New Regulation Requires Qualified Interpreters to Attend Individualized Education Program Meetings

qualified interpreter

New Regulation Requires Qualified Interpreters to Attend Individualized Education Program Meetings

Mar 10, 2021

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The Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) recently adopted new regulations, which define a “qualified interpreter” and set forth procedural requirements for school districts providing qualified interpreters at Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) meetings. The new regulations were adopted in compliance with Public Act 101-0124, which requires ISBE to establish critical standards and competencies for any bilingual language interpreter who is responsible for interpreting IEP meetings. The regulatory amendments set the training and qualification standards for a qualified interpreter. These regulations are effective as of January 22, 2021. It is important to note that the final version of the regulations allows school districts, where a qualified interpreter is not available, to use an outside vendor, including telephonic interpreters, for IEP meetings. Such outside vendors do not have to meet the qualified interpreter training and qualification standards.

In addition to establishing training and qualification requirements for “qualified interpreters,” the new regulations also set forth additional procedures for parent participation in the IEP process. Under Section 226.530 of the Illinois Administrative Code, school districts are required to take whatever action is necessary to facilitate the parent’s understanding of and participation in the proceedings at an IEP meeting, which now includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Arranging for and covering the expense of:

A qualified interpreter for a parent whose native language is other than English, who either requests an interpreter or requires such in order to participate in the IEP process, or an outside vendor, including telephonic interpreters, if a qualified interpreter is not available.

  • Providing annual notice to all parents of children with disabilities and in each Notice of Conference including the following information:
  1. Notice to all parents of children eligible for an IEP about the availability of interpretation services at IEP team meetings;
    1. An explanation of how a parent can request an interpreter;
    2. Notice that a parent has the right to request that the interpreter provided by the school district serve no other role in the IEP meeting other than as an interpreter and that the school district should make reasonable efforts to fulfill this request; and
    3. A point of contact for any questions or complaints about interpretation services.
  • Recording the following information:
  1. Whether a parent requested an interpreter, had previously requested interpretation services, or had otherwise indicated that an interpreter was necessary to ensure meaningful parental involvement in the IEP meeting;
    1. The language for interpretation;
    2. Whether a qualified interpreter was provided for each IEP meeting; and
    3. Whether a parent requested that the interpreter serve no other role in the IEP meeting and, if so, whether the school district granted that request.

A “qualified interpreter” is now defined under Section 226.75 of the Illinois Administrative Code as a school staff member or other personnel who is: (1) bilingual and demonstrably qualified and competent to interpret; (2) trained in providing the interpretations requested and sufficiently knowledgeable in both languages and of any specialized terminology needed; and (3) trained in ethics of interpretation.

Pursuant to newly amended Section 226.800, a qualified interpreter must:

  1. Meet all employment eligibility requirements of the school district.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English and the target language by passing State-approved language proficiency tests.

A State-approved language proficiency test must include the following domains: listening, speaking, and reading (if the language exists in written form). An individual is exempt from the testing requirements of this subsection if he or she meets any of the following:

  1. For an English language proficiency test exemption, the individual possesses a post-secondary degree in which the official language of instruction, as documented, is English.
  2. For a target language proficiency test exemption, the individual:
    • Possesses a post-secondary degree in which the official language of instruction, as documented, is the target language;
    • Possesses the State Seal of Biliteracy with a minimum score of Advanced Low in the target language;
    • Receives a score of 4 or higher on the AP language test in the target language;
    • Currently possesses, or has possessed, an educator license with stipulations endorsed for a transitional bilingual educator or a professional educator license endorsed in LBSII/Bilingual Special Education Specialist or bilingual education; or
    • Currently possess an Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Court Interpreter Certification, a Certified Medical Interpreter Certification, or an Advanced Proficiency Level Interpreter License under 68 Ill. Adm. Code 1515, and the individual has completed additional coursework on special education terminology, as referenced below.
  3. In the instance of a target language for which an exam does not yet exist, a reliable alternative assessment or documentation of proficiency in that language shall be established by the State Board if it is not feasible for the State Board to otherwise offer a test in that language within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Complete at least six hours of training on special education terminology and protocol.

Individuals who already hold special education licenses, endorsements, or approvals are exempt from this six-hour training requirement.

  • Complete at least nine hours of training on the following:

(1) interpreting in and out of English; (2) interpretation standards of practice, ethics, and confidentiality; (3) the role of the interpreter and role boundaries; and (4) respect, impartiality, professionalism, cultural competence and responsiveness, and advocacy for communication and cultural needs. Note, this training need also include videos demonstrating proper and improper interpretation techniques.

  • After completing the required training:
  1. Successfully complete, with a score of 80% or higher, a written examination to demonstrate knowledge of: (1) special education terminology and protocol; (2) interpretation standards and techniques; and (3) interpretation ethics; and
    • Successfully complete an oral examination, with a score of 70% or higher, to demonstrate proficiency in: (1) interpreting in and out of English, through consecutive or simultaneous interpreting; and (2) sight translation.

To maintain the designation of a qualified interpreter, an individual must, at least once every two years, participate in at least six hours of ongoing professional development related to interpretation in the following categories: (1) confidentiality; (2) accuracy; (3) impartiality; (4) interpreter ethics and professionalism; (5) cultural awareness; (6) special education processes; (7) special education vocabulary; and (8) language acquisition.

School districts will need to review and prepare for these new interpreter qualifications because they impact important procedural requirements for IEP meetings. However, it is important to note that although these new regulations became effective on January 22, 2021, there is no official training or certification process yet. ISBE is in the process of releasing a Request for Sealed Proposals (“RFSP”) for a training entity. As part of the RFSP, the training entity will establish a registry of qualified interpreters who are willing to contract with districts in need of securing a qualified interpreter.

Until such time that ISBE releases an official training or certification process, districts are encouraged to continue to use interpreters that are bilingual, demonstrably qualified, and capable of interpreting appropriately, with a preference for those who have knowledge of special education terminology and processes. In accordance with the new regulations, outside vendors, including telephonic interpreters may be used. In an update from ISBE on February 25, 2021, ISBE noted that once a training and certification process has been officially instituted, then districts will be expected to ensure they use qualified interpreters that meet qualifications under Section 226.800 of the Illinois Administrative Code.

Please contact Robbins Schwartz with any questions as to how these regulations will affect your school district. Robbins Schwartz has developed a model language to include in your Student Handbook and Notice of Conference forms related to interpretation services, as well as a sample reporting form to help you maintain records in compliance with the new regulations until such time that ISBE releases its own updated Notice of Conference and reporting forms.