The Ellevation team was proud to be a part of the 2015 National WIDA Conference that took place last week in Las Vegas. This was our 4th WIDA conference, and while the conferences have grown a lot in attendance, one important thing has remained consistent: this conference attracts serious educators from all corners of the country who are deeply engaged in the collective work of educating ELLs. We are proud and privileged to support their work.
Like last year, we left the conference with our heads full of ideas about the coming year. In the spirit of continuing the many great conversations that we had around our booth and the swimming pool, below are a few observations from this year’s conference - we welcome your comments and feedback!
The rollout of ACCESS 2.0 will be the big story of 2015/16. Educators are looking forward to ACCESS 2.0 and the many benefits that online tests will provide, including an easier test ordering process and personalized adaptive assessment. And while technology concerns came up in conversation, there are reasons to think that WIDA is well positioned for a complex rollout: several educators mentioned how pleased they were with the online Listening section last year, and WIDA’s operations team has had the benefit of watching and learning from recent online CCSS assessment deployments. But there are a lot of variables, and much still to learn about new Can Dos, online accommodations for dual-identified students, the role of interim assessments, and much more. The folks at WIDA have a busy year ahead!
The WIDA community continues to grow with new states and ELL stakeholders. It was great to see new states like Indiana and Florida embracing the transition to WIDA standards. But it was also nice to see a broader mix of constituents engaged around ELL instruction. We spoke with plenty of classroom teachers - hello, Roanoke County! - showing that many districts are embracing the view that all teachers must become teachers of language. We also observed a more expansive focus on ELLs at sessions addressing Dual Language Learners, early literacy needs, and Family Supports. As WIDA's influence grows, more educators are mastering “the basics” and addressing a new range of issues.
“Rather than simplify language, amplify supports.” We couldn’t have said it better than Dr. Pauline Gibbons, who delivered one of the many interesting talks that emphasized the role of classroom teachers in supporting ELLs. At Ellevation, we are focused on just this idea - providing high-quality, relevant, personalized instructional strategies that can help teachers scaffold the content of their classrooms for ELLs. We were thrilled to start the conversation around our new online resource--Instructional Strategies--available next semester. Download a preview of one of our favorite Instructional Activities now!
Orion Smith designs great software - and delivers as ELLvis. Is it wrong to admit how much fun we had at the Ellevation reception? Special thanks to the amazing mariachi bands from Clark County School District that treated everyone to a special concert, and the WIDA team that organized such a special venue. We’re looking forward to next year already!
Admittedly, we were so busy during the conference that we couldn't attend every session. What were your observations? Which sessions were especially valuable? What have you brought back to your districts? Let us know and keep the #WIDA2015 spirit alive!