MERC Publications

Document Type


Original Publication Date



Part of a series of policy and practice-briefs prepared by MERC's English Learner Research and Evaluation Team

Date of Submission

April 2021


Since the implementation of The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), all students identified as English learners (ELs) in U.S. public schools have been required to take an annual assessment of English language proficiency (ELP) for federal accountability. Virginia and many other state education agencies (SEAs) use the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs© test (ACCESS), not only to comply with this mandate, but also to inform a variety of high-stakes decisions for EL instruction, such as determining when multilingual learners have reached English proficiency, deciding about Language Instruction Educational Program (LIEP) entry and exit, informing classroom instruction and assessment, monitoring year-to-year student progress, deciding on staffing levels, and evaluating teachers. Despite the test’s long history, widespread adoption, multiple uses, and costs, few independent evaluations of the test have been conducted; however, study of Virginia EL teachers raised questions about the reliability of ACCESS and the validity of decisions based on the test scores. In light of these questions, considerations and recommendations for the administration of ACCESS and use of scores in high-stakes decision-making are presented.

Is Part Of

VCU MERC Publications

Included in

Education Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.