ISBE has adopted new rules to support parent participation in IEP meetings by requiring districts to arrange for and fund “qualified interpreters” for parents whose native language is other than English. We have heard concern from many clients that they do not yet have staff who meet the requirements to be a qualified interpreter. This is not surprising given that the rules are brand new and the requirements are extensive. In the meantime (and on ongoing basis if desired), districts can use outside vendors, including telephonic interpreters. The requirements for qualified interpreters are summarized below. For now, districts should focus on meeting the new notice requirements, also spelled out below.

Notice Requirements (23 Ill. Admin. Code 226.530)

In each Notice of Conference and in the district’s annual notice to all parents of children with disabilities, the following must be provided:

  1. The availability of interpretation services at IEP team meetings;
  2. An explanation of how parents can request an interpreter;
  3. Notice that a parent has the right to request that the interpreter serve no other role in the IEP meeting than as an interpreter, and that the district should make reasonable efforts to fulfill this request; and
  4. A point of contact to address any questions or complaints about interpretation services.

For each IEP meeting, the district must also record 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;
  2. The language for interpretation;
  3. Whether a qualified interpreter was provided; and
  4. Whether a parent requested that the interpreter serve no other role in the IEP meeting and, if so, whether the district granted that request.

To implement these requirements, we suggest the following action items:

  • Designate a point person to receive requests for interpretation services as well as questions and complaints.
  • Identify or hire staff members who are qualified interpreters or who will become qualified interpreters for the most common language(s) spoken by parents – OR – identify outside vendors that can provide interpretation services. Note that even if the district employs qualified interpreters, an outside vendor may still be needed for parents who speak other languages.
  • Update the annual notice and notice of conference to include the information specified in #1-4 above.
  • Create a standard template to record the information required in A-D above for each IEP meeting. This document will be part of the student’s temporary records.
  • Plan ahead to have sufficient time to obtain an interpreter when needed for IEP meetings.

Requirements for a Qualified Interpreter (23 Ill. Admin. Code 226.800(l))

The rules include requirements related to language proficiency, special education knowledge, and interpreting standards, as well as an assessment and professional development. Specifically, a “qualified interpreter” must:

  • Meet all employment eligibility requirements of the district;
  • Language proficiency: Demonstrate proficiency in English and the target language by passing State-approved language proficiency tests including listening, speaking, and reading domains. In individual is exempt from the testing requirement if:
    • With respect to English, the individual has a post-secondary degree and the documented language of instruction was English.
    • With respect to the target language, have one of the following:
      • A post-secondary degree and the documented language of instruction was the target language;
      • The State Seal of Biliteracy with a minimum score of Advanced Low in the target language;
      • A score of 4 or higher on the AP language test in the target language;
      • An educator license with stipulations endorsed for transitional bilingual educator or a professional educator license endorsed in LBSII/Bilingual Special Education Specialist or bilingual education;
      • An Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Court Interpreter Certification, a Certified Medical Interpreter Certification, or an Advanced Proficiency Level Interpreter License.
    • Special education knowledge: 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.
    • Interpretation standards: Complete at least nine hours of training that includes videos demonstrating proper and improper interpretation techniques and includes:
      • Interpreting in and out of English;
      • Interpretation standards of practice, ethics, and confidentiality;
      • The role of the interpreter and role boundaries; and
      • Respect, impartiality, professionalism, cultural competence and responsiveness, and advocacy for communication and cultural needs.
    • Assessment:
      • Score of 80% or higher on a written examination of special education terminology and protocol, interpretation standards and techniques, and interpretation ethics; and
      • Score of 70% or higher on an oral examination covering: interpreting in and out of English through consecutive or simultaneous interpreting, and sight translation.
    • Professional Development: Every two years, participate in at least six hours of ongoing professional development related to interpretation in several identified categories.

Note that the language for interpretation services can be the parent’s native language or any other language requested by parent, except that artificial and constructed languages like Klingon, Dothraki, Elvish, and Esperanto are excluded. This issue must have come up for the exception to be spelled out in the regulations! For questions regarding these regulations or other special education matters, contact our Franczek special education team.