New Mexico has joined 19 states and the District of Columbia in adopting the most popular English-language-proficiency test in the nation, which is developed by the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, or WIDA.
Starting this school year, New Mexico will administer WIDA’s test to measure students’ progress in learning English, ACCESS for ELLs, to about 60,000 ELLs, said Tom Dauphinee, the interim supervisor of assessment and accountability for the New Mexico education department, in a phone interview. In joining the WIDA consortium, the state also plans to use WIDA’s screening and placement test for ELLs.
Dauphinee said that the state must use a bidding process to select test developers for all of its large-scale assessments. For its English-language-proficiency test, New Mexico received a bid from Pearson and from WIDA. Dauphinee said that WIDA won the bid in part because ACCESS for ELLs aligns well with New Mexico’s standards for English-language proficiency. He added that the committee is pleased with how WIDA conducts research on English-language proficiency and uses that research to improve the assessment and professional development.
Previously New Mexico used what Dauphinee called an “off-the-shelf test” based on test items in the Stanford English Language Proficiency Test, owned by Harcourt and Pearson.
Timothy Boals, the executive director of WIDA, said that New Mexico is the first state that has joined WIDA through a state bidding process. “It’s a grueling process, and a costly one as well, to go after a state like that,” he said. “It’s something commercial developers do all the time. This isn’t our preferred way to go for it.”
In the bidding process, Boals said, WIDA spelled out the same consortium package that it offers to all states.
But one aspect of WIDA’s relationship with New Mexico is unique. Before the bidding process began, WIDA had worked with New Mexico to customize the WIDA English-language-development standards for that state. All other states that are part of the consortium have adopted the regular WIDA standards.
Even so, said Boals, the New Mexico English-language-development standards are very similar to the regular WIDA ones. The main difference, he said, is that some of the materials that support the standards, such as documents for teacher training, contain examples that are particularly relevant to New Mexico.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.