Discussion: English-Proficiency Scores and English/Language-Arts Scores

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 04, 2009 1 min read
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A recent post on this blog, “What’s an English-Proficiency Score Good For?,” has prompted some interesting comments about how ACCESS for ELLs, the English-language proficiency test created by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, or WIDA, is working out on the ground. The test is being used by 19 states and is thus the most commonly used English-proficiency test in the nation.

The post reports on a study showing that reading and writing scores for ELLs on the English-proficiency test are a good predictor for how they will perform on their states’ regular English/language arts and mathematics tests. Thus, the study implies that the scores on the English-proficiency test have meaning and don’t operate in a world of their own.

But the educators point out that it’s hard to translate that meaning into insights or decisions about individual students. For example, Julia R., who I presume lives in Virginia because she mentions Standards of Learning tests, comments that both ACCESS for ELLs and the state’s regular academic tests are given at about the same time, so it isn’t practical to use scores on one as a predictor for another.

Mary Aceves says, interestingly, that most of her advanced 8th grade ELLs have passed Georgia’s regular language arts and writing tests, but only two of them passed ACCESS for ELLs. So she concludes that it’s harder for ELLs to reach Georgia’s cutoff score for passing on the English-proficiency test than on the state’s regular English/language arts tests.

While visiting New York City’s schools, I’ve met some students who have passed the state’s English regents test, but can’t pass the state’s English-proficiency test.

I invite you to join this discussion about the relevancy of English-proficiency tests and how the scores can best be used at the school level.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.