On its website, the Court Interpreter Program (CIP) at the AOC published a new set of Court Interpreter Minimum Continuing Education (CIMCE) compliance requirements. The new rules are effective starting with the 2010-2011 compliance period. If your compliance is due at the end of this year 2010, you still file under the old rules.
CFI has received numerous inquiries about these changes from members. Although CFI was not included in the process that created these changes, we have engaged CIP staff in a dialogue to clarify the changes and address our concerns. Below we attempt to explain both the written rules and their possible ramifications, as well as the CIP’s stated intentions. According to the CIP, they will further revise the rules soon.
There were no changes made to the total number of credit hours needed per compliance period (30) or to the number of required professional assignments (40). The most significant changes were in relation to the limit on non-instructor-led distance learning, the elimination of self-study without a CIMCE number, and a new category of pre-approved providers to compensate for these changes.
Self-study as it was previously known has been eliminated. The new rules still use the term “self-study”, but to avoid confusion we will refer to it as non-instructor-led. All credits should have an approved CIMCE number before the compliance forms are submitted, except courses by pre-approved providers that are relevant to our work.
Instructor-led is a new distinction and requirement that at least half (15 of 30 credits) be taken in a forum that allows for active and meaningful interaction with the instructor. Distance learning such as a text or recording with questions graded through the mail will now count only for non-instructor-led. Materials and workshops that have been approved in the past must re-apply for approval so the CIP can determine whether or not they are instructor-led.
Pre-approved providers include accredited colleges and universities, individual county courts, and the AOC itself. The only requirement for these providers is that their material is “relevant to the work of the courts, [and] enhances the individual participant’s ability to perform his or her work as an interpreter…”
The new standards do not specify a process for pre-approved providers to apply for a CIMCE number or submit any kind of documentation, which gives us no way of confirming that these courses will meet the required standards. However, CIP staff explained that courses by pre-approved providers will also be given CIMCE numbers, using an application form that is not available yet. Either the provider or the interpreter will be able to apply at no cost, according to the CIP.
The CIP insists that pre-approved provider does not mean pre-approved credit: courses must still be relevant to our work. Our concern is that there is no clear process for approving courses and materials from pre-approved providers. Until the CIP creates an application process for them and requires they have a CIMCE number before compliance is submitted, interpreters risk spending time and money on courses that don’t count. The other risk is that interpreters submit compliance and get credit for courses that are not really relevant, because relevance is never verified.
Although the intent of the pre-approved category is to allow interpreters to still get half their credits for free or at low cost, these changes may increase costs to interpreters. University and court materials are unlikely to be as relevant to our work as courses provided by interpreters specifically for interpreters. In addition, the cost for non-pre-approved materials may increase along with higher application costs and stricter requirements.
The elimination of self-study without a CIMCE number poses a problem for languages of lesser diffusion, also called “other than Spanish”. In more rare languages, finding language-specific continuing education is difficult if not impossible, and the self-study gave these interpreters the ability to find and study texts in their language. It is not likely that courts or colleges will have anything for them.
In summary, CFI is concerned that the changes may degrade the quality of the continuing education experience. They make it more difficult for legitimate, qualified workshop providers to meet the CIMCE credit requirements, while at the same time creating a voluntary process for pre-approved provider materials and workshops that may have little relation to maintaining or improving an interpreter’s skills.
Because of the questions that are raised about the quality, applicability, and value of pre-approved provider courses, we are encouraging interpreters to use courses by pre-approved providers only to replace the self-study portion of their CIMCE compliance. We also encourage interpreters to attend the professional interpreter conference put on by CFI at the end of each year. By attending every year, an interpreter will be assured the necessary credits required for CIMCE compliance and can count on high quality seminars that are directly relevant to our profession. Some courts have even registered their staff interpreters for the CFI conference directly — inquire with your steward.