The WIDA Consortium and the Center for Applied Linguistics collaborate on a variety of projects with the goal of enhancing opportunities for language learners. This page outlines the suite of assessment activities which represent the foundation of CAL’s work with WIDA, along with additional activities focused on professional development for educators.
CAL is the assessment partner for the WIDA Consortium, playing a critical role in providing standards-based assessments for English language learners, most prominently on the Consortium’s assessment of English language proficiency, ACCESS for ELLs®, the development of computer-delivered English language proficiency assessments through the ACCESS 2.0 project, and developing PODER, a test of Spanish academic language for students in Grades K-2 based on the newly developed WIDA Spanish language development standards.
Click on each title below to learn more.
Assessment Services Supporting ELs through Technology Systems
WIDA and CAL are collaborating on the development of computer-delivered English language proficiency (ELP) assessments. Through the recently funded grant titled Assessment Services Supporting ELs through Technology Systems or ASSETS, CAL is developing a next-generation, comprehensive, and balanced technology-based assessment system for English language learners, anchored in WIDA’s English Language Development Standards. CAL serves as the primary assessment implementing partner, to develop, pilot test, field test, and finalize the ELP assessments that use technology for more authentic language assessment tasks, compatible with the content-driven state standards and, in particular, the Common Core State Standards.
The primary components of the assessment system to be developed under the ASSETS grant are ACCESS 2.0 and the ACCESS 2.0 Screener, which are computerized versions of ACCESS for ELLs® and the W-APT, respectively. Another component of the ASSETS assessment system, the Interim Assessments, will build on extensive knowledge gained through the ONPAR project’s representation of innovative item types. The ASSETS project affords CAL the opportunity to refine the theoretical definition of academic English language and carefully document how this definition is operationalized on assessments. CAL has completed the initial phase of developing the assessment framework and a test and item design plan for ACCESS 2.0 and the ACCESS 2.0 Screener, and work has begun on a series of academic papers.
ACCESS for ELLs®
Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners
The primary focus of CAL’s WIDA work is the Consortium’s English language proficiency assessment, ACCESS for ELLs.® CAL’s work is divided into three main areas:
Developing new test items, field-testing the new items, and using them to refresh ACCESS for ELLs® every year. The test is taken by over 1,000,000 students annually.
Conducting research on the test, exploring new initiatives for revising aspects of the testing system, and improving the delivery of test administration training.
Providing technical and psychometric expertise to the Consortium, such as performing annual equating of test forms, analyzing field-test data, producing an annual technical report, and carrying out special technical studies, such as bridge studies for new member states.
W-APT stands for the WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test. It is an English language proficiency "screener" test given to incoming students who may be designated as English language learners. It assists educators with programmatic placement decisions such as identification and placement of ELLs. The W-APT is one component of WIDA's comprehensive assessment system.
Alternate ACCESS for ELLs®
In addition to CAL’s exciting work developing technology-based assessments of academic English language proficiency, CAL has also delved into English language proficiency assessment for English language learners who have significant cognitive disabilities.
In the spring of 2012, CAL delivered the first iteration of Alternate ACCESS for ELLs, an assessment geared toward ELL students in grades 1-12 who have significant cognitive disabilities and for whom participation in the general ACCESS testing is not possible. Considerations in the test design included built in accommodations to facilitate students’ access to the test items, and future work will comprise further investigation of ways to best assess the academic English language proficiency of this population.
Prueba Óptima del Desarrollo del Español Realizad
CAL is developing PODER™, a test of Spanish academic language for students in Grades K-2 based on the newly developed WIDA Spanish language development standards. The project is funded by an Enhanced Assessment Grant awarded to the state of Illinois. By the end of the project, CAL will have developed, piloted, field-tested, and put into operation a test aimed at English learners whose first language is Spanish. The test can also be used with students who receive content-area instruction in Spanish regardless of their first language.
In addition to serving as the assessment development arm of WIDA, CAL has collaborated with WIDA in its professional development activities. The largest project was the initial development of CLIMBS, a hybrid online professional development course that focuses on helping teachers of English language learners combine the WIDA English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards with the principles and practices of sheltered instruction.
CAL worked with the WIDA Consortium to develop a science and a math test for beginning English language learners that can be used to meet state accountability requirements for content testing in these domains. The tests will be computer-based and will consist of items using the dynamic and interactive capabilities of the computer to reduce the use of English, while still maintaining the content rigor and cognitive complexity of parallel items on traditional tests of science and math. Science tests are being developed for 4th and 8th grades and math tests for 4th and 7th grades.
ONPAR High School Science
CAL and WCER developed and pilot tested an assessment of complex biology and chemistry knowledge for all high school students and especially those with beginning English language proficiency. The assessments address an integrated set of state science standards and can be used for end of semester benchmark tests. The computer-based test items use less language and more graphics and animations than traditional test items and some of the cognitively complex interactive items use differential algorithms to present sequenced items based on student responses. Additionally, the project developed a rigorous codification system that will define comparability arguments when radically different types of items are used. ONPAR High School Science seeks to identify the important research issues involved in ensuring that its test items perform comparably to those on states’ benchmark science assignments.
CAL and WCER developed and pilot tested a dynamic, computer-based test of math for beginning English language learners in Grades 4 and 7 to be used by states to meet the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) math testing requirement. The test is distinguished by a low quantity of language and a correspondingly greater reliance on graphics and animations. ONPAR Math relies on the foundational research from the ONPAR Science project to create an operational test based on a comprehensive test framework and field test.
CAL and WCER developed and pilot tested a science test for beginning English language learners in Grades 4 and 8 that addresses an integrated set of state science standards and can be used for state accountability purposes to meet the requirements of NCLB. ONPAR Science seeks to identify the important research issues involved in ensuring that its test items perform comparably to those on states’ general science assignments.
The MAGIC Project
In coordination with the WIDA Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, CAL provided a one-semester professional development course for educators of English language learners.
WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test
W-APT is an English language proficiency "screener" test given to incoming students who may be designated as English language learners. It assists educators with programmatic placement decisions such as identification and placement of ELLs. The W-APT is one component of WIDA's comprehensive assessment system. The cost of the W-APT is included within the cost of the ACCESS for ELLs assessment for Consortium members.
CAL developed a valid, reliable, on-demand, and teacher-administered and-scored assessment of English language proficiency aligned with the WIDA English Language Proficiency (ELP) Standards and modeled after the Consortium’s ACCESS for ELLs® assessment. Known as WIDA MODEL™, the test is used by states within and outside of the WIDA Consortium to identify English language learners and to accurately place them into one of the five proficiency levels defined in the WIDA ELP Standards. The test is designed for students in Grades K-12.