Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Valerie J. Robnolt, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jesse Senechal, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Hillary Parkhouse, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Laura Kuti, Ph.D.


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandated that the English acquisition of all students identified as English learners be assessed annually using high-stakes standardized English language proficiency tests, and the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 continues this testing mandate. The WIDA ACCESS for ELLs® has been used for this and other purposes since 2005, and has been adopted by 40 State Education Agencies, including the Virginia Department of Education. However, despite the long-standing and widespread use of this assessment, no comprehensive independent evaluations of the test have been conducted. This mixed-methods study is a conceptual replication of a previous study evaluating the validity of a similar high-stakes standardized English language proficiency test. Using a Broad Validity Framework that considered the test’s reliability, criterion validity, and consequential validity, the study surveyed and interviewed Virginia teachers of English as a second language on their perspectives on the test. Findings suggest that while some teachers believe some sort of test is warranted for accountability and informing decisions, there are many threats to the validity of decisions based on test scores, including potential sources of construct-irrelevant variance, issues with technology associated with the online version of the test, the lapse of time between test administration and the receipt of scores, and questions regarding student motivation and test-taking effort. Furthermore, the study suggests the test has unintended consequences, including negative emotional impacts for teachers and students and a loss of instructional time. Because of questions raised regarding the reliability and validity of the test, study findings suggest the use of multiple measures in high-stakes decision-making for English learners. Furthermore, findings affirm the value of a consideration of teacher input in test evaluations.


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