WIDA Tally: Hawaii Joins Testing Consortium

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 08, 2009 1 min read
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Hawaii has joined 18 states and the District of Columbia in deciding to use the English-language-proficiency test most commonly used by states: ACCESS for ELLs. That test and the English-language-proficiency standards it is based on were created by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, or WIDA, consortium.

Daniel S. Hamada, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and student support for the Hawaii Department of Education, told me in a phone interview today that the state made the move to join WIDA because it found in an alignment study that the WIDA standards for English-language proficiency were better aligned with Hawaii’s academic content standards than were the English-language-proficiency standards the state was using. “What drove us was the alignment,” he said.

In addition, said Hamada, “WIDA offers professional-development training, support, and a forum to talk about and share what is happening with ELLs in the nation.”

Hawaii will stop using the Language Assessment Scales Links, or LAS Links, a test for measuring how ELLs are learning the language each year to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. LAS Links is developed by CTB McGraw-Hill. In the 2007-08 school year, the most recent for which state-by-state information on ELL testing is available, Hawaii was one of five states using LAS Links, according to “Perspectives on a Population,” a publication of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. The other states were Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, and Nevada.

Some states have joined WIDA because they felt it was particularly cost effective for states that don’t test many ELLs. Hawaii tests only about 18,000 each year, considerably fewer than a state such as California that tests about 1.6 million ELLs annually and created its own English-proficiency test.

But Hamada said the cost of LAS Links and joining WIDA is about the same.

One federal study indicated that how students score in reading and writing on the ACCESS for ELLs is a good indicator of how they will score on their state’s tests for reading, writing, and mathematics, which are given to all students.

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