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This month, bilingual families met at Centennial School. While eating pizza and talking, families got to discuss the upcoming ACCESS test — which stands for Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State — that begins Thursday, Jan. 17.
During the meeting, students were prompted to practice the writing portion of the test, such as answering a random question with three complete sentences. Once students were done with this activity, they shared their writings and entered their name to win a $10 gift certificate to Pizza Hut.
Bilingual students will be tested in English on four domains: listening, reading, writing and speaking. According to the WIDA website, “ACCESS is taken annually by English language learners in kindergarten through 12th grade in WIDA Consortium member states,” and Illinois is one of those states. Students must get a 4.8 composite score to exit the English Language Learners (ELL) program; however, students are still monitored for growth. Throughout the year, ELL students work with an ELL teacher to better promote reading, writing, speaking and listening in English.
Sydney Toynton, an ELL teacher at Kimes School, has been practicing with her first-grade students. She has shown the students how to use headphones with a microphone to take the speaking portion of the test. She reminded students she can help them with any computer problems, but the students must work independently to complete the test.
Kindergarten students complete the test one-on-one with a teacher. First- through third-grade students complete the reading, speaking and listening portion of the test on the computer but complete the writing portion on paper. Higher grades complete the entire test on the computer.
Because there are many portions, students cannot complete the test in one day. It typically takes four 40-minute sessions of testing. Scores will be reported in May to be shared with teachers and families.
The meeting this month taught families how to interpret the scores.
Learning a second language can be difficult. Bilingual students often have to translate information in their minds before answering a question. Therefore, bilingual students need more wait time to process information. They also might need picture clues or more opportunities to learn new vocabulary words. However, bilingual students are typically good problem-solvers as they have to often figure out ways to communicate in English properly. They also have many job opportunities in the future being bilingual.