Since the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, states have been required to monitor the linguistic development of English learners (ELs). To collect this information, states administer English language proficiency (ELP) tests annually to determine each EL student's level of English proficiency. Over the years, two multi-state ELP test consortia emerged to fulfill this requirement, funded by federal grants: WIDA (originally named for its three lead states, Wisconsin, Delaware, and Arkansas) and the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21). These ELP exams assess students’ English abilities in speaking, listening, reading, and writing and score them according to different levels.
WIDA ACCESS for ELLs
WIDA has developed ACCESS 2.0 for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) to monitor ELs’ progress in acquiring English. The assessment is administered online to ELs in grades K-12.. Students in grades 1-12 are assigned a score ranging from 1 (“entering”) to 6 (“reaching”). A score of 5 indicates proficiency. Students are given a different test version depending on two factors: their grade level (the K–12 grades are divided into five clusters) and on students’ level of English proficiency (beginning, intermediate, or advanced). Students receive a composite ELP score as well as scores in the individual domains of speaking, reading, writing, and listening. WIDA has also developed the WIDA–ACCESS Placement Test (or W-APT) that is used to screen ELs in grades K-12 and to determine their placement in EL programs.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia are members of the WIDA Consortium.
ELPA21 has developed an online assessment for ELs to measure their English language proficiency aligned to standards developed by WestEd, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the Understanding Language initiative at Stanford University. The screener assessment portion of ELPA21 is administered yearly to six grade bands in order to identify students' baseline level of English proficiency and classify ELs. It is administered at the beginning of the school year or at the time a student arrives at a new school system. The summative assessment is taken at the end of every school year by students who were designated as ELs in order to monitor their progress in English language development. Students are scored on a scale of 1-5 in each language domain and given a composite ELP score based on the individual component scores. Students with a composite score of two or below are classified as “emerging,” while those who score a four or above are labelled “proficient.” Those in between are classified as “progressing.”
Seven states are members of the ELPA21 consortium.
Some states, however, are not members of multi-state consortia and administer independent ELP tests. Arizona, California, New York, and Texas all develop their own independent assessments, while Mississippi and Connecticut administer the LAS Links exam.
Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA)
Arizona developed the Arizona English Language Learner Assessment (AZELLA), which is composed of a placement exam that can be administered at any time of the year to determine ELs’ initial proficiency levels, and an annual reassessment exam administered each spring. AZELLA categorizes students as pre-emergent, emergent, basic, intermediate, or proficient in the four language domains.
English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC)
California has been using the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), but will transition to a new exam –English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC)—in the spring of 2018. The initial assessment portion of the CELDT will still be used in the fall of 2017 while the ELPAC is being field tested, but the transition will be fully completed by the following school year. The ELPAC is administered to K-12 students in seven grade bands and tests them in the four language domains.
Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment (KELPA2)
Kansas administers the Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment (KELPA2), which tests students in the four language domains. The KELPA-P assessment is used to screen ELs in to determine their placement in EL programs. Students designated as ELs are then tested annually with the KELPA summative assessment.
Two states—Mississippi and Kansas—use LAS Links assessments, which are administered in grades K–12 and use students’ scores to place them in proficiency levels from from 1 (beginner) to 6 (proficient). Assessments include a placement exam to identify ELs’ initial proficiency and benchmark assessments to measure progress in the four language domains.
Louisiana Connectors for English Learners
Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, Louisiana will be using the the Louisiana Connectors for English Learners as the state's ELP test. The test is administered to K-12 students and measures progress in the four language domains.
New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT)
New York uses the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT), which is administered in the spring to ELs in grades K–12. Students’ scaled scores are used to determine a proficiency level of Entering, Emerging, Transitioning, Expanding, or Commanding in the four language domains. Students who score below a Commanding level on the screening test are designated as ELs. Students can exit EL status by either scoring at the Commanding level on the annual summative assessment, or by scoring at the Expanding level on the summative assessment and above designated cut points on the Grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) Assessment.
Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS)
Texas uses the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS). Students in grades K–12 are tested in the four language domains and given a domain and a composite proficiency rating of beginner, intermediate, advanced, or advanced high.