FAQ: ACCESS for ELLs testing in 2020-21 school year

January 20, 2021

Why do WIDA Consortium members use ACCESS for ELLs?

ACCESS is integral to all 40 members of the WIDA Consortium in meeting federal requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and in fulfilling English learner students’ civil rights to an equitable education.

Why isn’t WIDA developing a remote administration option for the 2020-21 school year?

To arrive at this decision, WIDA worked with its 10 consortium subcommittees whose members include leaders from classrooms, districts and state education agencies. Together, they reviewed the risks to equity, validity, technical issues and security that a remote assessment option would create. Several questions came to mind when reflecting on a remote administration option. Here is a sample of those questions:

  • How will districts and schools support local technology access and setup and how will they support troubleshooting students’ technology challenges, especially for young learners and students with low English proficiency levels?
  • How can test administrators ensure accommodations are provided for students with disabilities appropriately?
  • How does a remote testing environment affect our ability to understand what a student’s score means, and what evidence do we collect to assure this?
  • How do we protect the security of test items and test material in a remote administration of ACCESS? 

Ultimately, significant concerns of equity, burden on local educators and families of multilingual learners, validity, security and costs associated with a remote administration of ACCESS outweighed the potential benefits.

Who decides whether testing is delayed or canceled?

States, territories and federal agencies are the organizations that decided whether to delay or cancel testing, in consultation with their local educational agencies. WIDA stands ready to extend state, territory and federal agency testing windows to address safety concerns. These extensions could be made into summer of 2021.

Questions about your testing window? Refer to your member/state page.

Has the federal government given any guidance about administering ACCESS during the pandemic?

In May, the U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet which made clear that states must carry out English Language Proficiency testing in 2020-21.

In January, an addendum to the U.S. Department of Education fact sheet was published. It outlines State Educational Agencies’ (SEAs’) responsibilities regarding select topics related to English learners during the 2020-2021 school year.

What is WIDA doing to support test administrators and test coordinators as they prepare to use ACCESS this school year?

WIDA, at the request of Consortium members, has issued recommendations for safe testing during this period. WIDA’s guidance is based on safe practices learned from Consortium members who already administered ACCESS during the pandemic.

Assessment Best Practices During COVID-19* is a WIDA resource designed to support test coordinators and test administrators administering ACCESS. This resource can be accessed in the WIDA Secure Portal.

*The guidance in this documentation reflects WIDA’s analysis of current best practices. It is not medical advice, and it does not replace or amend any guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your state, your county or your district.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

  • Your State Education Agency, for questions about your member/state’s testing policy. Contact information is available on your WIDA member/state page.
  • WIDA Client Services Center, for questions about:
    • WIDA Secure Portal user accounts
    • ACCESS for ELLs Suite of Assessments
    • WIDA Screener Paper and Online
    • Kindergarten W-APT
    • WIDA MODEL Paper, Online and Kindergarten
    • Training and certification
    • Test administration preparation and procedures
    • Content of score reports
    • Standards and Can Do Descriptors
  • Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) Customer Service, for questions about:
    • WIDA Assessment Management System (WIDA AMS)
    • INSIGHT (online test software)
    • Central Office Services (COS) Service Device
    • ACCESS for ELLs Suite of Assessments
      • Materials ordering
      • Payment/billing
      • Technical issues

This article was originally published on December 17, 2020.

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