PRIORITY NOTICE: Maine DOE announces change in English learner reclassifications

Maine DOE has changed English learner reclassifications to Overall Composite Proficiency Level Score of 5 or greater on ACCESS 2.0.

Maine recently received its 2016-17 ACCESS 2.0 for ELLs scores and many of our English learners scored at proficiency levels lower than expected. This is because of a process that established new expectations for what scale score students must achieve in order to reach each proficiency level.

WIDA explains as follows: “The changes to students’ ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 proficiency level scores reflect the increased language demands of college and career readiness standards. WIDA raised the bar for language proficiency and students needed to showcase higher language skills in 2016–2017 to achieve the same proficiency level scores (1.0–6.0) in previous years. This is the result of a process to determine the student performance required for each proficiency level through a series of decisions made for each grade level by expert panels of teachers as well as district and state English language learner administrators.”

The following bullets are intended to clarify what has changed and what has not:

  • The ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 test questions did not get more difficult.
  • The scoring of the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 domains did not change.
  • The same performance on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 in 2015-16 and in 2016-17 would also result in the same scale score.
  • The only change is in the scale score required to achieve each proficiency level (1-6).
  • At each level, in 2016-17, the student needed to achieve a higher scale score to reach a given proficiency level.
  • In other words, the same performance in 2015-16 and in 2016-17 would result in the same scale score, but the proficiency level score would be higher in 2015-16 than in 2016-17.
  • If parents or teachers want to know if a child’s English language proficiency improved from 2015-16 to 2016-17, they should compare the scale scores across the two years, but not the proficiency level scores.

The exit criterion in Maine has always been rigorous. We are currently the only state that requires a 6.0 proficiency score on the overall composite. After looking at our 2016-17 data, it is apparent that the 6.0 exit criterion is too high given the new cutscores for proficiency levels. We have therefore changed Maine’s exit criteria to a 5.0 proficiency level score. The 5.0 proficiency level in 2016-17 is similar to the 6.0 proficiency level in earlier years.

You may find the following materials helpful:

Direct questions about ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 and the educational or English language acquisition services for English learners to Nancy Mullins, Maine DOE ESL/Bilingual Programs, at (207) 624-6788.