Why Did you Start Using WIDA?
We began using WIDA because we were looking for a new assessment that was more rigorous and that measured students' use of academic language. At the same time, we were revising our curriculum for vertical alignment, and the WIDA framework seemed like it would help in that regard.
We started by piloting use of the WIDA MODEL assessment and using the Can-Do descriptors to help us think about student proficiency levels. We moved to focusing on the rubrics for assessment while using the Can-Dos to help us communicate with classroom teachers and parents about interpreting student proficiency levels. Then we started transforming performance indicators for use with our content units of study, and this is where we are currently engaged.
How has WIDA supported student learning and program growth?
We gradually replaced our old language assessment with the WIDA MODEL, beginning over five years ago with the elementary school and then middle school and finally, the high school. As we were collecting data on our students regularly, we began to better understand the WIDA language proficiency levels and rubrics.
We worked on scoring speaking and writing samples as teams to help confirm grade-level expectations. We continue to work on and improve this process and team understanding. The WIDA rubrics have given our EAL and content area faculty a common language to use schoolwide when we talk about language learners. We used these rubrics to create grade-level specific materials to use with students and teachers. We also use MPI structures as a guide to develop language targets, assessments and supports for our grade level curriculum and in our co-planning.
The breakdown of academic language into discourse, sentence, and word levels has helped us to strengthen our understanding of academic language and how to support and scaffold this learning for students. The varied resources offered by WIDA have helped us to communicate with faculty and parents and inspired us to create our own materials for planning, assessing and communicating about student growth. Our current work includes:
- Creating language targets and supports when working with classroom and content teachers.
- Working with classroom and content teachers to modify assessments so ELLs can show what they know in language they can use.
- Striving to promote ELL teaching strategies.
- Transforming performance indicators to use with our content units.
"The WIDA framework has helped us to more clearly define language support throughout our school, has 'raised the bar' by ensuring a focus on academic language use by all students, and has given us a common language to communicate with faculty and parents about student needs and supports." (Jane Russell Valezy, EAL Specialist, Elementary EAL Coordinator, American International School of Budapest)