Posted by: Judy Barrett | November 29, 2010

NCRA Scoping Task Force

This modest “SMA is the only … “ claim appeared on Devon Roberts’ Web site,, very recently, along with a curriculum for scoping training adopted in 1996 by the long-defunct Scoping Task Force.

“When I began teaching scoping, I started because I wanted to help other scopists become successful with half the struggles that I experienced as a new scopist.  I truly do not want any other new scopist to experience any of those struggles.  It’s not fair to the student or the court reporters that they are working for.  

“Even though I don’t know whether the Scopist Membership Task Force of the NCRA exists anymore or not, it presented the only other basis of accountability within this field.  

“My background has been in curriculum development and in the education field.  When the SMA curriculum was developed, it was developed on the premise of what I did not receive in my initial training, and it simply continued to expand and grow.  Anytime students continued to hit the same issues, that simply showed me what additional material needed to be put together.

” Curriculum is created upon the skills that need to be acquired and mastered, areas in which students find difficulties, and will be adjusted based on the success rate of the students.  That, in the end, is what teaching is all about.  Teaching is having the ability to measure skill in a quantitative format along with being available to meet students’ needs as they arise.

“SMA is the only scoping training program that tests scopists with audio files.    Even though other training programs “claim” to do that, the skills demonstrated by graduates of those programs show that that listening skill and contextual reading were not taught or tested. 

“Two sources have confirmed this information:  The Joyful Leads’ testing process and the SIP.”


Clarification and refutation, unfortunately, are required again:


 I do know whether the NCRA’s Scopist Task Force still exists.  It does not. 

 On November 15, 2010, I spoke to Ashley Frazier, NCRA’s Member Services and Information Center Manager.  She confirmed what I have had to explain to inquiring parties over and over — that the Scopist Task Force does not exist, has not existed for many years, and that there are no plans in the foreseeable future to make such an attempt again. 

The only source for the description of the curriculum for that task force still on the Web is on the Web site of a scoping trainer who is proud to proclaim that she served on that task force.  People looking into my program sometimes find that information and I have to tell them that scoping certification does not exist and has not existed for years!

I am very familiar with the history of the Scoping Task Force, since I lived through that divisive attempt to force certification on the scoping community — in spite of the protests of both scopists and court reporters who had at the time been in the field for many years.  It was pointed out by those “seasoned” members of the community that court reporters are certified, are responsible for the final transcript, and that scopists perform a valuable service but have no need for certification — especially given that there is no standardization among certified court reporters, themselves, with regard to the subject matter of the proposed scoping exam .

The woman who was the driving force behind attempting to achieve scopist certification through NCRA (and the person in charge of the task force, “elected” modestly by being the only candidate on the ballot) started her own scoping training program at about the same time, causing many to point out that there was an inherent conflict of interest in her heading up the task force and being involved in writing a test for certification.  Attempts to discuss the matter online at the original Court Reporting Forum were shut down by this person with an announcement that the project was going forward, end of discussion.

One certification test was finally given, with very minimal attendance from the scoping community.  I seem to recall that only three to five people were in attendance.  Few could or would spend money to fly to a given location, stay in a hotel, pay a fee for a purely voluntary examination, and in some cases pay for childcare, in addition.

Following all this, Jim Barker, creator of Searchmaster, English teacher, and language detective extraordinaire, discovered that Ms. Prime Mover of the Scopist Task Force was operating a private Web site which purported to teach the public how to use the Internet.  Numerous misspellings and grammatical errors were found on the site.  She who would instruct others lacked the requisite skills to do so. ( And now, history seems to be repeating itself!)

At some later point, a woman called me from Florida to say she had enrolled in the aforementioned scoping training program, but that the State of Florida had shut down the program.  (I never confirmed this, but I did know that the program had stopped operating.)  This woman was greatly dissatisfied with the “new kid on the block” offering, and enrolled in my training program.

It is important to state here that the curriculum put forth by the Scopist Task Force was patterned very, very closely after my own program, and one other in operation at that time.  Any “accountability” claimed for that long defunct program was based on a protocol that I had been using for about thirteen years at the time this fiasco took place – an original curriculum of my own creation.   


Devon Roberts makes yet another false claim, in spite of the judgment of a court in Iowa that her claims have no merit, that she did not receive proper training through her experience with Scoping Careers International (see third paragraph at the top of this page —  “…developed on the premise of what I did not receive in my initial training…”)  

Apparently, it must be repeated once again that Ms. Roberts left the SCI program in a state of pique, forfeiting at least six months of further training, because her first court reporting client criticized her skills — specifically her poor English skills.

When I attempted to counsel Ms. Roberts that she must first improve her language skills, using the textbook required for my program (The Gregg Reference Manual), I was rewarded with a lawsuit!  The Magistrate in the case found in my favor, and pointed out that in addition to high school English training, Ms. Roberts claimed a degree in early childhood education from the University of Iowa.  The Court pointed out that I did not contract to teach the basic English to Ms. Roberts that she should have learned in high school, and certainly in her university degree program. 


Apparently, it must be repeated ad infinitum:  Scoping cannot be done without contextual reading.  Reading in context –  it’s that simple and assuredly not something unique offered by Scoping Made Affordable.  No one who cannot grasp that simple principle will ever be successful at scoping, training, or any other career that requires reading words on a page.

“Contextual reading” involves reading testimony in the broad context of the whole transcript, capitalizing words as needed, putting in proper punctuation, changing steno into English, and splitting long passages into two or three paragraphs, as appropriate – the very definition of “scoping.”  The CAT software used for scoping formats the document, for the most part, and the scopist then refines the process through … contextual reading. 


In yet another completely false claim that students of “other programs” were not properly trained …

“… the skills demonstrated by graduates of those programs show that that listening skill and contextual reading were not taught or tested.”

… Ms. Roberts claims to be unique in teaching “listening skills” to her students.  Although anyone who has ever done any kind of transcription from an audio source can attest, a listening and typing rhythm develops as the transcription is being done.  But anyone who can hear a good quality audio recording can listen and type.  It isn’t rocket science.  No special skill is needed when an audio file is of sufficiently good quality to be heard.

But that begs the question:  Ashley Frazier, NCRA’s Member Services and Information Center Manager, explained to me very recently that it is against the Code of Ethics of NCRA for a court reporter to rely on audio (or ask a scopist to do so) in the creation of the official record.  Steno is the official record, and backup audio can only be ethically used as a tool for proofreading by the reporter — not as a means of creating large parts of the record.

Also, court reporters are required by all their state certifying boards to read back from the steno record in court or in a deposition.  Court reporters who are failing to get testimony down in steno cannot read back.  And they are not allowed, by the NCRA Code of Ethics and the rules of state governing boards, to play back testimony from an audio recording.

Any self-described trainer who is failing to make that clear to their clients is doing them a disservice, and creating a negative impact on the whole court reporting field.


Finally, is it logical and rational to assume that Devon Roberts, with only two years of attempting to function as a scoping trainer, is the only member of the scoping community to hold people accountable?  Court reporters have been holding scopists accountable for the quality of their work for the whole 30 years I have been in the field, and obviously long before that.

The first level of responsibility for anyone claiming to train others is a solid personal accountability to the rules of English and to a thorough knowledge of the steno language. 

Devon Roberts also claims, on the home page of her Web page as of this date (November 29, 2010) that she knew she was not a “quality-trained scopist” when she began her career.

Once again, one must bring certain qualities to the table when training to become a scopist — those of good English skills, a willingness to apply oneself to the material in the course, and the persistence and maturity to learn to deal with court reporters.  The experience of many other clients proves definitively that there is no deficit in the quality of the training in the SCI program. 

Ms. Roberts departed my program without taking advantage of the qualities she might have attained had she simply done the work.  In that way, she would not have had to “lean on other scopists,” rather than staying with the program she paid for.  It is easy to claim to be a gifted teacher, but mastery of subject matter to be taught is the cornerstone of any educational offering — in private or public schools, in vocational training.  Before prematurely advertising a program to help others, honesty dictates that one must know what one does and does not know!