North Carolina has become the 18th state to adopt an English-language-proficiency test for English-learners developed by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium. Yet another state has also joined the WIDA consortium and thus adopted the test, but Timothy Boals, the executive director of WIDA, is not yet announcing which state that is.
Given the independence of states on education matters, it’s quite remarkable that 19 states will soon be using the same test for English proficiency. While I respect the rights of states to choose their own test, it sure would make it easier to understand and compare states’ data about ELLs if all states used the same English-language-proficiency test (and the same reading and math tests as well, for that matter).
After the No Child Left Behind Act required states to develop new comprehensive tests to assess how well ELLs in grades K-12 are progressing with English, four consortia of states formed to create such tests. WIDA seems to have the strongest management of the four and one by one, states are dropping the English-language-proficiency tests that they initially developed or selected—and are opting to use the one produced by WIDA. That test is called ACCESS for ELLs and is designed to comply with the NCLB Act by testing ELLs in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. When states adopt the test, they also adopt the WIDA standards for English-language development.
Helga K. Fasciano, who heads up programs for English-language learners for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, told me over the phone this week that it will cost North Carolina about the same amount of money to administer ACCESS for ELLs as it does to give the IPT, the English-language-proficiency test that the state has been using.
She said the state needed to revise its English-language-development standards to better align with academic content standards and decided at the same time to consider changing tests. A committee examined several English-proficiency tests, including the LAS Links and the English Language Development Assessment, created by a consortium formed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, before selecting ACCESS for ELLs.
“We liked the idea that with the consortium, we were working with other states. We had a say so with the development of the new items, which we didn’t have with the current test,” she said. In addition, she said, North Carolina officials liked how the placement test for ELLs created by WIDA is correlated with ACCESS for ELLs, which is used for annual testing of progress of ELLs for NCLB.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.