Hello. My name is Miako Villanueva, and I am the president of the board for the Center for the Assessment of Sign Language Interpretation (CASLI).
This is an exciting time for CASLI. RID established CASLI as an LLC in 2016, and charged CASLI with two primary tasks: 1) administration of the tests that RID was currently offering, and 2) developing new tests to replace those being used for the NIC certification and the CDI certification.
While keeping our work focused on those two goals, we also recognized that the establishment of CASLI as an LLC entails longer-term goals, including making interpreter testing financially viable and self-sustaining, incorporating test maintenance and redesign on a regular schedule, and generally having a greater focus on solely testing matters than RID has been able to do with testing included under its auspices along with its other responsibilities. The goal is for testing to run more smoothly as its own operation, avoiding some of the pitfalls and problems we have seen in the past. As CASLI develops the new tests and administers the current ones, we are also always thinking long-term, to ensure that we are updating test content as well as processes and service provision in ways that will be most effective for the interpreting field, making sure that the tests and testing services we provide will best serve Deaf communities.
The all-volunteer testing committee and test item development groups have been working long and hard to design and develop the new tests, incorporating feedback and lessons learned from the current RID exams. The goal for the new tests is that they provide a higher quality measure of interpreter readiness, in ways that will directly support Deaf people as interpreters and consumers of interpreting services.
Simultaneously, we are thinking long-term about test administration. We currently administer the CDI-Knowledge exam, the NIC-Knowledge exam, and the NIC-Performance exam. Those tests are administered under three separate contracting systems, as originally established by RID. While the administration of the Knowledge exams is relatively straight-forward, administration of the NIC Performance exam has proven much more complicated. The company contracted to administer the NIC Performance exams (PSI) primarily does contracts for computer-based written tests, for which the requirements are much more simple. They are not used to handling tests that require video to be shown on screen, much less for video to be simultaneously recorded, saved, and uploaded to be later accessed by raters in other locations. Often test takers have arrived at PSI sites to find that the requirements that CASLI has set forward for test provision are not in place at that testing site. Over the years RID has contracted with various testing companies for performance test provision, and to date, none of those contracted companies has been fully able to meet the needs for a satisfactory interpreter performance test experience.
As a long term solution to what has been an ongoing problem, CASLI is now moving toward a computer-based platform which will incorporate all of the CASLI tests, both knowledge tests and performance tests, into one fluid system. To that end, we have signed a contract with uSked, a company that already works with interpreting agencies and companies to provide a platform for interpreter screenings and assessments. uSked is a Deaf and CODA owned service provider scheduling and screening software company that was hired to build and maintain the platform, supporting the Deaf ecosystem and providing quality of service that fully understands the technological needs of signing and interpreting communities.
uSked is already in progress on developing the new platform which will be used for CASLI testing, and anticipates the platform being ready for testing as soon as October 1st. The new tests replacing those that have been used for CDI and NIC certifications are in process to be available on January 1st. Therefore, and in light of the problems test candidates have experienced with the current contract for NIC Performance testing, we will be moving the NIC Performance test onto the new platform as soon as possible.
This transition timing means that the last date to sign up for the NIC Performance test as currently offered through the PSI contract will be June 1st. Having all tests into the PSI system by June 1st will allow for raters to complete their ratings on those exams and then clear out and close out the PSI system entirely in time to move the NIC Performance exam over to the new uSked platform. Test candidates will then be able to sign up to take the NIC Performance exam on the new platform, ideally resolving those issues that have been caused by the PSI contract. As the new tests are completed, they will be added on to the new platform, with the goal of test takers beginning to take the new tests on the new platform starting January 1st.
Part of this exciting transition also includes switching to a Local Test Administrator (LTA) format, similar to what RID used to use before contracting with large testing companies. LTAs can include local interpreter training programs (ITPs), VRS centers, universities and colleges with Deaf programs, anywhere that has the setup already in place for private testing that includes simultaneous viewing and recording of video through the computer-based platform. Having those locations, already familiar with interpreting and signed language technology needs, as LTAs means that test takers will have an appropriate environment ready for them, avoiding many of the problems we’ve seen with PSI locations not being ready or properly equipped for our testing needs.
Please work with your local community to identify sites that can serve as LTAs for the new testing platform and encourage them to sign up with CASLI as local testing sites. RID’s previous system of LTAs proved cumbersome primarily because of the filming needs, which at the time required cameras to be set up and recordings to be made on VHS tapes, which were then copied and mailed to raters, etc. With the new testing platform, everything will be integrated into the digital computer-based system, meaning that LTAs primary responsibilities will be to confirm the candidates’ identity, log them into the system, and proctor the exam ensuring confidentiality of the tests and the process. As we transition to this new system, we ask you to please consider what locations in your area could serve as LTAs and encourage them to reach out to CASLI to start the application process. The more LTAs we have available, the smoother the transition to the new testing platform will be, and the better the test candidate’s experience overall.
CASLI board, testing committee, and test development groups are all volunteer. We encourage you to work with us to improve interpreter testing. If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact CASLI and let us know and we will figure out where your time and talents can best serve the needs of our field as we move forward. Your support through this process is critical to its success, and because CASLI is also focused-long term, we are also looking for ongoing support from people signing up to serve as raters, to work on the ongoing maintenance of the tests throughout their lifecycles, etc. All of this are part of the new vision of interpreter testing that CASLI is working toward.
We also recognize that this transition from PSI to the uSked platform will impact the timeline for testing candidates who are currently in their 5-year window of eligibility, having passed the NIC Knowledge exam but not yet passed the NIC Performance. Any time during the transition when the NIC Performance test is not available to be taken will be added to your 5-year window. CASLI’s staff of two, currently funded by RID, is led by Testing Director Star Grieser, who has created a list of FAQs that are available in both English and ASL on the CASLI website. On this FAQs page, CASLI addresses the impact on candidates due to the timing of this transition.
We understand that transitions of this nature involve a lot of change and can be disorienting and difficult. CASLI deeply values the interpreting field and we are striving to improve the testing system as a whole, making it better for all stakeholders involved. Our goal is to mitigate the impacts of the transition time as much as possible, making the process fair and equitable and providing appropriate options for all test takers.
This is an exciting time for the interpreting field, with CASLI as a new operational system moving toward a new testing platform with new tests coming soon. For further information, please check our website at CASLI.org or reach out to Testing Director Star Grieser via email at Director@casli.org Thank you for your support of this work to push our field to the next level!