This website uses cookies. A cookie is a small piece of code that gives your computer a unique identity, but it does not contain any information that allows us to identify you personally. For more information on how TESOL International Association uses cookies, please read our privacy policy. Most browsers automatically accept cookies, but if you prefer, you can opt out by changing your browser settings.

TESOL Statement on WIDA ACCESS for ELLs Testing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by David Cutler | 12/21/2020
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge at unprecedented levels across the United States, the health and safety of our students, teachers, and school staff must take priority over student testing requirements. With this in mind, TESOL International Association urges all states utilizing WIDA’s ACCESS for ELLs exam to grant local education agencies the flexibility needed to safely conduct the exam, which will not have a remote version and must be conducted in-person. Not only does an in-person exam put students, teachers, and staff at greater risk, but the speaking portion of the WIDA Access for ELLs test is particularly problematic. The guidance established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls for face coverings, social distancing, and no mixing of groups of students and teachers in schools. Yet the speaking portion of the exam generally pulls students of similar proficiency levels from multiple classrooms. These students should also be wearing masks, but such face coverings may distort their pronunciation during the test and teachers may not clearly hear what students are saying. 

TESOL recommends that state education agencies, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Education, postpone testing until a later date in the 2021 school year or waive testing requirements all together. Additionally, TESOL advocates can remind parents or guardians that participation in the ACCESS for ELLs exam is optional and that they have the right to opt their child out of the exam without any negative consequences.

The association realizes that postponing the exam or waiving testing requirements entirely is not without its drawbacks. It is concerning that English learners, whose academic achievements have been historically underreported, may not have sufficient testing data for this school year. As there have been numerous published reports about student learning losses experienced by English learners due to virtual instruction, testing data would also provide a more standardized mechanism to measure those reported losses across the 40 states and territories that use the ACCESS for ELLs exam. As we continue to work together to overcome the many challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed to classrooms around the world, TESOL is committed to advocating for unique solutions that improve student outcomes, while prioritizing the health and safety of English language teachers and their students.