Passing the NCLB Could Mean 2 Days of Vacation in New Mexico

17 Oct
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Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.

Greg Trapp, Executive Director for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, has made a generous offer to his staff. For each section of the National Certification in Literary Braille that his staff pass, they’ll receive two hours of administrative leave. If they pass all four sections, he’ll throw in an additional eight hours of administrative leave.


“The ability to show that [braille teachers] have a level of knowledge that they can in turn impart is extraordinarily valuable,” Trapp said. “Anyone can assert to know braille, but there are very specific rules. Being able to read braille doesn’t exactly correlate to the ability to teach or understand enough code to instruct someone else.”

To Trapp’s agency, the financial cost truly is an investment.

“We are the poorest state in the country and one of the largest,” he said. “We’re the fifth largest, have 89 school districts, very rural and poor. There are enormous obstacles. This is a significant amount of money, but it’s worth it.”

The New Mexico Commission went a step further than just providing the means and space for staff to take the certification exam, for they also hosted a prep course with the exam’s coordinators. The goal was not to teach the entire braille code. Rather, the focus was upon providing the experience of hearing the exact instructions, reading sample questions and passages, and receiving personalized feedback.

“People read what the expectations are going to be, but then they don’t prepare,” said NCLB Coordinator Maria Morais, who taught the course earlier this month in advance of Saturday’s exam date. “The second time that people take the NCLB test, we see a higher percentage of people pass. This event in New Mexico acted as a first test.”

For Trapp, bringing somebody from outside the agency brought an important aura of credibility.

“It’s one thing for us to have staff who have NCLB (such as Kelly Burma who is our first person to be re-certified in this state; and she’s on my staff),” he said. “But I think it shows our commitment to put our resources out there to bring experts here. It was really a way of showing the teaching community, and not just my agency, that we’re making a real effort here.”

The rehabilitation teachers, counselors, and administrative staff who attended the training event were given nearly a full-length sample test, yet they had 25 percent of the time to finish each section. Still, many participants reported that they still had enough time to go back and check their work.

“Anybody can go online and purchase a sample NCLB test, but there’s no way to get feedback,” Morais said. “After lunch, anybody who wanted to could get feedback about the errors that they made and how to avoid them next time. This gave people a chance to ask questions, learn specific time management strategies, and know what to expect.”

One attendee remarked, “I’m glad that I had the experience of sitting in a room with everyone using a braille writer. I didn’t realize how distracting it could be!”

“We have a real crisis out there with respect to braille instruction in the state and in this country,” Trapp said. “It’s manifesting in our consumers who don’t have the braille skills that they need or did a generation ago. When students don’t have braille skills, they don’t have confidence, which translates to individuals setting lower goals. There’s a whole cascading series of things that happen. The seeds that we’re planting here now and did four years ago will bear fruit in five, 10, and 20 years down the road. I hope that we’re doing here will be emulated elsewhere. We’re seeing a real shortage of qualified teachers of the blind in terms of instruction.”

The following two tabs change content below.
Corbb O'Connor
Corbb, a blind entrepreneur, coordinates the outreach and marketing efforts for the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University as an independent consultant.

One Reply to “Passing the NCLB Could Mean 2 Days of Vacation in New Mexico”

  1. Dear Blog: And to think when I once was a braille teacher and took and passed that test in November 1994, the agency where I taught was not impressed. Oh, they wanted the credential, but to make them look good. I also had just finished the proofreading certification. I’d have liked all that bonus like in New Mexico. I never advanced beyond $11.18, even after two years teaching, only missing one day, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because I was not in them ood for sensitivity training. My guide dog would have gotten nervous. Waiting 18 months for a 6 months evaluation was trying, too. There were rules for staff and another set for upper management. We were not allowed to miss, but upper management could miss months ofwork with pay.

    If braille is to become more important, the salaries need to come up. There is a huge split between O&M pay and braille teacher pay. I understand the risks of O&M and personally dislike the field, but literacy is important, too. I once heard $25 an hour was a good salary for a braille instructor, but I don’t know of anyone making that!

    Now, I’ve been out of the field rather a long time. Even my Grade 3 is rusty. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. No braille translation software produces Grade 3. Even that NFBTrans only produces about Grade 2.5 or 2.75 and good luck finding anyone to help you make it work on a Windows 7 platform in 64 bit platform mode. Even WINTrans was useless and exactly NO ONE seemed able to help me when I tried to find help– story of my adaptive tech life, alas. It’s like the monks copying manuscripts in the first half of the Middle Ages. If you were at a monastery, maybe you knew a bit more than the average serf; if not, not. And I don’t want to be a serf.

    Thank you for the opportunity to post. I wish New Mexico’s Commission every success with this project. I actually have a mutual friend who knew Mr. Trapp. I did, however, think New Mexico was rich in natural gas and oil revenues. I understand the blind school there is. Perhaps, not all benefit from such largess?

    I hope someone out there reads this and thinks about it. Jerry Whittle can vouch for me, too. I even read braille at over 300 wpm, but I am out of practice now. I have also heard a blind poet say there were other forms of literacy. He has done well and teaches at a university in Ohio, if memory serves, so maybe he’s right, too.

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