Iowa school districts may be facing a problem this fall when it comes to providing interpreters for hearing-impaired students. Some of the interpreters who accompany deaf children in the classroom have failed to meet new state standards and could be losing their jobs.
The interpreters and some parents of the kids made their case to the legislature’s administrative rules review committee today. Mike Van Sant of Sully has a son in sixth grade and a daughter in third grade who have always had the same interpreter in the Lynnville-Sully school district.
“Our two have been with our kids since they started kindergarten or before. Both our children are A and B students, they are thriving, they are excelling, they don’t have any trouble falling behind,” Van Sant says.
But the Van Sants interpreters haven’t met new accreditation standards which go into effect July 1st. The Van Sants parents are unhappy that their children may have to switch interpreters, and the rural district may not even be able to find someone else. Regulators say the standards ensure that all deaf kids get the best possible education.
Kathryn Bauman-Reese of the Deaf Services Commission of Iowa says the state began licensing interpreters in 2005 and temporary license holders were given a two-year grace period in 2007 to get accredited.
Bauman-Reese says,” “Ultimately the commission feels that those who are practicing with a temporary license have had four years to meet those minimum standards. Without a competent interpreter whatever the teacher is teaching won’t get to the student.”
Regulators say research shows that those who score at the new Iowa standard are 40 to 60% accurate in the classroom. They say with results like that they can’t justify accepting a lower score. But interpreters like Penny Bowers who’ve been working in schools for years have found the new standards a hard to meet.
Bowers says, “I live in Pella,Iowa. The distance to get continuing education units is very far and they are expensive. The test itself is $250. I did take my first test last spring.” Bowers fell short of the required score on the test. Bowers says her method of school interpreting isn’t adequately measured by the exam.
But, Bauman-Reese says the new standards assesses numerous classroom approaches. “Would we accept a teacher in the classroom without meeting minimum standards?,” she says,”Would we allow them to practice for four years and beyond that? Basically that’s what we’re talking about.”
A solution may be forthcoming through the intervention of Governor Culver’s legal counsel Jim Larew, who says he will convene a panel of those involved to “interpret the statute in a common sense way without going beyond what the law allows.”
“You’re trying to serve children but do so in a way that doesn’t put vulnerable people in a difficult place when that’s not the intent,” Larew says. Lawmakers say they expect to start hearing from constituents when the July 1st deadline hits if the issue hasn’t been resolved.