Are WIDA Test Results Appropriately Reflecting Multilingual Learners’ Language Skills According to ESOL Teachers’ Experiences?

Results of a Pilot Study


  • Emily Patterson Undergraduate student at Winthrop University
  • Elke Schneider Winthrop University



language proficiency assessment, multilingual learners, WIDA ACCESS, ESOL teacher perspectives


Within the field of multilingual learner (ML) education, ESOL teachers’ voices are often overlooked and underrepresented despite their integral role in developing productive and knowledgeable future citizens. This study sheds light on the experiences of ESOL teachers that administer the federally mandated annual standardized testing created by World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA). It uses focus-group interviews to gather qualitative data from two neighboring school districts in order to gain insight into the WIDA assessments’ reflection of language proficiency. WIDA testing evaluates English language development by measuring academic and social language skills within the four language domains: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. MLs without severe, classified disabilities in grades K-12 participate annually in the Assessing Comprehension and Communication of English State-to-State (ACCESS) assessment by WIDA. Results place students into proficiency categories ranging from entering (a student new to English) to bridging (a near-fluent ML), as defined by the WIDA language proficiency standards. The interviews allowed the ESOL teachers to share their experiences with MLs’ classroom performances in the four testing domains compared to their performances on the online WIDA assessments. The interview data was analyzed and categorized into three main themes based on teacher responses: assessment preparation techniques, common perceptions of the assessment, and proposed changes to improve the assessment. Each of these themes, with their local and national implications, are discussed as they affect the nature of ESOL instruction and assessment.


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How to Cite

Emily Patterson, & Elke Schneider. (2024). Are WIDA Test Results Appropriately Reflecting Multilingual Learners’ Language Skills According to ESOL Teachers’ Experiences? : Results of a Pilot Study. GATESOL Journal, 33(1), 3–14.



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