Enhancing the Status of ATA Certification

The year 2020 is one that few people will likely forget or look back on fondly. The severity of the pandemic combined with—in the U.S. at least—various social issues has upended many lives. For ATA’s Certification Program, the effects have manifested themselves in two interrelated outcomes: a sharp reduction in exam sittings owing to local restrictions on gatherings, and a renewed focus on providing a remote online testing option.

In the early months of the crisis, as most areas were in some form of lockdown, several previously scheduled exam sittings had to be canceled, and it was not until July that a protocol was developed for holding sittings safely. Since then, four sittings have been held involving 30 candidates—a far cry from the more than 400 people who take the exam in a typical year.

The difficulties of holding in-person sittings can be obviated by adopting a workable model for administering the exam remotely (i.e., with candidates taking it at home on their own computer). This has long been an aspiration of the Certification Program, but past efforts to move in that direction have been stymied by an inability to identify vendors that can meet our requirements with regard to language/keyboard support, internet access, and, above all, security. Still, great strides have been made in the remote testing sector, even before the pandemic spurred greater interest in and demand for a variety of offerings. At this point, I can say that we’re very optimistic about having a home testing option in place within the next year without compromising any of our standards.

Another challenge facing the Certification Committee is the implementation of the Knapp review.1 Last winter, the Board commissioned Knapp & Associates International to review the 2000 Hamm Report2 with an eye to validating its findings. Knapp concluded that the vast majority of Hamm’s recommendations remain valid, so the Committee was tasked with drawing up a roadmap for implementing the Knapp review findings or—where appropriate—presenting justification for not implementing individual recommendations.

During a Zoom meeting in July, the Certification Committee developed such a preliminary roadmap, which it presented to the Board. The identified short-term goals include formulating a more definitive statement describing the level of performance targeted by the credential (which has since been completed), developing a discipline policy to address behavior or practices that are unacceptable to the Certification Program (to be implemented in conjunction with the Ethics Committee), and reconsidering the current appeals policy. Medium-term objectives include developing an online grader training module, formulating revised eligibility requirements, exploring ways to give candidates more feedback on their performance, and establishing high-level strategic goals. Much of this will be rather labor-intensive, and progress will depend on efforts made by dedicated volunteers. But the Certification Committee will press forward, always in the interest of enhancing the status of ATA Certification.

This is my last column as Certification Committee chair. It’s been my honor to serve in that position for six years, after five years as deputy chair. During that period, the program has undergone many changes, not least of all the final transition to computerized testing. I’m confident that the Certification Program will remain a robust asset no matter what challenges arise, under the capable leadership of Michèle Hansen and Larry Bogoslaw.

  1. 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.
  2. ATA Accreditation Program Report (Michael Hamm & Associates, 2000), http://bit.ly/Hamm-report.

David Stephenson, CT is the outgoing chair of ATA’s Certification Committee. An ATA-certified 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.

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