The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 38

CERTIFICATION FORUM

BY DAVID STEPHENSON

Decoupling and the Certification Committee

O

ver the past several years, the
Certification Committee has
been called on to answer several
questions related to opening the
certification exam to nonmembers (also
known as "decoupling"). Although the
Certification Committee manages and
administers the Certification Program, it
was not directly involved in the decision
on whether to eliminate the membership
requirement for certification. That
decision was made by the Board based
on what is known as the Hamm Report1,
which the Board commissioned over 20
years ago. Among that report's specific
recommendations was that certification
credentials are generally more credible if
they are not linked to membership in an
organization. Once the Board made the
decision to decouple several years ago,
the Certification Committee was called
on to provide specific information.
One important question was whether
the Certification Program would have
the staffing to cover any increase in the
grading workload if there were a surge
in exams after decoupling. The answer
was a resounding yes. Every language
pair has its own grading team (that is,
English>French, for instance, has a
separate team from French>English)
consisting of at least three graders. Many
grader teams handle only a moderate
number of exams each year, and some
have very low volume. These teams
would certainly welcome the opportunity
to process more exams. Meanwhile,
Spanish>English and English>Spanish,
which account for more than half of the
exams administered, have larger teams
that are well prepared to handle any
surge in exams.
Another question was whether graders
would have any concerns about grading
nonmember exams. The answer here is
mostly not. The vast majority of graders
feel that grading exams is a service that
they are happy to provide, regardless of
whether the candidate is a member or
not. (Note that while graders are paid to
grade exams, they also spend volunteer
time on other certification duties such
38

The ATA Chronicle | September/October 2020

If and when decoupling does
occur, there will be plenty of
willing graders to do the work.

as training and passage selection.) A
few graders are opposed to eliminating
the membership requirement, while
others think of grading as a service to
the translation profession as a whole,
not just to ATA members. So, the bottom
line here is that, if and when decoupling
does occur, there will be plenty of willing
graders to do the work.
Two and a half years ago, the
Certification Committee suggested
that it was time to have the Hamm
Report revalidated, and earlier this year
the Board commissioned a firm with
expertise in certification (Knapp &
Associates) to produce such a review.
Here are some of the key findings:
■	

"Most of the Hamm Report
recommendations (and rationales
for the recommendations) remain
pertinent today."

■	

"The Certification Committee has been
making great strides in strengthening
the Certification Program."

■	

"In our review, we noted a number
of additional improvements that
could be made in the Certification
Program. Some of these would bring
the program into compliance with
certification industry standards, while
others may be beneficial or advisable
from an operational or customer
satisfaction perspective."

Regarding decoupling specifically,
the Knapp Review indicates that the
Hamm Report recommended "removing
membership as a criteria" and states:
"This is required by standards and
advisable for a variety of reasons as
outlined in the separate statement
provided by Knapp on this topic."
The full text of that separate statement

appeared in the July/August edition of
The ATA Chronicle.2
The Knapp Review contains 35
recommendations for improving
the Certification Program, of which
decoupling is only one. The Certification
Committee met virtually in July to review
these recommendations and classify
them into short-, medium-, and longterm priorities. Over the past several
weeks, the committee has been working
on the short-term priorities, including
creating a more definitive statement
describing the level of performance
targeted by the credential and developing
a comprehensive policies and procedure
manual for the entire Certification
Program. Over the coming weeks and
months, the Certification Committee will
continue to work on many of the other
recommendations, such as a discipline
policy, evaluating the pass rate, grader
selection policies, training for graders,
and improving record-keeping.
Whether or not decoupling is
implemented is outside the purview of
the Certification Committee, but we'll
continue to maintain and improve the
high standards of testing quality that
make being "ATA-certified" the respected
translation credential it is today.
NOTES
1.	
ATA Accreditation Program Report
(Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000),
http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.
2.	

Knapp, Lorena. "Certification Consultant's
Statement on the Membership
Requirement for ATA Certification,"
The ATA Chronicle (July/August 2020), 12,
http://bit.ly/consultant-statement.

David Stephenson, CT
is chair of ATA's Certification
Committee. An ATAcertified German>English,
Dutch>English, and
Croatian>English translator,
he has been an independent translator for
over 30 years, specializing in civil litigation
and creative nonfiction. Contact:
david@stephensontranslations.com.
www.atanet.org


http://www.bit.ly/Hamm-report http://www.bit.ly/consultant-statement http://www.atanet.org

The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020

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