Alternate ACCESS for ELLs Field Test: Coming to schools in early 2023

Candoo will guide you through the field test!
Candoo will guide you through the field test!
May 2, 2022

“Wait a second... does that headline say, ‘field test’?” If these words give you pause, you are not alone. The idea of a field test may rouse all sorts of questions and emotions. The good news is, the Advancing ALTELLA team, which is powered by WIDA, is here to answer those questions (and conjure up positive, can do emotions).

Okay, tell me more about the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs Field Test

Gladly! Here are some answers to popular questions:

  • Who participates? All students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades K–12 who are eligible to take Alternate ACCESS for ELLs (Alternate ACCESS). That’s right, we said kindergarten! Part of our test development work is to expand Alternate ACCESS so that it includes kindergarten, so we need kindergarteners to participate in the field test.
  • What is it? The Alternate ACCESS Field Test is a standalone, paper-based field test, which means it’s in addition to the Alternate ACCESS test that you administer each year. The field test is made up of newly developed test items (yay!) and will help to ensure that those test items measure what they are intended to measure.
  • Where is it? At every site in the WIDA Consortium that has students who are eligible to take Alternate ACCESS.
  • When is it? The field test window opens on Tuesday, February 14, 2023, and closes on Monday, April 17, 2023.
  • Why have a field test? The Advancing ALTELLA team is working hard to redesign Alternate ACCESS, which includes expanding the test to cover kindergarten, and creating a brand-new alternate screener. These newly developed test items need to be vetted by you and your students. By participating in the field test, you help us ensure we have the data to support valid tests!

Every student needs to participate? Wow, why is that?

Reason #1… Data, data, data! To redesign Alternate ACCESS and create an alternate screener, we need to get enough data on these new test items to support valid tests.

Okay, but does “enough data” really mean every… single… student?

Yes, enough data means that we need 25,000 students to participate in the field test, which is how many students take Alternate ACCESS each year.

Reason #2… It’s the law. All of us in the WIDA Consortium must meet federal statutory and regulatory requirements under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for implementing valid and reliable state assessment systems. Under these requirements, the U.S. Department of Education must conduct a peer review of the technical quality of state assessment systems. During this peer review process, states – with the help of WIDA – demonstrate the technical soundness of their assessment system.

How will my students and I benefit from the field test? (And let’s be real, what’s in it for us? This is a big commitment!)

Benefit #1… (which is actually three benefits!) Thanks to your participation in the field test, these beneficial resources will be released in 2023–24:

  • A brand-new WIDA Alternate Screener that you can use to screen multilingual learners in grades K–12 with the most significant cognitive disabilities! We know that many of you have been waiting a long time for this screener (it’s almost here!).
  • A redesigned Alternate ACCESS will be better than ever, fresh from years’ worth of research and development work!
  • An Alternate ACCESS grade-level cluster that includes kindergarten! Now you can assess young multilingual learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Benefit #2… Sites that participate in the Alternate ACCESS Field Test will receive an advance copy of the WIDA Alternate Can Do Descriptors!

But… does it really need to be a standalone field test?

Scheduling the field test separate from the yearly administration of Alternate ACCESS ensures that students don’t have to go through a single, lengthy test session. Many students who take Alternate ACCESS take breaks as they test, which could draw out a test session even more.

Doesn’t this mean that my students will get double the testing?

Even though your students will need to undergo two test sessions…

  • Two separate test sessions means less testing fatigue.
  • This type of field test doesn’t happen very frequently. In fact, we haven’t asked folks to participate in an Alternate ACCESS field test in more than 10 years! Your participation will help us make Alternate ACCESS better for everyone.

Do I need to administer the tests in a certain order?

Yes! Given the timing of when field test materials will be delivered to sites (scroll down for more info on this), you need to administer the tests in this order:

  1. Alternate ACCESS
  2. Alternate ACCESS Field Test

How long will it take to administer the field test?

The field test will be similar in length to Alternate ACCESS. As a reminder, each of the four domain tests for Alternate ACCESS (Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing) can take up to 20 minutes to administer, for a total test time of 80 minutes. Keep in mind that depending on the student, test times can be considerably shorter.

What was that about kindergarteners participating in the field test?

The redesigned Alternate ACCESS will include kindergarten! That means we need kindergarteners to engage with field test items. To determine if Alternate ACCESS is the appropriate assessment for your young learners, meet with your student's IEP team. IEP teams should follow their state's specific alternate assessment participation criteria. For additional guidance, view the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs Participation Criteria Decision Tree.

Will students get field test scores?

Students will not get test scores from the field test. The field test is made up of newly developed test items and is designed to ensure that those test items measure what they are intended to measure. After the field test, psychometricians and test developers look at how individual test items performed before adding them to the redesigned Alternate ACCESS test. After the first administration, WIDA will conduct a standard setting process to help develop cut scores that can be used to score the test.

Alright, I’m ready! Where do I find field test training and materials?

Field test training
On September 1, 2022, the updated Alternate ACCESS for ELLs: Administration and Scoring training course will go live in the WIDA Secure Portal. During the 2022–23 school year, this training course will include information and related quiz questions on the field test. This added training content should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. To administer the field test, you’ll need to complete the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs: Administration and Scoring training course.

Field test materials
On February 7, 2023, every site that ordered Alternate ACCESS test materials for the 2021–22 ACCESS test window will receive a box of field test materials. All field test materials will be adorned with unique colors and our field test dog (scroll down to help us name it). Don’t worry, we will reach out to likely sites via email in the coming months. Plus, we’ll add more information to this webpage – and we’ll let you know when we do!


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