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Why you shouldn’t call them the WIDA "Standards"

One thing that I think EL teachers need to get better at is explaining our profession. However, one of the largest organizations for teaching English, WIDA, doesn’t make it easy when they decided to call their framework of instructional tools, “standards”.

What is WIDA?
WIDA stands for the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment. It’s a consortium of states who have agreed to adopt the assessments and standards put out by this group, which is based out of Madison, WI. According to the WIDA website, 37 states have adopted these standards.

So, what are the standards? Specifically, the WIDA “standards” are 5 broadly defined statements about what language learners are expected to do.

5 WIDA ELD standards from the 2012 ELD Guide (Amplified)

Many teachers who hear the word “standards” compare this with their own state standards and say, “HUH?” To be completely honest, at first I did as well. But that was because I also heard the word standards and was only looking at those 5 items while writing lesson plans. Simple enough. Right? Wrong. WIDA is so much more than just these 5 blanket statement standards. It’s an entire framework of scaffolding tools to support students in learning the same, high quality content everyone else is learning.

To start with, there are the Can-Do descriptors, which tell you what a student can be expected to do at the level they are at in learning English. There are the Model Performance Indicators, which utilize the Can-Do descriptors to help scaffold a lesson for each level of language in each domain of language you have in a given classroom. WIDA has also expanded on these items over the years and added many more to help teachers design lessons and assessments that reach all learners, especially those who need help understanding the language.

Example of the WIDA Can-Do Descriptors (Key Uses) Edition
Again, WIDA is not designed to tell you what to teach students, but how to teach at their level. It’s a series of tools that help us assess where kids are at, and meet them there with our everyday instruction instead of letting them watch videos, doodle, or wander the halls while we teach our mainstream students. 
Calling what WIDA has “standards” is a huge misnomer and a giant mistake if we want people to understand what we do. Let’s stop saying that we have our own standards to teach because we really don’t. We have the exact same state standards every other teacher has. We just have the tools and know how to ensure every student can learn what is being taught. 

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