Why Did you Start Using WIDA?
Our school, Marymount International in Rome, Italy, began its WIDA journey in 2015 as a result of searching for a whole school assessment measure that would provide us with a more in-depth picture of students' language abilities across a spectrum of content areas, such as mathematics, science, social studies, and literature. We were drawn to WIDA's inclusion of academic language in various tasks throughout the sub-tests and the positive language present in the Can Do Descriptors. As an ELL department, we always start from what our students can do, and we felt that WIDA sustained this approach by illustrating what students can do not only linguistically but also cognitively.
Initially, we assessed students at the transition years (5th to 6th and 8th to 9th); this allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the process. In addition, two colleagues attended a four-day WIDA Academy in London in June 2016. The knowledge they gained helped inform us about how to use the WIDA more effectively. We now use the WIDA in conjunction with various other formative and summative assessments to gauge students' progress from the start to end of an academic year. Additionally, we utilize WIDA assessment tools to learn about incoming students. Subsequently, our department developed criteria for exiting students, and we use the scores to facilitate discussion with colleagues.
WIDA resources have become useful tools that show us what students can do and guide us on the areas where they need to grow. Our next steps are to begin including our whole school in moving away from a deficit model and growing towards a more inclusive, collaborative ethos that helps students grow in their acquisition of language and helps our faculty become more aware and current in how they teach academic language in their content areas.