when needed.
- Finally, we could be stuck with bad research. If this bill passes and the legislature decides to fund this research, the results of the research could inappropriately validate the ESSE, and then we lose our argument that this is a bad test. The legislature seems eager to move ahead with adoption of the ESSE, but all they need to do that is that validity and reliability data. If that data is obtained, it will be much harder to prevent ESSE legislation from moving forward in the future.
What should you do?
1) Contact your representatives and invite them to attend the legislative reception on Feb, 1st! We will be there even if you can’t make it, and we would love to talk to your representatives about this bill.
2) Let your representative know who you are and that you oppose this bill unless it is amended to strike Section 2.
3) Come to the committee hearing to testify or oppose this bill unless amended. No date is set, but please keep an eye out on the Washington Legislature website for notice of the next hearing.