Updated guidance from the US ED for supporting multilingual learners with ESSER funds

February 9, 2023

The U.S. Department of Education (US ED) recently released an updated document answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how funding under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Program may be used in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students in PreK–12 education. In addition to the guidance originally released by the US ED, new details have been provided about how ESSER funds may be used to support multilingual learners, engagement with their families, and assessment needs.

WIDA offers several resources that meet the requirements for using ESSER funding, depending on the unique circumstances of the school, district or state. This article will focus on how WIDA MODEL, an interim English language proficiency (ELP) assessment, meets three of the new criteria from the US ED’s guidance. First, let’s take a deeper look into the value of interim ELP assessments.

Another assessment? What value will it add for multilingual learners?

With limited time and resources, educators are justifiably wary of adding one more thing to their full plates, unless there is proven value in doing so. The true value of an interim ELP assessment is the real-time data it provides that can then be used to guide instruction, monitor student language growth, predict student performance on summative assessments, and help educators make informed decisions about curriculum and programming. This data allows educators to pivot when needed to ensure students receive proper instructional supports, and to differentiate instruction to better serve each student’s needs.

WIDA’s interim ELP assessment, WIDA MODEL, can be administered at any time during the school year, depending on the needs of the district, school, teacher or student. Not only does it provide data to help educators gain an understanding of multilingual students’ immediate learning needs, WIDA MODEL scores can be used to predict student performance on the summative assessment, ACCESS for ELLs.

US ED's updated guidance for using ESSER funds to support multilingual learners

Section C-4.a: In addition to the approaches described in FAQ C-4, how may ESSER and GEER funds support multilingual learners?

“SEAs and LEAs may use ESSER or GEER funds to support social, emotional, and academic needs of multilingual learners or immigrant children or youth in response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, funds may be used to address long-standing inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Funds may be expended for a wide range of activities including... assessing individual student needs and tailoring supports to unique circumstances.”

WIDA MODEL is flexible and can be administered at any time during the school year, providing real-time data about what individual students can do, and where they might need additional support. Test scores can immediately be used to support instructional planning decisions for multilingual learners and their teachers.

Section C-4.b: In addition to the approaches described in FAQ C-4 and C-4.a., how may ESSER and GEER funds support family engagement for multilingual learners?

“ESSER or GEER funds may also be used to assist families in understanding their students’ linguistic development in each language and how they can support multilingual learning at home.”

WIDA MODEL Online allows educators to share Individual Student Reports (ISRs) with parents and families in 11 languages. This gives families the opportunity to better understand their student's linguistic abilities, actively engage in their education and advocate on their behalf.

Section C-4.c: How may ESSER and GEER funds support assessments for multilingual learners?

“ESSER or GEER funds may be used to develop, improve, and administer assessments for English learners, including formative, diagnostic, interim, and summative assessments as part of a school’s and LEA’s efforts to quantify and address the impact of lost instructional time that resulted from the pandemic.”

WIDA MODEL identifies the immediate language learning needs of multilingual learners, needs that may have been influenced by lost instructional time as a result of the pandemic. WIDA MODEL provides educators with real-time data on students’ ELP levels in the four language domains of Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing. These scores support educators in identifying the specific learning needs of multilingual learners and informing targeted instructional planning. As the academic year continues, a second administration of WIDA MODEL provides updated ELP scores that can be used to measure language proficiency progress and inform additional fine-tuning of instruction.

Additional benefits of WIDA MODEL

In addition to the advantages already mentioned, WIDA MODEL offers the following benefits:

  • Test administration licenses are active for two years, so ESSER funds may be used now to purchase WIDA MODEL, but you’ll have two years to use the purchased licenses. Any unused licenses may be renewed for another two years with the purchase of just one set of 10 additional licenses.
  • WIDA MODEL may be used to support formative assessment decision-making by providing an overview of language proficiency by domain.
  • School and district administrators can use WIDA MODEL to inform curricular and program decisions. 
  • WIDA MODEL Paper can be modularized and administered by individual domain when scores in all four domains are not needed.
  • WIDA MODEL uses the same six language development levels as all other WIDA resources – it is consistent with WIDA ELD Standards Statements, WIDA Can Do Descriptors, and all other WIDA assessments and educator materials.

Contact Suzanne Johar at suzanne.johar@wceps.org to learn more about using WIDA MODEL as an interim ELP assessment in your school or district.


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