Monday, December 2, 2013

Do You Have Something to Share?

Those aren't usually the words someone wants to hear in a classroom, unless you're talking about sharing a lesson plan!

Technology DOES make it easier to share, and now WIDA can help, with our Lesson Plan Share Space contest. Upload a lesson plan in WIDA’s Lesson Plan Share Space contest and be entered to win a $100 gift card, just in time for holiday shopping for your classroom, your family, or yourself! The grand prize winner will be chosen this Friday, December 6.

The Lesson Plan Share Space is located in the Get Involved! section of the WIDA website ( Good luck!

Image via Creative Commons:

Friday, November 22, 2013

It has been a blast!

When I heard WIDA was hiring a blogger two years ago, I was eager to throw my hat in the ring. I applied and was thrilled when I got the job. Since then, I have enjoyed learning about the amazing things that educators across the Consortium are doing on behalf of English language learners.

My first month on the job, only 681 people read a post. But this blog quickly took on a life of its own and has surpassed my expectations. Now, over one hundred educators follow the blog and countless more have subscribed by email and RSS feed. In October 2013, over 10,700 people visited the WIDA blog.

But the time has come for me to pass this blog project on to someone else. I will still be around, conducting workshops for WIDA and the Illinois Resource Center. I may even return as a guest blogger from time to time. However, I will no longer be blogging weekly. It has been a pleasure, and I hope our paths cross again!

Written by: Tammy King


Monday, November 11, 2013

New Resource to Understand Your Students’ Growth on ACCESS


There's something you might not know about me. I'm a data nerd. My heart skips a beat at the thought of pretty charts and bar graphs. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that WIDA was putting together some new resources to help districts and schools look at systems-level patterns in their ACCESS for ELLs data. I was even more excited when they let me take a sneak peak at the materials earlier this fall. I couldn't wait until they were released so I could tell you about them. So, here it goes. Buckle your data seatbelts!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Do You Have a Favorite Lesson to Share?

Hey, ELL Teachers! 

Win an Amazon gift certificate to purchase books or supplies for your classroom! WIDA announces the return of the Lesson Plan Share Space Contest.
The Lesson Plan Share Space is a community space where you can upload lesson plans or search for other example lessons to support your ELL students in language and content learning.

A few recent contest submissions include, "Inferring Feelings using the book The War With Grandpa" for 4th graders,  "Vincent Van Gogh: His Life and Artistic Principles in his Work," for grades 9-12, "Migration Stories" for grades 3-8, and "The Progressive Era," for the 6th grade classroom.

Upload a lesson plan and be entered into a weekly drawing to win a $25 Amazon gift card. A winner will be drawn each Friday and a final drawing for a $100 gift card will occur on December 6.

The Lesson Plan Share Space is located in the Get Involved! section of the WIDA website (

Enter now, enter often! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Welcome, Tennessee!

Last week Tennessee adopted the WIDA ELD Standards for use in their schools. We are excited to introduce the WIDA ELD Standards to Tennessee educators! 

There are currently three states that use the standards but not the ACCESS for ELLs test. Those states are Tennessee, Idaho and South Carolina.

If you are in Tennessee or are new to the standards, here are a few blog posts to get you started:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

FREE Online Course on CCSS and ELLs

Interested in learning more about the role language plays in the Common Core State Standards?
Are you currently teaching ELLs or have access to a classroom with ELLs?
Do you have two hours to spare for the next seven weeks? 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dr. Kathy Escamilla will be Saturday’s Keynote Speaker

The final keynote speaker for next week's conference will be Dr. Kathy Escamilla from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She will be speaking on Saturday morning, October 19, 2013 at 8:30am.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Friday’s Keynote Lineup

The countdown has begun to WIDA's first ever national conference. In anticipation of the event, we are taking a look at each of the keynote speakers. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings at the National WIDA Conference on October 17, 2013

Somewhere along your path to becoming a teacher you have probably heard the terms culturally relevant teaching or culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP). The terms are interchangeable and refer to teachers' abilities to adapt their instruction so that it is responsive to their students' diverse cultures. For a quick refresher on CRP, I recommend watching this online video from Teaching Tolerance. It provides a quick introduction to culturally responsive pedagogy, tangible and intangible culture, the importance of CRP, and the difference between race and culture. I also recommend a second video because it talks about how culturally competent teachers approach their students. I particularly appreciated the explanation of what culturally competent teachers do and what they don't do to successfully teach their students.
Now that you have refreshed your memory on CRP, let me virtually introduce you to the woman who started it all.       

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcoming Utah to WIDA!

 This summer has been a time of growth at WIDA. Most recently, Utah joined the Consortium. Some time ago Utah adopted the WIDA ELD Standards for use in their classrooms. But now Utah is an official consortium member. That means that this school year, Utah educators will be giving the ACCESS for ELLs assessment for the first time. 

Earlier this month I suggested a few blog posts for new consortium members. Click here to check those out.  

If you are interested in knowing more about the 33 members of the WIDA Consoritum, check out this page.

Written by: Tammy King


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Free Online Score Calculators

August means that most of us are gearing up for the school year to start. Each new school year brings new students who need to be screened for English as a Second Language and/or bilingual services. Screening begins with some type of Home Language Survey that parents fill out during registration. The next step typically involves an assessment of English language proficiency. As members of the WIDA Consortium, you likely use either the MODEL or W-APT to assess your new students' English language proficiency.

Occasionally I run into educators who are unaware of the free online score report calculators that WIDA offers. By using these online score calculators, you can expect to save a great deal of time and trouble.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Welcome Michigan and South Carolina!

Last month the WIDA Consortium welcomed two new states.
Michigan became the 32nd member of the Consortium. This means that Michigan educators will begin administering the ACCESS for ELLs assessment during the 2013-14 school year. You might remember that Michigan adopted the WIDA ELD Standards in January 2013.  Since most of us haven't returned to school yet, it's a great time to read up on the ACCESS for ELLs assessmentHere are a few blog posts to get you started:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Incorporating Blog Posts into Professional Development

A number of years ago I was in charge of a rather large ESL and bilingual program. I often struggled with ways to share effective practices, tips, and ideas with my teachers across our various buildings. They were busy people and I knew I couldn't add more to their plate. I am mentioning this to you because I was reminded of this dilemma recently. I was speaking with a group of educators, and one of them asked me some questions. Rather than bend her ear for several minutes, I referred her to some blog posts on that very topic. Soon a number of others asked for the links. They realized the potential of sharing these short blog posts with their colleagues. The conversation turned a bit and we found ourselves discussing the merits of regularly sharing relatively small amounts of text with our colleagues via blog posts, short articles, etc.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Computerized English Language Proficiency Assessments around the Corner

Summertime is my time to slow down, breath and catch up on some of my reading and personal professional development. To that end, I sat in on two webinars at the end of June. I have already told you about the first webinar here.  Today I would like to share with you an overview of the second webinar and what it means to those of us in the WIDA Consortium. It was called Next-Generation English Language Proficiency Assessments. It was produced by the Alliance for Excellence in Education, and it's archived here
The webinar featured a panel of speakers, including Timothy Boals, WIDA's Executive Director; Gary Cook, WIDA's Research Director; Robert Linquanti, Project Director for English Learner Evaluation and Accountability Support from WestEd and Kathleen Vanderwall, Manager, Test Design and Administration at the Oregon State Department of Education. The webinar focused on the need for, and creation of, a new generation of English language proficiency assessments at the national level. Since the majority of you are working in WIDA Consortium states, I will focus on the next generation of the ACCESS for ELLs assessment. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Common Core Standards, Digital Learning…and ELLs?

In late June, I sat in on a webinar produced by the Alliance for Excellent Education called “Converging Opportunities: Common Core State Standards and Digital Learning.”  Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with this organization prior to hearing about the webinar.  But I am interested in learning more about the work that they do and the resources that they provide for educators across the nation. 

Essentially the webinar consisted of three panelists representing different school districts across the nation.  It is now archived here Each district represented was at a different point in the shift towards CCSS.  The first panelist was Lisa Andrejko, the superintendent from Quakertown Community School District.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Resources and Reflections on Migrant Education Programs



"Our migrant children ...

they are our only hope ...
Like seedlings, they have been sown in your school.
It is our wish they blossom into harvests of hope."
-Author unknown


Source: Illinois Migrant Education Program brochure

This time of year most teachers are packing up their classrooms and beginning their summer vacations. But a number of educators around the country are unpacking boxes, setting up their summer programs, and welcoming new children into their classrooms right now. But these are no ordinary summer school programs. The teachers I am talking about are those working in migrant education programs. 

Each year thousands of children and their families move in order to work in the agricultural or fishing industries. Collectively, these families are considered migrant agricultural workers.  For many migrant children, their life experiences are impacted by substandard housing, poor nutrition, low wages and seasonal work. Repeatedly moving in order to find employment can impact students' academic achievement. Therefore, the goal of migrant education programs is to reduce the impact of these issues on the children's education. Illinois alone identified over 1,700 children through its Migrant Education Program during the 2011-2012 school year.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Posts from the First 18 Months

It is hard to believe but 18 months ago today, I made my first post on the WIDA blog. Since then, more and more people have discovered the WIDA blog. As of today, over 72,000 people have visited this site. But there are many educators who are still unaware that this blog exists. So to celebrate, take a look at the top 10 posts so far. Reread some of your favorites. Check out a new post. Then, share a link with your colleagues. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

CoCoMo Lessons Learned and Information Shared One Year Later


Today's blog is a follow-up to an earlier post where Paula Merchant described her experiences participating in the Common Core and More Institute. Today Paula shares some of the lessons that she and her team have learned one year later.
One Year Later

Monday, April 22, 2013

This Friday - Free RtI² for ELLs Webinar!

I am excited to tell you that WIDA will be offering a free webinar this Friday, April 26, 2013 on one of the hottest topics in our work with English language learners (ELLs).  The webinar will be about how we as educators respond to ELLs that are experiencing difficulties in school. 

This webinar will be presented by Cristina Sanchez-Lopez and Laurie Donnell, the lead developers of the WIDA RtI² for ELLs document.  It will be interactive.  Participants will learn about seven important factors in understanding ELLs’ development, and they will have a chance to complete a sample screening protocol that will assist schools and districts in gathering data along these critical factors.  Participants will also view real examples from school districts across the consortium while learning how WIDA tools and resources can be used within an RtI² framework. Interested in joining the webinar?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Standards Integration for ELLs: An Insider’s View

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Paula Merchant from the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL).  In the summer of 2012, Paula attended the inaugural institute on standards integration for ELLs called CoCoMo.  Today she has kindly offered to share her thoughts on the training. Take it away, Paula!  

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Insider’s View on Being a LADDER Coach

Recently I told you about the LADDER project at WIDA. This week I wanted to share with you what it is like to actually participate in the LADDER training. Cathy Fox graciously offered to share her experiences with us. Cathy is a model ESL teacher at Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Central Falls, Rhode Island. During the 2010-2011 school year her district participated in a pilot program for LADDER.  At that time she was introduced to the LADDER cycle of analyzing data to identify target areas of need.  Her team worked with a WIDA coach to develop an action plan to improve their area of need. The following summer Cathy was trained to be a LADDER coach for her team.

Can you tell me about your role as a coach?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Now is Your Chance to Become an Authorized CLIMBS Facilitator

Institutes authorize individuals to facilitate trainings on WIDA products and resources. Designed for 15-25 participants, institutes are intensive and require follow-up work for authorization or certification.   The WIDA Consortium offers two types of institutes.  One is the Professional Certification for Trainers program and the other is the CLIMBS Facilitator Institute (CFI). As you might suspect, these trainings are designed for teacher trainers or professional development providers. 

Today I wanted to share with you my experiences as a CLIMBS facilitator and encourage you to bring the CLIMBS course to your area by becoming an authorized CLIMBS facilitator or sponsoring members of your staff to become facilitators. First a bit about the CLIMBS Facilitator Institute (CFI)…

Friday, March 22, 2013

Running Records and ELLs: Comprehension Considerations

It is easy for a student to come to the erroneous conclusion that reading is about quickly and correctly pronouncing words out loud.  Running records can exacerbate this misconception if teachers are not emphasizing the importance of comprehending what is read. 

The comprehension component of running records is included to help us notice how a child is being thoughtful about his reading. Evaluating or measuring comprehension is difficult for many reasons for all learners (not just ELLs). As teachers, our goal is to uncover the process of comprehension. Consider these tips the next time you give a running record to an ELL.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Running Records and ELLs: Miscue Analysis

Recently I was asked about how best to use running records with ELLs. As we know from the literacy field, running records give us a "snapshot" of a child's reading behaviors. They also help us determine a student's instructional reading level.

There are several things I'd like to encourage you to keep in mind with regards to ELLs and running records.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

LADDER: Using Data to Impact Instruction

I admit it; I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to numbers and graphs.  So the first time I heard the term “data literacy” my ears perked up.  I thought to myself, “I would love to become data literate!” As a teacher I struggled with ways to assess my students fairly.  I wanted to give them the opportunity to show me what they knew in ways that were appropriate for their level of English proficiency.  Now as a teacher trainer I am often asked about best practices in assessing ELLs.  I have witnessed a growing desire among educators to find ways to effectively use their student data.  As educators we need to continually ask ourselves:
  • What does this assessment measure?
  • What am I going to do with the information I receive from it? 
When I mention these two key questions in a workshop, educators often confess that they don’t quite know what to do with their ACCESS for ELLs data. They know that it assesses English language proficiency across the five ELD standards.  They also know what their state education agency has determined as entry and exit scores based on ACCESS. Some educators are even aware of the various scores available (for more on score reports, click here).   At the district level, teachers realize that programmatic decisions are often made using student data.  But how can we effectively use ACCESS for ELLs data to inform our instructional practices?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


The first time I heard the name WISACALD, I couldn’t help but smile.  I thought to myself, “What’s a WISACALD?” Reading my mind, Amy Christianson explained.  Amy is the OELA Grant Program Coordinator and my go-to person for questions about WISACALD.  I must say, I was immediately impressed by this innovative approach to reaching out and connecting educators of ELLs.  For those of you in Wisconsin, what a treat you have! For those of you outside Wisconsin, WISACALD might spark an idea for your state or region. 

So back to the question…what’s WISACALD?  And the answer is…

Friday, January 25, 2013

Michigan Adopts the ELD Standards

In mid-January 2013, the state of Michigan officially adopted the ELD Standards for use in their schools.  Like Utah and Idaho, Michigan will not be participating in other consortium activities.  But their teachers will be able to benefit by using the ELD standards in their lessons.  Speaking of lessons, be sure to check out the new lesson plan share space.  For those of us who have been in the consortium for years and are skilled at infusing the ELD standards into our lessons, this website will be a wonderful place to showcase our work.  For those new to teaching ELLs or new to the consortium, the lesson sharing site will be a wonderful resource.  If you upload a lesson between now and March 1, 2013, you will automatically be entered into a drawing for Amazon gift cards.  For more information on the contest, click here.

Written by: Tammy King




Friday, January 18, 2013

Share a Lesson and Be Entered into a Drawing for Amazon Gift Cards

Have your eye on some new supplies for your classroom?  Thinking about buying a new book?  WIDA is giving away one $25 Amazon gift card each week from now until March 1, 2013.  The grand prize winner will be drawn on March 1, 2013.  That person will win a $100 Amazon gift card.  So how do you enter this contest?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Working at WIDA

With so many exciting projects in the works at WIDA, it comes as no surprise that they are in need of a few new team members.   If you are passionate about educating English language learners through high quality standards, assessments, research and professional development for educators, then take a few moments to review the current job openings.  If one (or more) strikes your fancy, then review the