Recent Projects

two girls looking at a booklet together at a table

Building knowledge about how to support the academic and social success of multilingual learners

The projects below represent some of our recent research collaborations.

Research Highlight: Unpacking the "Long-term English Learner" Label

In partnership with the WIDA Research Subcommittee, researchers recently completed a study investigating the size and characteristics of the group of students who remain classified as English learners for six or more years across WIDA states and territories. One goal of this research was to more carefully examine how the “long-term English learner” label is applied across different contexts, and what its consequences are for students.

View our 2018 LTEL Report on the size and characteristics of the long-term EL population across 15 states.

The next phase of this research is currently underway and will build upon earlier findings. This strand of research will more closely examine the intersection of student disabilities and long-term EL status across multiple WIDA states. As part of this study, we will compare and contrast long-term growth trajectories for “active” ELs with and without IEP (Individual Educational Plan) designations across multiple years, cohorts and grades.

Language Assessment Research

WIDA conducts research to support the development, implementation, and use of its language assessments. As part of this effort, WIDA provides technical reports, technical documentation, and stand-alone research reports with the aim of supporting stakeholders’ (e.g. parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers) understanding of students’ language performance and development trajectories, measured using WIDA assessments.

WIDA has a number of ongoing assessment-related research projects, which include projects to enhance the quality and psychometric properties of WIDA assessments, such as examining the variables that influence the difficulty of items/tasks or the adaptive engine used for presenting the items. Research also involves investigating the category of long-term English learners (ELs); ELs with disabilities; and EL policy (e.g. EL identification and reclassification decision making). These studies help us understand not only students’ performance on the test, but also the interpretation and use of test scores in K-12 educational settings.

Sample reports of recently completed projects can be found in the Resource Library:

Investigating K-12 English Learners' Use of Universal Tools Embedded in Online Language Assessments

Performance of Technology-Enhanced Items in Grades 1–12 English Language Proficiency Assessments


The American Indian English Learner Research Alliance (AIERA) is committed to establishing and sustaining long-term relationships that enable members to solve complex issues of mutual interest associated with advancing the academic, cultural, and linguistic needs of American Indian English learners. WIDA is a founding member of the alliance and is proud to partner with researchers, tribal leaders, state and local education agencies, and American Indian communities to support programs that value and build on Native students’ cultures and the languages they bring to school.

Making Science Multilingual

WIDA and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) have joined forces to address the persistent disparities in science education for multilingual learners. Check out their newly published Design Principles for Engaging Multilingual Learners in Three-Dimensional Science. Learn more about the nature of the collaboration between WIDA and NSTA in Making Science Multilingual: An Interdisciplinary Program and Its Evolution. Read about the factors that contributed to the creation of the design principles in Bridging Science and Language Development Through Interdisciplinary and Interorganizational Collaboration: What Does It Take?.

Research on Teacher Learning

WIDA is engaged in a number of research projects that support and investigate the professional learning of classroom teachers. Ruslana Westerlund conducted a project with elementary teachers in a suburban district in Wisconsin that promoted writing across the curriculum. This research contributed to a model of literacy development for multilingual learners that represents a constructive critique of the widely used materials created by Lucy Calkins. Cynthia Lundgren and Rosalie Grant have been collaborating with a large urban district in New Mexico to enhance culturally responsive curricula with opportunities for language development. Jennifer Wilfrid and Daniella Molle are partnering with David Crowther (University of Nevada, Reno) to investigate teachers' use of instructional practices that promote sensemaking in science classrooms. Diep Nguyen collaborated with Kara Viesca and the IMCCE team to study ideologies and practices of content teachers working with multilingual learners.

WIDA Early Years Parent Research

WIDA researchers recently completed research that explores the perceptions and decision-making of parents of young multilingual children, ages 0-5 years, with regard to children’s language learning and development, family engagement, and children’s participation in early care and education (ECE) programs. This research was done in partnership with three WIDA Early Years member states. Please read the reports on Maryland, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to find out more. The Madison Educational Partnership at WCER funded a second research study. This research will provide information to early care and education professionals and stakeholders about how to strengthen approaches to engaging with families of multilingual children.