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WISEdash for Districts ACCESS Dashboards

About the Data | Purpose of the Assessment | Assessment Details | Scores Provided | Data Availability | Data Quality Notes | Additional Information

About the Data


ACCESS for ELLs is a secure large-scale English language proficiency assessment administered to kindergarten through 12th grade students who have been identified as English learners (ELs). It is given annually in WIDA Consortium member states to monitor students' progress in acquiring academic English.

ACCESS for ELLs is aligned with the WIDA English Language Development Standards and assesses each of the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

For information about ACCESS Growth Student Growth Percentiles, please see ACCESS Growth.

For information about student performance on ACCESS, please see ACCESS Results by Subgroup.

Purpose of the Assessment



  • Helps states and districts meet the EL assessment and monitoring requirements of ESEA, as amended by ESSA.

  • Serves as one of multiple measures used to determine whether students are prepared to exit EL programming.

  • Provides teachers with information they can use to assess and improve their programming and support their students.

  • Provides districts with information to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of their EL programming.

  • Helps students and families understand students’ current level of English language proficiency.

Assessment Details


ACCESS for ELLs tests the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Four composite scale scores comprised of combinations of these domains are also calculated:

  • Oral Language: Listening (50%) and Speaking (50%)

  • Literacy: Reading (50%) and Writing (50%)

  • Comprehension: Listening (30%) and Reading (70%)

  • Overall (Composite): Listening (15%) , Speaking (15%), Reading (35%), and Writing (35%).

For students that have not taken the exam (reported empty booklets), DPI still receives the result and reports as “Not Tested” on the dashboard. Exam results are included for students that cannot be positively identified from the record. These records are included in aggregate charts with unknown student demographics.

Proficiency levels are calculated for the four domains and four composite scale scores. These align with descriptions of what students of that grade and proficiency level generally are able to do in those language areas. These descriptors allow educators to understand students’ linguistic abilities and craft appropriate instruction and choose appropriate supports.

Scores Provided


Scale Scores

Scale scores are reported in a consistent way to take into account differences in item difficulty between test administrations. Scale scores are designed to allow stakeholders to compare scores across periods of time and between students. (See Important Data Quality Notes below for exceptions.) Scaling allows scores across grades and tiers to be compared on a single vertical scale from kindergarten through grade 12. Scale scores range from 100 to 600.

While proficiency levels (below) are designed to be used for programmatic and exiting decisions, the underlying scale scores provide the best measure of growth. While average student growth differs depending on grade and proficiency level range, within these criteria, scale score growth provides the maximum information on a student’s path towards English proficiency.

Proficiency Level Scores

The proficiency level scores are interpretive scores derived from the scale scores. They describe student performance in terms of the six WIDA language proficiency levels.

  1. Entering

  2. Beginning

  3. Developing

  4. Expanding

  5. Bridging

  6. Reaching

Proficiency levels are expressed to single decimal precision, from 1.0 to 6.0. The Overall Composite Proficiency Level is truncated to create students’ ELP code in WISEdash. Proficiency levels are a convenient way to bin grade-band scale scores, and link them to meaningful descriptive information to support classroom instruction. Unlike the underlying scale scores, what students can do at a given proficiency level differs depending on grade, as our language expectations steadily climb as students grow older. For this reason, proficiency levels are not appropriate for comparing absolute student proficiency across grades.

WIDA provides two main resources to assist in understanding ACCESS for ELLs scores:

Data Availability


Districts administer ACCESS for ELLs from early December to early February. Test results (score reports and data downloads) are available to districts in late April.

DPI receives the statewide data file in late May, and these data are generally loaded into WISEdash within a few weeks. Access for ELLs® test results are available in WISEdash beginning with the 2006-07 school year.

Important Data Quality Notes


Between 2014-15 and 2016-17 ACCESS underwent significant changes. Due to these changes, what ACCESS for ELLs data mean has changed, and linking current ACCESS data to previous years is not possible.

2015-16: First year of online testing

Move to online testing invalidated scale score comparability with the previous and current paper ACCESS for ELLs tests.

  • Lack of comparability means that growth can not be measured from 2014-15 to 2015-16.

  • Growth on ACCESS for ELLs prior to 2015-16 is also not a predictor of growth on the online ACCESS for ELLs.

About 3000 grade 1 Tier A writing tests were not given the full weighting on one item.

  • These students should have received a higher score than they did receive.

  • WIDA/DRC made corrected data and score reports available through the WIDA AMS.

  • These updated scores are not scheduled to be loaded into WISEdash until fall of 2017.

There were more than 2000 split records where the writing booklet wasn't matched with the online domains. Most were merged before being loaded into WISEdash.

2016-17: Standard Setting and Attemptedness Criteria

WIDA undertook a standard setting in August 2016.

  • This was designed to better align proficiency on ACCESS to the more rigorous college- and career-readiness standards.

  • Each domain and composite received different ELP cut scores, as did each grade. The magnitude of the rigor increase differs by both domain and grade.

  • Most students appeared to pause or even regress on the 2016-17 ACCESS assessment, as compared to their 2015-16 scores.

  • Due to the increased demands of the new cut scores, districts are encouraged to make use of DPI’s long-standing manual exit criteria for 2016-17 through 2017-18, which is an overall composite of 5.0 for all grades.

WIDA applied more rigorous “attemptedness” criteria in 2016-17.

  • In prior years, non-attempts got a minimum score if the students did not interact with the test.

  • Upon advice from their technical advisory committee, WIDA determined that it was likely inappropriate to provide a score for a student who had not engaged with the test enough for them to measure the student’s abilities.

  • If attemptedness criteria isn’t met, students now gets no score for that domain, and thus no composite scores reliant on the domain.

  • In 2016-17, the primary domain impacted by the attemptedness criteria was speaking. Note: Upon investigation, the majority of speaking tests that did not meet the attemptedness criteria captured background noise, indicating the the microphone was working.

Additional Information


ACCESS for ELLs Page

Finding Prior Years ACCESS Scores and ELP Codes on WISEdata Portal and WISEdash for Districts mini tutorial

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