English Learner (EL) Assessments

Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states are required to assess the proficiency of all English Learner (EL) students.  According to Title III under NCLB, states are to measure the annual growth of an ELL student's English development in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA)

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the department will transition from the ELDA assessment for EL students to the ACCESS for ELs assessment in order to determine English Language Proficiency Levels. This move will provide valuable results that serve as one criterion to aid in determining language proficiency for ELs.  

WIDA results will help guide decisions regarding student participation in content area classrooms without program support and state academic content assessments without accommodations. This assessment will also provide districts with information to aid in evaluating the effectiveness of EL programs.

For more information and resources, visit the WIDA website.For specific Tennessee guidance, visit the WIDA Tennessee page.

WIDA - ACCESS Placement

The department has set the preliminary cut scores for the World Class Instructional Design Assessment, Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State to State (WIDA ACCESS) for the 2015 assessment administration. The cut scores can be used to determine the preliminary placement of English Learners (ELs) and if an EL can be reclassified from EL status to Transition 1 status. Districts may begin using this information to place students for the beginning of the 2015-16 school year. The following criteria may be used for preliminary reclassification:

  • 5.0 for the overall composite
  • 5.0 for literacy

There can be no adjustment of these scores and both criteria must be met. The preliminary exit criteria may not be averaged or otherwise altered.

For EL students scoring 3.6 and below on the WIDA ACCESS, service hours are one hour per day, 5 days each week. For those scoring 3.7 and above, services should be differentiated based on the needs of the student. For example, many of these students may still need an hour each day while others may need a reduced amount of time, perhaps 45 minutes or less a day, while some may need fewer than 5 days each week. However, these students must still receive EL services. Students who are scoring near exit, and doing well academically and on other state assessments, may be served as needed.

In order to be reclassified to a transitional status, the EL is required to meet both criteria (scoring 5.0 on overall composite and 5.0 on literacy for grades 1 to 12). For kindergarten two sets of scores are reported: one for instructional purposes and one for accountability purposes. Use 5.0 on the scale for accountability purposes only.

The transitional phase lasts for two years, and during that transitional time, this group of ELs is not assessed with the WIDA ACCESS. Transitional students are coded with a “1” in the Education Information System (EIS) the first year after exit and are coded with a “2” the second year of transition. At the end of the transition period (the third year after exit), this group of students are coded with an “F” for former EL and that designation stays the same for the remainder of their academic career.

The final exit criteria will be announced once a crosswalk study of the English Language Development Assessment (ELDA) is completed and we have approval from the U.S. Department of Education.

APT Placement

When a newly enrolled student has responded with a language other than English on any part of the Home Language Survey (HLS), s/he is screened for ESL services with the WIDA – ACCESS Placement Test (W-APT). The screener is given only once in the educational career of the EL. The scores on this screener determine:

  • if the student will be classified as EL (coded as “L” in EIS), and
  • the minimum amount of service the EL will receive.
Grade Score Needs Title III Service Does not Qualify for Title III Service
Kindergarten 1st semester Below 27 on listening and speaking X  
Kindergarten 1st semester 27 to 30   X
Kindergarten 2nd semester or 1st grade 1st semester Any of the following:
  • Listening and speaking less than 27
  • Reading less than 14
  • Writing less than 17
Kindergarten 2nd semester or 1st grade 1st semester All of the following:
  • Listening and speaking 27 or above
  • Reading 14 or above
  • Writing 17 or above
1st  grade 2nd  semester through 12th  grade Composite score of less than 5.0 or any domain (reading, writing, listening and speaking) score less than 5.0 X  
1st  grade 2nd  semester through 12th  grade Composite score of 5.0 or better and 5.0 on literacy.   X

If a student will receive ESL services, the next step must be a determination of how much service the student is entitled. State Board policy 3.207 spells out that beginners and low intermediate ELs will receive a minimum of an hour per day of direct ESL service. The guidance for the change to WIDA is below.

  • Students in Kindergarten through the 1st semester of the 1st grade receive an hour of service per day if they have a score of 20 or below in listening or speaking.
  • Students in the 2nd semester of 1st grade through 12th grade receive an hour minimum per day of service if they have any score on composite or any domain less than 3.6

If you have questions, please email Lori.Nixon@tn.gov or Jan.Lanier@tn.gov.