On Jan. 7 the National Literary Braille Competency Test was released for use by all interested parties.
The test is intended primarily for teachers of children and adults. It is designed to allow candidates to demonstrate a basic competency in literary braille. The test is composed of three parts: Part 1, Writing Skills, asks the candidate to transcribe materials using a slate and a braillewriter; Part 2, Reading Skills, requires the candidate to identify errors in a brief braille selection; and Part 3, Multiple Choice, presents the candidate with 25 questions on the literary braille code.
Since January 1943 the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress has been responsible for the development of training materials and certification programs for braille transcribers and proofreaders. These programs were designed for the certification of volunteers producing braille texts for educational and leisure reading. For some time, educators and consumer groups have been concerned about the quality and quantity of braille instruction that blind children are receiving in school. In 1989 the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort asked the Library of Congress to explore the feasibility of creating a national certification program in braille for teachers.
The Library readily agreed and NLS's Braille Development Section immediately began the planning process. An advisory committee composed of educators, rehabilitation teachers, transcribers and consumers was established to study the feasibility of developing a test of braille competency for teachers. This committee recommended that NLS develop certification tests in the primary braille codes for teachers.
In 1991 an editorial committee was formed to advise on the development of the test. Committee members developed guidelines for:
- Content of the test. It was determined that the test would not attempt to measure teaching methodology but only subject matter knowledge. Universities would be encouraged to continue to address methodology as a part of their teacher preparation programs. State departments of education and professional standards boards would be encouraged to develop their own tests of methodology as needed;
- Credibility protection of the test. Issues included: number of equated tests, frequency of revision and statements prohibiting reproduction;
- Reading Level of the test. It was decided to create one test for teachers of all educational levels; and
- Multiple versions of the test to the same location. The trial test was sent to the editorial committee in the spring of 1992. Ten reviewers in the United States and Canada evaluated the test. After the test and instruction were revised, the peer review took place during the summer of 1992. Forty-five people in 15 states and Canada, who had been recommended or had expressed interest, were sent copies of the test. Again, revisions were made. In 1993 four forms of the final test were developed and made ready for use.
Concurrent with its release, the National Literary Braille Competency Test is undergoing a process of validation. Until the formalities of this process have been completed, all of those who ask to take the test will be informed of the pending validation.
The National Literary Braille Competency Test has been developed with every possible consideration for test content and testing rigor. NLS staff will carefully monitor its use in the field and are ready to make whatever modifications and accommodations are necessary to facilitate the achievement of stated goals.