Some deaf or hard of hearing students in SC don’t have access to qualified educational interpreters

Some deaf or hard of hearing students in SC don’t have access to nationally certified educational interpreters

CLEMSON, S.C. (WIS) - When Tia Billig graduates in December, she'll be ready to work in a classroom.

Billig won't be a teacher, but she's going to be playing a big role in helping a deaf or hard of hearing student communicate and learn.

"There are deaf children right now who don't have access to what they're learning," she said.

Billig is set to become a nationally certified educational interpreter. Clemson University graduates about six educational interpreters a year. They are the only school in South Carolina offering this.

Dr. Stephen Fitzmaurice, an Assistant Professor of ASL Interpreting at Clemson, said the proficiency levels for interpreters working in public schools in the state are below national levels.

"At this point today, there are no minimum qualifications. There is no quality assurance for educational interpreters," he said.

According to Dr. Fitzmaurice, only 40% of educational interpreters in South Carolina scored a 3.5 or higher on the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) in 2019.

Since 2016, he has been working to improve the quality of educational interpreters in the state. Clemson has partnered with the state's Department of Education and the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. They created the Clemson South Carolina Educational Interpreting Center.

"It aims to help working interpreters in the public school system build up their skill set," Dr. Fitzmaurice said.

Through workshops and training, the center has already helped improve the EISA scores in the state for educational interpreters.

Dr. Fitzmaurice said there are about 110 educational interpreters. He believes that new graduates like Billig can help fill the gaps when it comes to getting more certified interpreters in the classroom.

“I’m very happy that I had chosen this route,” Billig said, “so I could be able to make that difference and be in the classroom for that student.”

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