Future Reflections Spring/Summer 1993, Vol. 12 No. 2



Editor's Note: This item is reprinted from the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's
publication, NEWS, January-March 1993, Vol. 24, No.1

Teachers of blind or partially sighted children and adults now have a means to demonstrate their knowledge of Braille reading and writing skills through a Braille competency test created by the NLS Braille Development Section (BDS). The National Literary Braille Competency Test covers performance with slate and Braillewriter, Braille reading skills, and knowledge of Braille code rules.

The impetus for developing the test came from the Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) committee, which is made up of representatives from the American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Canadian Council of the Blind, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and NLS. The group's involvement with promoting Braille literacy led to the concern that teachers of blind children and adults be skilled users of the reading medium they teach.

One of the committee's first actions after its formation in 1989 was to charge NLS with the preparation of a Braille competency test to evaluate these Braille reading and writing skills. NLS was asked to devise the test because of its impartiality-lack of affiliation with teachers, universities, or other educational or rehabilitation organizations.

The resulting competency test is the product of a long period of careful study led by Claudell Stocker, then head of BDS. Procedures included forming an advisory committee with representatives from major groups concerned with blindness in the United States and Canada to deal with approach and content and to review each stage of the test's development. Proposed versions were later submitted for peer review to educators, university faculty members, and rehabilitation teachers in various parts of the country.

“These are the kind of people who would take the test, and some of them also teach students who would take the test,” says Mary Lou Stark, acting head of BDS. “As a result of their review, we clarified the instructions and added more questions to the multiple-choice section on code rules.”

She cites Texas as an example of a state indicating a great deal of interest. “The Texas Education Agency was a big part of the peer review. They brought in about twenty teachers.”

Many states have recently passed legislation that requires teaching Braille to blind and partially sighted children.

The test will take four to six hours to complete and will be given locally. The applicant is responsible for arranging for a site, a monitor, and a testing date. A score of 85 is required to pass, and applicants will have two opportunities for retesting at six-month intervals. Successful applicants will receive certificates similar to those given to Braille transcribers.

The test covers only knowledge of the materials to be taught, not teaching methodology. Applications for the test became available in January. Testing can begin in March.