Friday, January 6, 2012

I’ve got a question about ACCESS for ELLs…

Over the years, I have turned to the WIDA Help Desk with various questions.  Often they are able to give me an answer, and I am on my merry way.  Once I even called them on the lunch break during a workshop to get an answer to one of my attendee’s questions.  Every now and again, I have found out that my question would be answered better
by someone else outside of WIDA. 
As you can imagine, the WIDA Help Desk receives a lot of questions from all over the Consortium.  Some of these questions can be answered by Help Desk staff or other WIDA staff.  Others need to be directed to another entity like a state department of education or Metritech.  If it is a time-sensitive question, it helps to know who best to address our questions to from the get go.
In this post, I’ll give you an overview of the three broad categories of questions.  Feel free to print this post and stick it next to your phone and share it with your colleagues.  While you are at it, consider officially following our blog by clicking on the “Join this site” button on the right side of the page.  

Contact Info
Types of Questions

Toll-free: 1-866-276-7735

WIDA Consortium
Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER)
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1025 W. Johnson Street, MD #23
Madison, WI 53706
  • ACCESS, MODEL or W-APT test administration questions
  • Understanding and interpreting the scores from these assessments 
  • Online training course for test administrators, including log in, navigating the course, and completing the training quizzes
Toll-free: 1-800-747-4868

MetriTech, Inc.
Attn: Customer Service Representative
4106 Fieldstone Road
P.O. Box 6479
Champaign, Illinois 61826-6479
  • Pre-ID labels for the ACCESS test
  • Ordering ACCESS testing materials
  • Return shipping of the ACCESS test
Your State's Department of Education
Click on the map of WIDA states on the left.  Once the new page opens, click on your state for contact information.
  • Establishment of entry and exit criteria for ESL and/or bilingual services in your state
  • Test administration dates
  • Local professional development opportunities
  • Test administrator certification requirements for your state

     While this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all possible questions related to testing, it is designed to give you a better idea of who to go to depending on the type of question that you have.  But it you aren’t sure, feel free to contact the WIDA Help Desk and they will be happy to point you in the right direction.  Feel free to post your own questions and comments here – just don’t post any confidential information (no student names, etc).
     In future posts, we will look more closely at specific questions that are often asked by Consortium members.  

Written by: Tammy King


  1. WIDA test was given to Native English Speaker. It landed shy, tiny five year old to ESOL but I refused the class. Can you believe schools can't even determine what language children speak? Go Public School! ;)

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for sharing your comment about screening students. You bring up an interesting issue about how ELLs are identified for service. To clarify, in most states there are two steps in identifying students for ESL services. The first step is for a parent or legal guardian to complete a home language survey. This survey asks what languages are spoken in the home and/or what languages the student speaks. If English is the only language spoken by the student and the only language spoken in the home, the student would not be screened for ESL services. I would suggest that you contact your school directly to ask about the screening procedures and to see if a home language survey was completed for this student. If you have additional questions that WIDA could help you with, please feel free to contact Julia Cortada. She can be reached at or at 866-276-7735.

  2. I would like to know how to accurately score students on the listening and speaking section of the ACCESS for Kindergarteners with ELLs who communicate via PECS or similar picture communication devices (or with ELLs who are mostly non-verbal, producing perhaps only the first sound of a word if they can even do that much). Will I be scoring them according to what I understand their responses to be or must their response closely match what the recorded samples produced on the Speaking Certification Quiz?

    1. Anonymous,
      Great questions. Let me look into this and get back to you with an answer.

    2. I forgot to add that these same kids receive hand-over-hand writing assistance since they have trouble controlling their writing instruments. In their case, for the Writing Section of the kindergarten ACCESS, would we scribe for them, continue with the hand-over-hand method (teacher's hand over student's hand), or let them free write their responses in the book?

    3. Anonymous, Thank you for your questions and your patience as I researched this.

      Although the student typically communicates using a technological device, it is important that the teacher scores the student based off of what the student says rather than what the teacher understands from the student's speaking. Please note that even though the student may receive "Approaches" in most levels of the speaking assessment, it will not hinder the student's ability to move to higher levels of listening because the listening & speaking assessment is not discontinued until the student has scored a 0 or 1 correct on the listening AND his or her speaking is "Approaches."

      As for the question about the hand over hand scribe accommodation, WIDA has guidelines for accommodations, but ultimately the accommodations are determined by each state. Contact your state to find out about allowable accommodations in your state. (Contact info can be found on the WIDA Member States page - just click on your state). At first glance without knowing the specifics about each student, these are all acceptable accommodations. Therefore, each student's IEP team can decide which accommodation is best for that student with guidance from your state as needed. If you have additional questions or concerns, feel free to contact the WIDA Help Desk. They will be able to answer your questions or direct you to someone who can. The WIDA Help Desk Toll-Free number is 1-866-276-7735 and their email address is