A number of advocacy groups have called on President-elect Joe Biden’s education transition team to amend the requirements for the in-person WIDA Access exam for English Language Learners. The request comes due to the potential risks associated with such gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“No student should be forced to choose between their health and well-being, or taking a test that will determine their proficiency in learning the English language, especially during an unprecedented pandemic,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a press release.
In a letter submitted by members of the League of United Latin American Citizens, National Association for Bilingual Education and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (among others), advocates urged the team to issue guidance to state and local education agencies to ensure the safety of the students slated to take the English proficiency test given to ELLs each year. They also requested that an “opt-out protocol” be devised such that no student in remote learning would face adverse consequences for not taking in-person exams during the 2020-2021 school year.
According to Education Week, states are required to assess English proficiency under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and could lose funding if they do not meet the federal testing requirements. More than 30 states use the WIDA Access test to fulfill this purpose, however WIDA has yet to offer a remote version of the test due to concerns over whether or not a remote test would provide a valid assessment of students’ proficiency. In the letter to Biden’s education transition team, advocates asked that the Department of Education not penalize any state or local education agencies that cannot administer the required testing due to Covid-19 safety protocol.
“These tests can wait. Students of color who comprise the vast majority of English learner students have already been disadvantaged by remote learning and are under immense levels of stress. We cannot accurately gauge their progress right now by forcing them into schools that have been closed due to health risks,” Hinojosa said.