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WIDA Is on a Roll


The World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, has received a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to create a formative assessment system for teachers of English-language learners at the secondary school level. The grant award comes less than a month after WIDA received a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Education to create an English-language-proficiency test for ELLs with severe disabilities.

Timothy Boals, the executive director of WIDA, told me in a telephone interview that the new assessment system will be based on WIDA's English-language-proficiency standards. Those standards, and WIDA's English-language-proficiency test that is aligned to them, are used by the 19 states that are members of WIDA. The goal of the new research project, Mr. Boals says, is to help teachers do a better job of infusing language goals into their teaching of content.

In my view, the goal of getting teachers to teach ELLs content and language at the same time has become a kind of mantra in this field. I see it as building on the equally popular mantra that "ELLs should be taught academic English." The two goals are related, and both are easier said than done, from what I can tell by observing in classrooms.

Mr. Boals said the new formative assessment system will be "classroom-focused stuff." The project will start with the creation of a "teacher tool box," intended to help teachers to observe student's progress in classrooms. It also will contain a student self-assessment.

Central to the project will be the creation of intermediary standards, or learning objectives, that break the English-language-proficiency standards into smaller components.

There's a lot of educational lingo in WIDA's Oct. 15 press release about the grant, which you're welcome to try to decipher. H. Gary Cook, WIDA's research director, is heading up the project. Lorraine Valdez Pierce, an associate professor in George Mason University's graduate school of education, is leading the team to create the teacher tool box.


Is anyone currently connecting the ESL or WIDA curriculum with Big Ideas and Essential questions for our ELLs?

Is there a site where WIDA scores are posted and analyzed per student?

Am I the only one who cannot understand what, why and how this test, assessment and document ever received any funding let alone continues to accrue millions for further research into this terribly designed test, not to mention the standards being useless in the average ESL classroom? what am I missing here? Instead of being designed based on proficiency level, the standards are designed based on skills ability that completely ignores BICS/CALPS and second language acquisition theories.

I completely agree with Karen. WIDA continues to advise about how ELLs learn however the current ACCESS and WAPT tests disregard all that WIDA discusses.

I am also trying to figure out how we can give a 45-60 minute test to children whom we have statistically determined only have an attention span of 10-15 minutes.

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