Amy Ruberl, former Executive Director of the NCSA, and current chair of the NCSA’s InsCert committee, said, “When the NCSA sought funding from the US Department of Education, it was with the intent to create specialist certifications.
When the requested money was less than anticipated, Sarina Roffé, then NCSA president, decided that creating new assessments would be the best first step to one day having specialist certifications for teachers of the deaf, speech pathologists, audiologists, etc., who cue with their students and/or clients.”
These assessments were designed to be incorporated into instructor and professional certifications, and can also be used to evaluate the cueing skills of anyone who use Cued Speech on the job or in daily life. In professional settings, the assessments may be used to determine minimal competence or to set professional development goals.
Aaron Rose, a native deaf cuer and teacher of the deaf, said that these new assessments “allow people to receive feedback on their cue fluency to improve cued articulation and mechanics. [These] could be a tool for educators and professionals to measure their ability to cue fluently with accuracy and clarity.”
Cuers who do not work in the education or transliterating fields can also benefit from the personalized and meaningful feedback received from taking these assessments. Cueing parents concerned about their accuracy would receive feedback, as would deaf/hard-of-hearing teens and adults, on the technical aspects of their cueing as well as on overall intelligibility.
Developing the Assessments
These assessments were developed by Jean Krause, Ph.D., and Morgan Curro, CCC-SLP, of the University of South Florida, with support from a grant from the US Department of Education. For the Conversational-level Assessment, Krause and Curro were assisted by a group of expert cuers, including deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers and certified instructors of Cued Speech.
They served as consultants and contributed to the development of the final evaluation rubrics. Since many of these individuals are also raters, names are withheld to maintain rater anonymity.
The pilot versions of the assessments were given to individuals in 2010, with development completed in early 2011. The assessments became available to the public at Cue Camp Friendship in June 2011.
Overview of the Assessments
Several key similarities exist among the assessments, especially in purpose and evaluation. The purpose of the assessments is to provide feedback on expressive cueing. Test results are scored in two domains and each score is divided into several subscores. The summary feedback includes descriptions of scores and subscores, as well as detailed and personalized evaluator comments designed to guide improvement and acknowledge areas of strength. None of the assessments have prerequisites, so cuers can start with whichever assessment they deem most appropriate. The descriptions of each assessment follow.
The Word-level Assessment is designed to evaluate an individual’s knowledge of the fundamental principles of the Cued Speech system and ability to cue accurately and clearly at the word level. Thus, this assessment is appropriate for new cuers, long-time cuers without formal instruction, and other cuers who want diagnostic feedback regarding form and accuracy.
This assessment comes with the most critical feedback on cueing fundamentals such as handshapes, placements, and movements. At this level, test-takers may cue slowly and repeat items without deductions from their score. This assessment does not evaluate fluency.
The Sentence-level Assessment measures an individual’s form and accuracy when cueing single sentences. Scoring for this assessment focuses on cue production and prosody. Cue production comprises accuracy, liaisons, form, and mechanics. Prosody involves facial grammar, rhythm, and indication of tone through facial gestures. To communicate effectively at this level requires not only clear and accurate cues, but also 1) appropriate use of the face and body to convey sentence meaning and 2) a steady cueing rhythm to minimize repetitions and other extraneous cueing movements. Clinical or educational professionals who cue at the sentence level, individuals who plan to teach intermediate cueing classes, and those who desire diagnostic feedback on their prosody may benefit from this assessment.
The Conversational-level Assessment measures an individual‘s expressive cueing skills in extended communication situations that require prepared and/or spontaneous presentation of information (e.g. classroom teaching, in-depth conversations, etc.). The assessment evaluates accuracy, clarity, fluency, and prosody, as well as cueing speed. Clarity comprises the following criteria: accuracy, form, and prosody. Fluency is the ability to cue easily and accurately, without jerkiness or extraneous movements. Classroom teachers, parents, deaf/hard-of-hearing cuers, and other individuals who cue frequently and seek improvement are likely to benefit from this assessment.
Benefits of the Assessments
Ruberl, who is enthusiastic about the new assessments, said, “The feedback provided by each of them will be invaluable for those just learning to cue and those who have been cueing for a long time.” She sees great promise in the Conversational-level Assessment as “the first formal assessment of its kind to evaluate the expressive cueing of individuals as they convey their own thoughts and ideas as teachers and parents do on a daily basis.” Ruberl also added that the Conversational-level Assessment “will be helpful for school systems to evaluate the cueing levels of their cueing staff and for parents to receive feedback on their expressive cueing skills.”
Rose also agreed that parents can benefit from receiving feedback, and said that “parents can benefit from taking the assessments in their efforts to improve their cue fluency. Accuracy is more important than speed when exposing children to cued language, especially at younger ages.”
Some cuers have already reported benefiting from personalized and meaningful feedback received after taking these assessments. Alex McLin, a native cuer with little formal training, took the pilot versions of the Wordlevel Assessment and Sentence-level Assessment, and found the feedback instrumental to improving his cueing skills. Based on the feedback, McLin discovered that he had cultivated some bad habits over the years. He said, “I learned that some of my placements and movements weren’t accurate and that I had internalized misunderstandings about relationships between cues and phonemes. The feedback allowed me to improve my cues and to pay careful attention to what my hand was doing.”
Another native cuer, Elizabeth Henry, also took the Word-level Assessment and Sentence-level Assessment “without any prior knowledge of what the expectations were.” Henry was surprised by her poor results on the assessments, and thought that “native cuers are supposed to be good cuers.” After she reviewed her scores with a friend, “the scores made much more sense,” and she attributed her poor performance to rarely cueing when she was growing up. Henry said, “If I did cue, I never got any feedback. The only type of feedback I ever received was how to properly pronounce a word.” Henry added that she now tries to be more aware of her placements, liaisons, and form.
Assessments and Certification
InsCert, NCSA’s certification program for Cued Speech instructors is currently a “Basic Instructor” certification, aimed only at instructors who teach beginning level Cued Speech Classes. While no certification exists for intermediate and advanced-level instruction, the InsCert committee plans to develop the higher levels of certification now that the appropriate skill assessments are available.
The committee plans to incorporate the Sentence-level Assessment into an intermediate-level certification that will be developed within the next one to two years; later, the Conversational-level Assessment will be incorporated into an advanced-level certification. The Word-level Assessment will be utilized immediately as an option for satisfying the proficiency requirement for the beginning-level (i.e., Basic Instructor) certification.
While development of certifications for professionals who use Cued Speech on the job is still several years away, the new assessments may soon act as one of the requirements for certification. For example, audiologists may be required to pass the Word-level Assessment, speech-language pathologists may have to pass the Word-level Assessment and/or the Sentence-level Assessment, and teachers of the deaf who cue in the classroom may need to take the Conversational-level Assessment.
Requesting an Assessment
The assessments cost $100.00 each ($85.00 for NCSA members) plus $10.50 for shipping. Multiple tests can be taken in a single sitting at a discount: a $10.00 discount for two tests or a $25.00 discount for three tests. For more information or to request an assessment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can download the request form from the NCSA web site (http://www.cuedspeech.org/pdfs/assessments_test_request_form.pdf).
Taking an assessment is simple. Everything needed for the test is enclosed in the package that arrives in the mail: the test, a portable video camera, a tripod, batteries, and a free return shipment mailer. The test can be taken at home without a proctor, since the test-taker sets up the video camera and tripod to record footage of his/her cueing. When finished, the test taker ships the test and corresponding equipment in the free return shipment mailer. Test results and diagnostic feedback are returned in six to eight weeks.
To prepare for an assessment, you may access the new Dictionary of Cued Speech for American English, also available on the NCSA web site (http://www.cuedspeech.org/pdfs/cued_speech_dictionary.pdf). This dictionary provides the phonemes and cue notation for frequently used words.
Note: The three assessments were funded by U.S. Department of Education Grant No. U215 K080147.