WIDA Is on a Roll

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 23, 2008 1 min read
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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.

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