Future Reflections Summer 2013
by Casey L. Robertson, NCLB
From the Editor: Casey Robertson, a teacher of blind and visually impaired students in Mississippi, received the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award at the 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. In this article she explains why it is important for teachers to become certified in literary Braille by taking the National Certification in Literary Braille exam.
Would it surprise you to know that your child's teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) may have had only minimal training in Braille in college? Would you be alarmed to learn that he or she may not have had any hands-on training using a slate and stylus, and that the teacher may not have taught Braille to a child in years? Are you aware that the requirements for becoming a TVI vary dramatically from state to state?
Depending on where you live and the services offered by your school district, you may find it challenging to obtain appropriate services for your blind or low-vision child. As a parent, you may become lost in a web of terms such as certification, competency, proficiency, and standards. You may struggle to understand what these words mean for your child's education. You know that your child needs Braille, but how can you determine whether the TVI is providing quality services? Recently there has been much discussion among professionals in the field of blindness and low vision about the services our students receive. Questions have been raised about who provides services, the training of TVIs, and teachers' level of proficiency in Braille.
As of 2011, forty university programs in thirty-two states prepare students and/or general education teachers to become TVIs. Each university program sets its own curriculum requirements and criteria for a level of proficiency in Braille. Some programs require minimal Braille instruction, while others require rigorous Braille instruction and a demonstration of proficiency. Once the student has completed the courses required in a university training program, there is typically a state test to certify him or her to teach blind and visually impaired students. It may be a test created by the state, or it may be one that was adopted from elsewhere. Passing grades and the test itself are not consistent from one state to the next. For example, one state's passing score may be set at 80 percent, while another state's passing score may be as low as 60 percent. Clearly, there is no consistency from program to program or state to state about what a teacher's proficiency in Braille really means. The road to certification is confusing and inconsistent.
Parents can be encouraged by the work of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), which has developed a national standard for Braille proficiency. The NBPCB administers the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) exam as a five-year renewable certification awarded to those who successfully pass all four sections. The exam includes sections on transcribing Braille using a Braillewriter, transcribing Braille using a slate and stylus, and proofreading Braille for errors. It also contains multiple-choice questions on Braille rules and usage. Anyone can take the exam; however, it is intended primarily for current and future teachers of Braille. By adding the designation of NCLB certification, administered by a nationally recognized credentialing organization, teachers will unequivocally demonstrate that they possess knowledge and skills in the use of the Braille code beyond the rudimentary level. Teachers can recertify every five years, demonstrating that they are continuing their proficiency in Braille and have not digressed in their skills.
Parents should encourage their child's teacher to become NCLB certified. A number of professions, including teaching and medicine, regard voluntary certification as a way for individuals to show that they possess a high standard of expertise. The existence of certification developed in these professions is indicative proof of the need to meet specific standards that are uniformly applied to those engaging in specialized fields. Why should students not receive services from teachers who have earned a distinguishing certification?
The goal of the NCLB, like that of any other certification process, is to:
The NCLB is now being offered in all fifty states, depending on interest and availability of test takers. For more information on testing dates and test resource materials, please visit <www.nbpcb.org/nclb>. Expect the best from your child's teacher, and encourage her or him to join the many professionals in the field who are becoming nationally certified in literary Braille.