EIPA stands for Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment and is a tool for providing licenses to educational interpreters who work with deaf or hard of hearing students.
In order to work as an educational interpreter who uses American Sign Language to help children cope with school tasks, each person needs to hold a valid educational interpreter license. There is also a specific hiring process, which is determined by each state and the educational institutions in it. EIPA is now used by most states to certify that an interpreter can work in a school but the requirements of a passing score differ.
It is important to keep in mind that there is a difference between interpreting ASL for adults and interpreting for children. Furthermore, the school setting is much more different than that of a conversation between 2-3 people, regardless of the purpose of meeting – informal, business or in a health institution, for example.
What is EIPA?
The Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment is one of the most popular and used tools to evaluate the voice-to-sign and sign-to voice skills of interpreters who would like to work in the educational system. The test uses videotape stimulus materials to check if the interpreter is ready to work in an elementary through secondary classroom setting. There is a specific rating system and in order to pass the test successfully the interpreters need to obtain a certain score.
EIPA is performed by the EIPA Diagnostic Center situated at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. The Center was established in 1999 and is the only one of its kind not only in the USA but in the world. Its main goals are to support sign language interpreters who want to work in the field of education. The Center rates individual interpreters, educational institutions and provides services to school districts and states.
As per their official site, the Center’s purpose is to:
- Evaluate the skills and knowledge of interpreters working in K-12 educational settings
- Provide information to local, state and federal agencies regarding interpreting practices
- Provide training to interpreters to assist them in skill and knowledge enhancement
- Provide screenings to assist administrators in making interpreter hiring decisions
Basically, EIPA evaluates the ability of sign language interpreters to work in schools and with students along with their sign language skills.
What Does the EIPA Test Include?
The EIPA test is focused on the interpreter’s ability to function in a school setting. That includes properly interpreting classroom content, student and classroom discourse. Sign language interpreters should know how to work with students as this is much different than working with adults. To that end, the actual assessment test includes stimulus video representing an actual classroom setting with child signers.
EIPA evaluates a set of language systems. In addition to using American Sign Language, interpreters are also tested in PSE (Pidgin Sign English – a form of sign language that combines ASL and English) and in MCE (Manually Coded English).
The test is online and contains 176 multiple-choice questions. The test taker has 4 hours to finish it but it usually takes between 1.5 and 3 hours to complete it. Note that when the 4 hours pass your test will be automatically submitted regardless of how many questions you have answered.
In order to pass, the interpreter need at least 75%. Once you submit the test, you will see an immediate notification on whether you have passed or failed. In the event you were successful, you shall expect to receive an official certificate in about 2-3 weeks.
As a whole EIPA evaluates the interpreter’s readiness to work in an educational setting and tests their knowledge of concept related to interaction with students. Hence, the EIPA written test covers the following subject areas:
- Child Language Development
- Literacy and Tutoring
In addition to the written test, there is also EIPA performance test conducted by a panel of trained evaluators. Interpreters get an actual score on the Performance Test and different states or educational institutions require a certain minimum in order to hire the interpreters (usually 3.5 or 4 points).
Some of the states require only the EIPA written test, others only the EIPA performance test or both in order to hire a sign language interpreter in one of their educational institutions.
There is no specific order which test will be taken first, so it is up to the interpreter to decide.
How Do You Prepare for EIPA?
To better prepare for the EIPA, an interpreter should check the EIPA Guidelines of Professional Conduct located on the EIPA Written Test and Knowledge Standards page. The EIPA Diagnostic Center also offers three onsite and distance video conference workshops. Distance training courses are offered throughout the year – you need to check when one is available on the website of the Center. EIPA practice materials may be purchased at www.boystownpress.org.
Note that there is no practice test for the written exam.
A good source to help you prepare for the assessment is the www.classroominterpreting.org website. There you can find a lot of useful information not only for aspiring educational interpreters but also for parents, teachers and administrators.
The job of a sign language interpreter working in a school setting bears a lot of responsibilities. In addition to facilitating communication between deaf or hard of hearing students and their peers and teachers, the interpreter also serves as a role model for the children. The interpreter is a full-fledged member of the educational team and participates actively in the cognitive development of the students. Hence comes the necessity of a specific certification for educational interpreters that proves their readiness to cope with the task.