Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A terrible solution to a non-existent problem

It's time to start testing two and a half year olds to make sure they are acquiring academic language. Really. 

WIDA has announced " Early English Language Development Standards," designed to help "dual language learners" ages 2.5 to 5.5 develop "appropriate academic language." 

The new standards cover: The language of Social-Emotional Development, Early Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and Physical Development. 

Standards means tests.

WIDA stands for "World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment" and it is clearly deeply involved with assessment – see http://www.wida.us/aboutus/partners.aspx.

WIDA makes it clear that the standards can be used "to help inform standards-based assessments" (WIDA E-ELD Standards, p. 11), and you can be sure this will happen. The result will be testing based on the standards, and efforts will be made to make sure children pass the tests. This means direct instruction in phonemic awareness, story grammars, etc, all elements of these new standards.

 (Despite an "important note" in WIDA E-ELD Standards explaining that there are many factors that "significantly affect the rate and pattern of language development" and that we need to "take great care" when determining language level, WIDA presents detailed descriptions of what children should be able to do at each age.)

WIDA's standards are a terrible solution to a non-existent problem. Academic language comes easily when children become readers, and the best way to make sure this happens is reading stories to children and providing access to lots of books in the first and second language. Instead, we are turning pre-school into test-prep.

Early English Language Development Standards, Ages 2.5–5.5, 2013 Edition (“WIDA E-ELD Standards”). Available at wida.us.


  1. This abusive and psychotic. No, I'm not being hyperbolic. Know us by how we treat our children and despair. Omg...

  2. I'm an ESL teacher in Massachusetts.
    I've been teaching ESL exclusively since 2005 (when I started in Phnom Penh).
    I find some serious holes in the WIDA standards:
    Primarily with reagrds to low proficiency level English Language Learners. There simply aren't any standards that address the fact that they CANNOT speak, read, write or comprehend even a single word in English. The WIDA standards address how to scaffold the common core standards for different levels (1-5) of English Language Acquisition. All the 'perfomance descriptors' for Level 1 are related to pointing at/working with pictures (or just lists of content area words) and/or repeating the words of what they've pointed to.
    At the high school this is impossible to do with any fidelity. High school learning tasks are far too complex to be accurately portrayed using pictures and the tendency of most high school teachers is to teach to the level of the learners that can understand instructional English. If beginning English Language Acquirers are put into classes with more advanced English Language Learners, they usually get ignored or stare at pictures while the rest of the class does the actual school work.

    More often than the above scenario is that the beginning students are placed in their own, separate class with an ESL teacher, who's tasked to teach the CC ELA standards using GRADE LEVEL literature. This is not what most ESL professionals do in reality, but it's actually what WIDA and the CC expect to be done.

    I'd love to hear your opinion on this.