WIDA Tally: Half of States Are Now Members of Consortium

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 21, 2011 1 min read
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With Alaska joining the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium this week, half of the nation’s states are now members of the nonprofit organization that has developed English-language-proficiency standards and an assessment for English-language learners.

Alaska has adopted WIDA’s English-proficiency test, ACCESS for ELLs, and thus will stop using the IDEA Proficiency Test, an exam created by a commercial test developer, Ballard and Tighe Publishers. The state’s contract with Ballard and Tighe expires in June, according to a press release from WIDA.

One by one, states without huge numbers of ELLs, such as Alaska, have abandoned the use of tests by commercial publishers, joined WIDA, and adopted WIDA’s English-proficiency test. But several states with large numbers of ELLs, such as California, New York, and Texas, have continued to use English-proficiency tests they developed on their own only for students within their states.

WIDA intends to apply for the grant competition recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education for consortia to create new English-proficiency tests based on the national common-core standards. The notice of the grant competition in the Federal Register, which is open to comment until Feb. 7, said that any consortium that applies must have a minimum of 15 states as members.

If WIDA is awarded a federal grant to create a new English-proficiency test and delivers one to its members, it will be interesting to see if other states will rush to join WIDA or put up the funds to create new English-proficiency tests of their own that align with the common-core standards.

The Council of Chief State School Officers also formed a consortium that created an English-language-proficiency test several years ago. At one time 15 states participated in the CCSSO consortium to develop the English-language proficiency test, called the English Language Development Assessment. But only a handful of states adopted it when it was finished.

I’m wondering if commercial publishers will continue to stay in the business of creating English-proficiency tests for ELLs. A number of commercial publishers have lost states as clients as they switched to WIDA.

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