The Center for Applied Linguistics has had the privilege of collaborating with the WIDA Consortium since its inception in 2002. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act brought the academic achievement of the nation’s English language learners into the spotlight. Recognizing the need for new approaches to assessing the developing academic English language proficiency of the nation’s English learners, the U.S. Department of Education issued an Enhanced Assessment Grant competition in 2002. Dr. Tim Boals, then of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, invited CAL to serve as the test development partner in an initial grant proposal, which was the first of many awarded to WIDA and its partners. CAL was present at the birth of the Consortium, when WIDA stood for the three initial states submitting the grant proposal: Wisconsin, Delaware, and Arkansas. As the consortium grew to its present size, WIDA changed its name to World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment. CAL has been the assessment partner for WIDA from the beginning.
Learn more about CAL’s expertise in language testing.
ACCESS for ELLs®
The initial successful test development project gave birth to the operational annual assessment of English language proficiency, ACCESS for ELLs,® which is built upon the foundation of WIDA’s English Language Proficiency Standards. First administered in 2005 to some 18,000 English learners in Alabama, Maine, and Vermont, the assessment is now administered annually to about one million students across the Consortium member states. Comprised of 44 test forms for Grades K–12, ACCESS for ELLs® assesses developing academic English language proficiency in four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is used to monitor students' progress in acquiring the academic English language needed for academic achievement. By far the largest WIDA partnership activity at CAL, CAL’s annual work on ACCESS for ELLs® is by far the largest WIDA activity at CAL.
The Assessment Services Supporting ELs through Technology Systems (ASSETS) project is an initial step in the development of next generation assessments of English language proficiency. CAL serves as the primary assessment arm and will support the project by leading the development of an annual summative language assessment, an on-demand diagnostic screener, and innovative technology-based classroom interim assessments . All assessments will be built on the newest version of the WIDA English language development standards, which are linked to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics.
Building on the CAL-WIDA Collaboration
CAL also collaborates with WIDA on a wide-range of other activities, including professional development, research, policy and outreach. Learn more.
As CAL looks back over its 10 year partnership with WIDA, it also looks forward to the challenge of combining its applied linguistics knowledge, commitment to linguistically diverse students, long and rich experience in language testing, and computerized testing expertise to produce exceptional assessments of English language proficiency for national and international use. We also look forward to expanding our collaboration into areas such as research, professional development, policy, and outreach to continue to improve educational outcomes for language learners.