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Formative Assessments

Formative Assessments

The purpose of the Formative Assessments section:

This section contains resources to guide educators in creating and implementing formative language assessments. In addition to annual language proficiency assessments, it is important that educators assess and monitor the language progress of their students over the course of a school year. Resources provided are tools that educators may use to develop their own formative language assessments aligned to their programming, purpose, and context.

Jump to a Resource:


Supplemental  Resources:

WIDA Resources:

WIDA Speaking Rubric for Kindergarten

Suggestion for Use: The WIDA Speaking Rubric for Kindergarten helps educators understand what kindergarten students' speaking sounds like at various levels of English language proficiency. Educators may use this rubric for three primary purposes:

  • Understanding kindergarten ACCESS for ELLs Speaking scores
  • Analyze student speaking
  • Plan ways to scaffold language learning

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2021). WIDA Speaking Rubric Kindergarten (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research which partnered with The Center for Applied Linguistics.

WIDA Speaking Rubric for Grades 1-12

Suggestion for Use: The WIDA Speaking Rubric for Grades 1-12 helps educators understand what students' speaking sounds like at various levels of English language proficiency. Educators may use this rubric for three primary purposes:

  • Understand ACCESS for ELLs Speaking scores
  • Analyze student speaking samples
  • Plan ways to scaffold language learning

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA Speaking Rubric Grades 1-12 (PDF) 1-12 (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

WIDA Writing Rubric for Kindergarten

Suggestion for Use: The WIDA Writing Rubric for Kindergarten helps educators understand what students' writing looks like at various levels of English language proficiency. Educators may use this rubric for three primary purposes:

  • Understand ACCESS for ELLs Writing scores
  • Analyze student writing samples
  • Plan ways to scaffold language learning

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA Writing Rubric Kindergarten (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research which partnered with The Center for Applied Linguistics.

WIDA Writing Rubric for Grades 1-12

Suggestion for Use: The WIDA Writing Rubric for Grades 1-12 helps educators understand what students' writing looks like at various levels of English language proficiency. Educators may use this rubric for three primary purposes:

  • Understand ACCESS for ELLs Writing scores
  • Analyze student writing samples
  • Plan ways to scaffold language learning

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA Writing Rubric Grades 1-12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Grade K WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing)

Suggestion for Use: Grade K WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on page 59, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grade K WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grade K WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on page 58, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grade 1 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing)

Suggestion for Use: Grade 1 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on page 81, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grade 1 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grade 1 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on page 80, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF)

Grades 2-3 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 2-3 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on page 103, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 2-3 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 2-3 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on page 102, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 4-5 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 4-5 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on pages 137-138, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 4-5 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 4-5 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on page 136, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 6-8 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing

Suggestion for Use: Grades 6-8 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on pages 174-175, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 6-8 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 6-8 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on pages 172-173, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 9-12 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 9-12 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Expressive Communication Mode (Speaking, Writing, and Representing), found on pages 212-213, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Grades 9-12 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing)

Suggestion for Use: Grades 9-12 WIDA Proficiency Level Descriptors (PLDs) for the Interpretive Communication Mode (Listening, Reading, and Viewing), found on pages 210-211, support educators in identifying how English learners might develop language across levels of language proficiency in moving toward meeting Language Expectations (unit and lesson goals). Although language development is not always linear, the PLDs illustrate how, when appropriate scaffolds are provided, students move through the language proficiency levels. PLDs may be used to:

  • Support teacher and student discussions around language performance
  • Set individual student language goals
  • Get ideas for linguistic supports at the next proficiency level
  • Help design and differentiate classroom instruction and assessment
  • Progress monitor language growth over time
  • Evaluate evidence from student work (portfolio of speaking and writing samples) as part of an eligibility process for special services

Should Not Be Used: The PLDs should not be used as the only example of student abilities, to limit access to grade level materials or participation in rigorous learning, or as the sole evidence in high stakes decision making, such as identification for special education services. For more information, see page 34.

Citation: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, Kindergarten - Grade 12 (PDF) (Publication). Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison


Supplemental Resources:

Unpacking Academic Language Chart

Suggestion for Use: This graphic organizer, taken from page 106, may be used as a tool to guide educators through determining the language demands of their content instruction. Once the language demands of a particular topic, text, assignment, etc. are defined, educators can use this tool to create instructional goals and to assess whether or not students are meeting the intended language goals.

Citation: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2016) Next Generation ESL Project: Curriculum Resource Guide (PDF) (Publication). Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Focusing Formative Assessment on the Needs of English Language Learners

Suggestion for Use: This article examines how formative assessment can enhance the teaching and learning of English learners. It highlights the opportunities and challenges inherent in integrating formative assessment into instruction for English learners. (Adapted from Alvarez, Ananda, Walqui, Sato, & Rabinowitz, 2014)

Citation: Alvarez, L., Ananda, S., Walqui, A., Sato, E., & Rabinowitz, S. (2014). Focusing formative assessment on the needs of English language learners (PDF) . San Francisco: WestEd.