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EL Assessment Update: ACCESS for ELLs Test Preparation Information

To:Principals, English Learner Program Directors, ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinators, and Educational Technology Directors
From:Dan Wiener, Administrator of Inclusive Assessment
Melanie Manares, English Proficiency Assessment Coordinator
Date:November 4, 2019

New This Year — Ordering ACCESS Test Materials

Schools will not order ACCESS for ELLs test materials for their schools in October as they have in the past. Instead, the Department will pre-order tests for every school. Test materials will be pre-ordered based on each school's October SIMS data and the test formats and other accommodations used by students the previous year. If a student enrolls after the district's October SIMS submission, or if a different test is needed for a student than was pre-ordered, the school should order the appropriate test materials during the Additional Test Materials Ordering Window between January 2–31, 2020.

By December 5, DESE will post the Pre-ID files that were used to place test orders for each school in their DESE DropBox on the Security Portal. Students listed in the file will have tests ordered for them based on the October SIMS data and the test format they took last year. The accommodations used previously will also be included in the file. Schools should review these files during the test set-up window (December 5, 2019 – February 7, 2020) and make any changes needed, including the addition of new students, by downloading the file in Excel. Once changes are made, the file should be saved in csv format before uploading to WIDA AMS. Changes made in WIDA AMS will override what was pre-loaded.

Pre-ordered Accommodations

Three accommodations will be pre-ordered for students who used these last year, including:

  • Manual Control of Item Audio (MC),
  • Repeat Item Audio (RA), and
  • Extended Speaking Test Response Time (ES).

ACCESS Test Coordinators should make sure those accommodation(s) are still required and are listed (or updated) in WIDA AMS prior to testing the student.

Virtually all students are expected to take computer-based (i.e., online) tests, with the following exceptions. Paper-based tests may be provided as an accommodation if the student is either a first-year EL with no familiarity with computers, or an EL with a disability that would prevent him or her from testing on a computer. Students in grades 1–3 will take the test online but will be provided paper "handwriting" booklets in which to record their responses on the Writing test. "Handwriting" booklets will arrive with test materials shipped to your school and will include overage that should be used as needed before ordering additional materials. Additionally, paper tests will be ordered for students in Kindergarten. Students who took either the Braille test or Alternate ACCESS in 2019 will also have those test formats pre-ordered for 2020.

Test format taken in 2019Test format pre-ordered in 2020 by DESE
Paper-based ACCESSPaper-based ACCESS
Paper-based Tier APaper-based Tier B/C
BrailleBraille — Unified English Braille (UEB)
Alternate ACCESSAlternate ACCESS
None (first-year EL in 2020)Paper-based Tier A

Test Set-up

By December 5, schools may begin the process of Test Set-up, during which ACCESS Test Coordinators can verify and change test sessions, update student demographic information (including accommodations), and add students who enrolled in their school after the October SIMS count was submitted to DESE. More information on test set-up is available on pages 71–78 of the Test Administrator Manual.

Reminder for Educational Technology Directors: Retire Testing Site Manager (TSM) and Migrate to Central Office Service (COS)-Service Device

The DRC INSIGHT Testing Site Manager software application (TSM) used by schools and districts to download test content has been retired. Please ensure that your district's Educational Technology staff has successfully retired TSMs and migrated to the Central Office Service (COS) - Service Device in all local configurations. TSMs will no longer be supported, and users with a TSM in a COS Configuration will receive an error message when DRC INSIGHT is launched if TSMs have not been migrated to COS-SD.

The resources listed below provide information on the process of installing a COS Service Device and integrating this into an existing configuration using Central Office Services. These resources are available in WIDA AMS (WIDA AMS account log-in required) under All Applications>General Information>Documents>Show Documents.

  • TSM to COS Transition Video Instructions — A step by step video that outlines the transition from TSM to COS-SD.
  • COS-SD Technology User Guide — A guide that describes how to configure, install, manage, and troubleshoot DRC INSIGHT if you are using a COS-SD.
  • Tech Bulletin: TSM to COS Service Device — Summarizes the process of migrating an existing configuration from a TSM to a COS-SD.

Additional resources for Educational Technology Directors are available in the WIDA Download Library. The resources cover topics such as making the transition from TSM to COS-SD, ACCESS for ELLs Headset Specifications, Technology Readiness Checklist, and more.

Alternate ACCESS for ELLs Participation Guidelines

EL students with significant cognitive disabilities in grades 1–12 should participate in the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs only if they are also designated for the MCAS-Alt; or if they are reported in grades 1, 2, 9, 11, or 12, would participate in the MCAS-Alt if it were offered in those grades. The Alternate ACCESS for ELLs is not available for students in Kindergarten.

In order to determine whether the Alternate ACCESS for ELLs is appropriate for a student, all of the following criteria must be met:

  • The student's education is publicly funded;
  • The student is classified as EL;
  • The student has a significant cognitive disability and receives special education services;
  • The student requires extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measurable gains in the grade and age-appropriate curriculum;
  • The student is, or will be, participating in the statewide alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (i.e., the MCAS-Alt).

Please see the "Alternate ACCESS for ELLs: Participation Guidelines" in the WIDA Secure Portal Download Library for more information.

Certification Requirements for ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinators and Test Administrators

All ACCESS Test Administrators and Test Coordinators must complete the online training course(s) listed below between October 2019 and the start of testing (preferably, as close as possible to the time of testing) for the tests they will administer. See the 2019-2020 ACCESS for ELLs Checklists for more information regarding required online training modules. The 2019-2020 ACCESS for ELLs training tutorials are available in the WIDA Secure Portal by clicking on either the Paper-Based Grades 1–12 or Online Grades 1–12 tiles.

ACCESS Test Coordinator and Test Administrator Training and Certification Requirements

Computer-Based TestingPaper-Based Testing
Those who administered ACCESS tests in 2018-2019 (last year) need not requalify on the quiz. All others must pass the appropriate Administration Quiz with a score of 80% or higher. Training history is available on the WIDA Secure Portal, under the "My Training & Quiz History" tile. Training courses are available under "ACCESS for ELLs Training Courses" and "Screener Test Materials & Training" in the WIDA Secure Portal.

Recertification is required every two years.
All Test Coordinators and Test Administrators administering ACCESS for the first time must view the online training modules for computer-based (online) testing, and pass the online Administration Quiz with a score of 80% or higher.

Technology Coordinators must view the training materials and complete the checklist for Technology Coordinators, located on the WIDA Secure Portal.
All Test Coordinators and Test Administrators administering ACCESS for the first time must view the online training modules for paper-based testing and pass the online Administration Quiz with a score of 80% or higher for any of the following assessments that will be administered:

  • Group Test Administration (Listening, Reading, and Writing)
  • Speaking
  • Kindergarten
  • Alternate ACCESS for ELLs

Test Administration Resources

The following resources contain useful information regarding test preparation, management and administration. Please review them prior to and during test administration.

ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinator DESE Training Webinars

DESE will conduct webinars for new and returning ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinators this fall, according to the schedule below. Each district may register up to two participant log-ins, unless your District ACCESS for ELLs Test Coordinator received an email indicating a different number. The Department will post a recording of the webinar on the ACCESS web page approximately one week after the first New and Returning Test Coordinator presentation. The webinar for new Test Coordinators will also be posted to the WIDA MA State Page by mid-December. Prior to attending the webinar, please ensure that you have taken the online training(s) in the WIDA Secure Portal for the tests you will administer.

Dates for the webinars are:

  • November 19 1:00–2:30 p.m. (Returning Test Coordinators)
  • November 20 1:00–2:30 p.m. (Returning Test Coordinators)
  • December 5 10:00–11:30 a.m. (New Test Coordinators)
  • December 13 10:00–11:30 a.m. (Returning Test Coordinators)

Please register.

WIDA Monday Mail

Massachusetts educators who have a WIDA personal account will receive weekly emails from WIDA regarding relevant information on the instruction and assessment of ELs in Massachusetts. Please review this important information when it is sent to you. If you are not receiving these emails, please make sure your account is updated with your correct email address.

If you do not have a WIDA personal account and wish to create one for the first time, please see the Instructions for Creating WIDA Accounts on the DESE website. Those with an existing account that may be outdated may wish to update their account information in the WIDA Secure Portal. Please see the instructions page on the DESE website for information how to update your WIDA account.

Resources Available for Preparing Students to Take the Speaking Test

Students taking the ACCESS Speaking test should practice using the headset and speaking into the microphone prior to taking the test. Practice tests and guides for preparing students for online ACCESS testing are located on the WIDA website. In addition, a guide to preparing students for the Speaking test is available on the DESE website. The ACCESS for ELLs Speaking Scoring Scale, available in the WIDA Secure Portal Download library, is also useful in understanding how students will be scored on the Speaking domain. Finally, the ACCESS for ELLs: Speaking Domain, 7-23-19 webinar is another useful resource available in the WIDA Secure Portal Download Library.

For those administering the paper-based test, the Supplemental Training for the Speaking test is available within the ACCESS for ELLs Paper training course. WIDA has also made available the Speaking Test at a Glance that provides guidance for test administrators who are planning to administer the ACCESS for ELLs Paper-based Speaking Test.

WIDA Webinars

WIDA will hold monthly webinars from September 2019–March 2020. The webinar schedule, topics, and the links to join webinars are available in the WIDA Secure Portal Download Library accessed through your WIDA personal account.

Please contact Student Assessment Services with any questions about ACCESS for ELLs testing at or by phone at 781-338-3625.

Last Updated: November 4, 2019

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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