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Annual English Language Proficiency Test

A Guide for Parents About the Annual English Language Proficiency Test – ACCESS for ELs

Beginning in January, schools around the USA administer the annual English language proficiency test. Today, I want to delve into the importance of ACCESS for ELs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners)assessment, shedding light on its purpose, impact, and educational experience. But first, let’s address a fundamental question: What is Access Testing?

What does WIDA Stand For

WIDA, or World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, is an organization that focuses on providing English language development standards and assessments for English Language Learners (ELLs). It was established in 2002 as a consortium of states in the United States with the goal of supporting educators in meeting the diverse linguistic needs of ELLs.

WIDA developed the WIDA English Language Development (ELD) Standards, a framework that outlines English learners’ language proficiency levels and expectations. These standards are widely used across the United States to guide English language instruction and assessment.

ACCESS Score results

WIDA, the ACCESS for ELs developer, showcases their assessment as an annual assessment that educators use to monitor students’ progress in learning academic English. Kindergarten through grade 12 students officially identified as English learners participate in this annual assessment.

Scores on the ACCESS test describe student performance in terms of the six levels of English language proficiency. The proficiency levels help interpret test results and language proficiency performance for each domain. The scores of 1 to 6 report a student’s ability in each section or overall performance on the test. These scores (shown below) are proficiency-level scores that help communicate a student’s English language proficiency.

Proficiency level scores indicate the following in the ACCESS for ELs English test:

Level 1

Entering

Level 2

Emerging

Level 3

Developing

Level 4

Expanding

Level 5

Bridging

Level 6

Reaching

Visualizing the English language proficiency scores on a scale of levels 1 to 6 offers a compelling snapshot of language proficiency levels. Each point on this spectrum represents a distinct stage in a student’s language development journey. A score of 1 typically indicates a novice level, where basic communication skills are emerging. In contrast, a score of 6 represents an advanced proficiency, showcasing a nuanced understanding and mastery of the English language.

As you move along the scale, the visuals depict a progression from foundational language skills to a more sophisticated command, offering educators, parents, and students a clear and insightful perspective on language growth and achievement. This visual representation is a valuable tool in comprehending the diverse linguistic landscape within educational settings, fostering a nuanced understanding of language proficiency levels.

ACCESS Domains

The ACCESS for ELs test assesses English language proficiency in four domains: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

Listening👂

The listening domain evaluates a student’s ability to comprehend spoken English.

Students get to show that they understand conversations, academic discussions, and oral instructions.

The listening test assesses listening comprehension, vocabulary recognition, and spoken language understanding.

Speaking 🗣

The speaking domain evaluates the ability to communicate verbally in English.

Students respond to prompts, participating in conversations using oral language.

The speaking test assesses pronunciation, fluency, vocabulary usage, and ability to express themselves using academic language.

Reading 📖

The reading domain evaluates the student’s ability to comprehend written English.

Students get to read academic passages, identify main ideas, and interpret information.

The reading test assesses reading comprehension, vocabulary recognition, and students’ ability to analyze the content they read.

Writing 🖋

The writing domain test evaluates students’ ability to express ideas in English.

Students respond to prompts, which include constructing essays to convey written information in English.

The writing test assesses a student’s writing proficiency, grammar usage, and ability to organize ideas in writing.

Comprehensive Representation

Additionally, the ACCESS assessment reports an overall score in oral language, literacy, and comprehension and a composite overall score that’s an average of all domains. Individual results are combined to form composite results that show other levels of English.

DOMAIN SCORESDESCRIPTION
Literacy ScoreAssesses the student’s proficiency in reading and writing. It delves into the ability to comprehend written texts, articulate ideas in writing, and demonstrate the student’s overall literacy skills in English.
Oral Language ScoreFocuses on the student’s proficiency in spoken English. It encompasses tasks related to listening and speaking, evaluating the student’s ability to understand spoken language and express ideas verbally.
Comprehension ScoreA subset of the overall assessment, emphasizing the student’s ability to understand and interpret information. It involves tasks related to both listening and reading, gauging the depth of the student’s comprehension skills in English.
Overall Score
(35% Reading + 35% Writing + 15% Listening + 15% Speaking)                                                                                 
Reflects the student’s general proficiency in English across all assessed domains—Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. It provides a holistic view of the student’s language capabilities.
Adopted from wida.us

These individual scores provide detailed insights into a student’s strengths and areas for improvement within each language domain, facilitating targeted and personalized support to enhance a student’s English language proficiency. The overall score formula comprises 35% for Reading, 35% for Writing, 15% for Listening, and 15% for Speaking, providing a balanced assessment that offers a holistic view of the student’s language capabilities.

ACCESS Scores Usage

The annual ACCESS for ELs scores are used by schools and educators to communicate a student’s current and past language proficiency in each domain. In addition, an overall or composite score provides a student’s English language proficiency and overall performance. The scores inform students, parents, educators, administrators, and other stakeholders of student performance and progress toward mastery of English language proficiency.

Inform Instruction

The annual ACCESS test generates a proficiency score to inform teachers of each student’s listening, speaking, reading, and writing performance. The student report provides teachers with a description of what the student can do in listening, speaking, and writing. Classroom teachers can use student test results to plan instruction during content-area instruction.

ELL teachers use test results to determine a strong or needy language area (s) for the student (s). Specifically, scores allow teachers to narrow the focus on instruction to take students to the following language proficiency level.

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Student Support and Services

Test results drive student placement. Scores help schools determine what level of language development services a student may need. This may entail deciding whether a student needs to continue language instruction in elementary school. The type of language instruction service a student receives depends on the English language instructional model the school uses to teach English language learners.

In middle school, attend an English language development class with other ELLs. The English language development (ELD) class focuses on teaching English to improve students’ ability to understand, speak, read, and write using academic language. ELD classes provide students with a comfortable environment to use and learn a language with the goal of English language mastery.

Identified ELLs in dual language classrooms take the annual test to measure English language development progress. Teachers in immersion classrooms may also use the test results to make instructional decisions.

Determine English learner Status

The ACCESS for ELLs test provides schools with an overall (composite) score to determine whether or not a student is an English language learner. The overall or composite score is a cumulative representation derived from combining scores across the student’s four language domains (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing). Each domain contributes to this comprehensive score, providing a holistic assessment of the student’s English language proficiency.

States often designate a specific score target to determine when students are eligible to transition from English Language Learner (ELL) services. This designated target helps educators and administrators make informed decisions regarding a student’s readiness to transition to mainstream English instruction.

In many states, a score of 4.5 or higher on language proficiency assessments is typically used as a benchmark to identify when a student qualifies for English language services. Achieving this score not only influences the criteria for exiting language support programs but also suggests that the student may be performing at an advanced level by the time they reach this proficiency score.

To understand the specific exit criteria applicable to your state, it is advisable to contact your child’s school directly or visit the WIDA education website, where detailed information regarding language proficiency standards and criteria is usually available.

WIDA ACCESS Parent Letter

Every school is required to keep parents informed about their child’s progress in English language development on an annual basis. There are two different parent notification letters sent to parents each school year. An annual testing notification letter and a yearly student report letter.

Annual Notification of ACCESS Testing

The annual notification parent letter informs parents of their child’s upcoming English language proficiency test. The letter aims to inform parents of the test and encourage families to prepare for the once-a-year assessment. The letter includes testing dates and logistics of the test to help parents become familiar with the assessment.

Student Report

This comprehensive report details the students’ language proficiency levels across all four domains: Listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Additionally, it includes specific score results for comprehension, literacy, and an overall proficiency score. This annual report serves as a valuable tool for parents to gain insights into their child’s language development journey and to understand their proficiency in different aspects of the English language.

The results of a student report are always available in your child’s school. The test provides valuable information about a student’s English language proficiency abilities and their growth in language development.


The annual ACCESS for ELLs test plays a vital role in shaping the educational experiences of English Language Learners (ELLs). This assessment measures language proficiency across listening, speaking, reading, and writing domains and serves as a compass guiding educators in tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. As parents, your engagement in understanding the significance of this test, the detailed insights it provides, and the resources available for support are invaluable.

The ACCESS for ELLs is more than an assessment; it’s a collaborative tool that bridges the gap between school and home, fostering a shared commitment to the language development journey. By staying informed, involved, and supportive, together, we can create an environment where every child has the opportunity to thrive and excel in their English language proficiency. Encourage your child to do his best during the annual English language proficiency test. Test results are a valuable resource for schools that provide excellent information about a student’s English language proficiency skills.

Adopted from the developers of the ACCESS for ELLs Test wida.us

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3 thoughts on “Annual English Language Proficiency Test”

  1. Hello. I am curious. What modes of help are being offered to Black children whose home language equates to a strong Black language — using all of the grammar distinctions known to be used by Black communicators that are different from English?

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