Voices Vol 41 No 1

Chapter News

Bergen Passaic Chapter: We Have the ACCESS Scores — Now What?

By Janice Silvia Acosta

catinhat1 Barbara Tedesco and B.J. Franks Presenting

As ELL teachers, we are all familiar with WIDA’s ACCESS test to determine ELL students’ English language proficiency given each spring.  But how many actually use the test scores to drive instruction?  What do all those numbers mean anyway? 

The Bergen-Passaic Chapter of NJTESOL/NJBE met at the Paramus Library in Paramus, NJ on November 15, 2011 for an informative session, “We Have the ACCESS scores – Now What?”  The presentation was given by Barbara Tedesco and B.J. Franks, both WIDA-certified trainers [and past NJTESOL/NJBE presidents].  The session started with the attendees debriefing about questions given by the moderators.  What is the purpose of the report?  What does the data tell you?  How can you use the data?  Which scores might best inform instruction?  Which help in designing support services?  The presenters then guided the group through each question. 

WIDA has made changes to some of the terminology used in the assessment.  First, linguistic complexity will now read linguistic discourseLanguage form becomes Language Forms and Convention, and ELP will be replaced with ELD.  It is important that ELL teachers check out the Interpretive Guide on WIDA’s website as the rubrics scaffold across levels of language proficiency and these can be used in classroom instruction all year long.  Translations are available by WIDA for the parent reports.  When interpreting the ACCESS scores, one must realize that the scale scores for the domains cannot be compared.  Rather, each domain stands on its own.  When placing orders for the ACCESS tests for your students, it can sometimes be confusing as to which tier is best to order.  The presenters recommended to always order up to be safe.  ACCESS scores should be shared with classroom teachers in order to promote a more team-based approach for the ELL student.  The ELL teacher can explain the results and guide the classroom teacher in the domains the student needs more support.  It is important to view the results by academic subject as well.

With regard to exiting students, ACCESS scores should not be the only indicator of a student’s readiness to mainstream.  Not all states accept multiple criteria for exiting, and New Jersey is one of the states that do recommend multiple measures besides the ACCESS scores.  These can include ELL and classroom teacher assessments, other state-approved assessments such as the MAC II, writing portfolios, etc.  Only with this multiple approach can a student’s true capability to function in the mainstream classroom be determined. It is recommended to advocate that ACCESS be used for ELLs vs. NJ ASK.  ELL teachers are well aware of the struggles for ELL students taking NJ ASK, especially beginners.  Recent research is showing that students are not getting higher scores on standardized tests until they are at an English language proficiency level of 5 [on the ACCESS].
No matter the proficiency level, the ACCESS scores can guide an ELL teacher in designing or redesigning support services.  Students exiting an ELL program with a proficiency of 5 or 6 need to be monitored for two years to ensure they are transitioning well.  ELL teachers should regularly inquire about their performances with the classroom teachers.  Students with Mid-Level scores (Levels 3-4) may need one to three more years of ELL support.  ELL teachers should consider a balanced long-term approach focusing on academic standards and English standards.  They should utilize strategies that increase comprehension and communication in English (e.g. sheltered instruction).  Teachers should look to enhance both oral and literacy development and provide L1 instruction and/or support as is feasible.   Students with Beginner scores (Level 1 and 2) may need five or six more years of ELL support services.  Here, it is important to provide targeted communicative/social and instructional English, scaffolded within programs and schools, and use content-based strategies and L1 instruction. 

Attendees commented on how informative and useful they found this presentation.  Ms Tedesco and Ms Franks were extremely helpful in advising how best to interpret the ACCESS results and how to use the data to drive instruction.  Their expertise in this area made the meeting a huge success.

Janice Silvia Acosta is the current Public Relations person for the Bergen-Passaic Chapter of NJTESOL/NJBE.