Rationale The demand for qualified and licensed K-12 Interpreters has never been higher. Today, the majority of deaf and hard of hearing students are educated in public schools in their home communities. It is common for these students, sometimes the only deaf student in their school, to experience social isolation and segregation. Unless strategies geared towards visual learners are utilized, the quality of instruction will likely be compromised. Interpreting services must be implemented correctly and with ongoing considerations for the progress being made by the student, addressing their specific language and communication needs and the continuum of educational placements options as delineated in IDEA (34 CFR 300.346 (a) (2) (iv)) and the New Mexico’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children’s Educational Bill of Rights (NMSA 28-11C-3) . Commonly, interpreters are underprepared to work in the K-12 setting. The majority of interpreter training programs place minimal emphasis on interpreting in K-12 school programs, which is notably different than interpreting for deaf adults in a community setting. Interpreters who are not appropriately qualified cannot provide access to free and appropriate public education (FAPE). As a result of the Signed Language Interpreting Practices Act (§61-34-1 NMSA 1978), all interpreters working in K-12 settings must hold a state license to practice. The intent of this law is to ensure quality interpreting services that enable deaf students to access all aspects of their education as outlined in the National Agenda and the New Mexico Deaf and Hard of Hearing Educational Bill of Rights. Other roles that commonly support deaf students, such as teacher’s aides or sign language models, must be clearly distinguished from the role of an interpreter. Schools in New Mexico are challenged with recruiting qualified interpreters. In response to interpreter vacancies after licensure was implemented, rural school districts commonly fill vacant positions with recent graduates of interpreter training programs. If an interpreter starts their career in a school that lacks other experienced K-12 interpreters or mentoring programs, the ability to navigate their position and role can be challenging. Like all professionals, interpreters need ongoing opportunities to be challenged and to grow their skills. They must have a great deal of personal incentive to seek appropriate ways to develop in their profession and their skills. They also need supervisors and colleagues who understand the complexity of interpreting and recognize the success of a student is the responsibility of a collaborative educational team. While interpreting is a critical and revered profession serving the deaf community, even the most qualified interpreters do not inevitably ensure an effective education for deaf students. However, as noted by the 2003 New Mexico Task Force Report and the 2005 National Agenda having a highly qualified and reflective interpreter as an essential part of the student’s educational team is a necessary step in building an appropriate educational program for the deaf child.
Recommendations The New Mexico School for the Deaf, LEAs serving deaf students, and the Public Education Department will convene appropriate stakeholders to:
→ Establish a process for monitoring licensure compliance in public schools → Ensure that administrative teams adhere to licensure requirements when hiring → Provide progress monitoring for provisionally licensed individuals → Foster a collaborative team approach to ensure the deaf student has optimal access and engagement in the whole school experience
→ Create a plan to provide incentives to interpreters who accept positions in high need areas → Create a plan to provide support and professional development to interpreters who lack a critical mass of colleagues → Explore the potential of a centralized body for hiring, placing and supervising interpreters in high need locations → Create comprehensive training for families, educational teams and teachers in training to understand the implications and limitations of receiving an education via interpreting
New Mexico Task Force for Education for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children & Youth