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January 21, 2008

DELL e-Broadcast 2008.89 - Alternate ACCESS for ELLs and Students with Disabilities

Dear WIDA Educators and Administrators:

Consistent with our mission, the WIDA Consortium is committed to meeting the educational needs of all ELL students. As part of this commitment, WIDA has been working on the development of the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs, which is designed to be a English language proficiency (ELP) measure for use with ELL students who have significant disabilities. As part of the development of the Alternate ACCESS, we have also developed Alternate Model Performance Indicators (AMPIs) for use with ELL students who also have significant disabilities.

To date, there has been no research examining the participation of ELLs with significant disabilities in ELP assessments. In fact, at the present time, there are no existing alternate ELP measures, nor has a framework been developed for how to include these students in ELP assessments (Abedi, 2007). Instead, decisions regarding the participation of ELLs with significant disabilities in assessment programs are generally based on a piecemeal approach to research, with information obtained separately from the ELL assessment literature and the literature on students with disabilities. A decision is typically made based on what is known about how to include ELLs and how to include students with disabilities, but not how to include ELLs with disabilities. We need to look specifically at ELLs with disabilities to identify the best method for including these students in language proficiency assessment programs and thereby obtain valid, reliable, and useful information about their educational and English language progress.

The proposed project will develop and examine alternate ELP assessments that would be appropriate for students who meet the required criteria for participation, which are illustrated below.

We are now ready to conduct the full-scale Field Test to validate the use of this measure. We are contacting you to inquire about your interest in participating in, or ability to facilitate the recruitment of, individuals for participation in this Field Test. It is essential that we have participants from as many states as possible to ensure adequate representation of students within the standardization sample.

For a student to be eligible to participate in the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs Field Test, the following criteria should be met:

Must be ELL and a student with a significant disability


Student’s prior participation in a state’s alternate assessment for academic progress may be an indicator for participation in the Alternate ACCESS in some or all domains


Student’s disability precludes meaningful participation in the ACCESS for ELLs even with accommodations


Student’s difficulty with linguistic demands is primarily due to disability and not to related factors typical in the second-language acquisition process


Student requires extensive direct instruction to accomplish the acquisition, application, and transfer of English language skills


Access to the general education curriculum more closely reflects alternate model performance indicators (AMPIs) than age/grade appropriate benchmarks

Eligible for Alternate ACCESS for ELLs

We have outlined some the goals, benefits, and expectations below.

Project Goals

  1. To develop Alternate Model Performance Indicators (AMPIs) for use with ELL students who have significant disabilities.
  2. To validate an English language proficiency assessment for English language learners with significant disabilities. The assessment is an alternate version of the ACCESS for ELLs™ assessment system developed by the WIDA consortium and that is currently used in 16 states.
  3. To evaluate the content, structure, psychometric properties, and acceptability of the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs.
  4. To revise, as necessary, the assessment and develop a final version of the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs that produces reliable and valid results for measuring English language proficiency levels of ELLs with significant disabilities.

Administrator/LEA Representative Role

  • Identify ELL and/or special education teachers with ELL students eligible for alternate achievement assessments.
  • Provide researchers with the contact information of these teachers no later than February 8, 2008.

Participating Teacher Activities

  • Distribution and collection of parent consent forms for each participating student.
  • Completion of the online Alternate ACCESS for ELLs for each participating student, which involves the collection and analysis of work samples and other forms of evidence of student performance based on performance indicators across language domains and standards. This evidence-based collection approach is online and the testing window will start February 15, 2008.
  • Provision of participating students' IEPs, if applicable, to the researchers. Teacher and student names and student birthdates should be "masked' using a black marker or whiteout on all of the IEP documents. Please do not mask the other demographic information (e.g., grade level, disability status).
  • Completion of a brief, online questionnaire regarding their feelings toward the structure and content of the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs assessment process.

Participating Parent Activities

  • Provision of written consent for their child's involvement in the project.
  • Total time for parent participation is expected to be approximately 5 minutes and consent forms will be translated into appropriate languages.

Benefits to Participating Schools

  • Participating teachers will gain experience with the assessment of English language proficiency for ELLs with significant disabilities. The knowledge gained can be used to monitor the progress of these students and design instruction to best meet their needs.
  • Participating teachers will be given the opportunity to provide input into the development of a new assessment system that will likely be used by many of the states who are members of the WIDA consortium.

Using the Data/Sharing the Results

  • All materials collected as part of the study will be strictly confidential:
    • Students and teachers will be assigned code numbers; names will be deleted from all materials.
    • All submitted materials will be kept in a secure, locked file cabinet during the study; and destroyed following the completion of the study, in a manner consistent with IRB guidelines.
    • No identifying information about teachers, parents, or students will be shared in any presentation of the results of this study.
  • Upon request, participating schools will receive a summary of the results of the study upon its completion.

Please feel free to contact me with questions or to ask for more information (608-262-4586 or For the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs to become a reality, we really need assistance in recruiting participants. If you are able to participate in the Field Test or know of students who might meet the criteria for the Field Test, please contact me at your convenience.


Craig A. Albers, PhD
Assistant Professor
School Psychology Program
University of Wisconsin - Madison
316E Educational Sciences
1025 West Johnson Street
Madison, WI 53706-1796

Phone (608) 262-4586
Fax (608) 262-0843

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