From WCS inFocus
TNReady, the ACT and end of semester exams are all familiar tests to the students and families of Williamson County Schools. Another test, WIDA’s ACCESS for English Language Learners (ELs) is less familiar but no less important. This year, the students who took the exam knocked it out of the park.
The ACCESS test measures the proficiency of the ELs as well as improvement for ELs who have been in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program for at least two years. If students achieve a certain proficiency level, they are able to exit the ESL program and continue with the general education curriculum offered in the school.
Normally, around 25 percent of ELs in the district earn high enough on the test to exit the program. This year, 42 percent of ELs scored high enough to exit the program.
“We got our score reports back this year, and 42 percent is just astounding, “said WCS ESL Curriculum Supervisor Joseph Whinery. “It means that we have moved a lot of kids above where the state has drawn that exit criteria line.”
The increase in students achieving exit-level scores partly comes from a different approach to ESL in the schools, Whinery said. Instead of placing all responsibility on the ESL specialist who works hands-on with the students, all teachers are part of the learning process.
“Most of our ESL specialists go to two different schools, especially at the elementary level, so they are only there for a portion of the day,” Whinery said. “Our general education colleagues are seeing that these kids all day long. We’ve got more resources, we’ve got more training with our general education folks. The communication between our ESL specialists and our general education teachers is a lot better.”