Understanding ACCESS for ELLs 2021 scores

February 15, 2021

Use this guide to learn about the impact of the pandemic on ACCESS for ELLs and the implications for student scores.

COVID-19 Factors

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the instruction provided to students nationwide, especially English language learners (ELLs). ELL linguistic development is likely to have been negatively affected due to a variety of factors brought about and exacerbated by the pandemic, including:

  • Disruptions in the home as families try to manage work and life during a pandemic
  • A lack of home-based resources to support English language instruction
  • Families’ challenges managing remote instruction in English
  • Even more limited interactions with native English-speaking peers, teachers and adults
  • The inconsistent access to quality instruction in many remote schooling environments

Impact to ACCESS for ELLs

Given the factors listed above:

  • We expect ELL performance on ACCESS for ELLs to be different from previous years
  • While individual students will be differently affected due to their unique circumstances, average performance is likely going to be lower compared to previous years
  • Similarly, compared to previous years, we expect average growth to be lower


  • Given the inability to account for such factors contributing to performance and progress, making strong accountability claims with ACCESS is not recommended. We believe it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to isolate and evaluate specific factors behind the performance and progress of many ELLs.
  • ACCESS scores are still a valid and accurate measure of test takers’ current abilities. When the test is administered correctly, the scores continue to represent students’ ability in academic English.
  • ACCESS scores can help identify the instructional activities needed to help students grow in their English language proficiency. ACCESS scores remain critical in helping students, parents and educators understand where students are at the time they test.


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