This study examined the ways in which educators across the WIDA Consortium use WIDA’s English language proficiency standards, and in particular the model performance indicators (MPIs). Thirty-nine educators from 14 districts across seven of WIDA’s states participated in the study. These states include Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Data for the study was collected between January 2012 and March 2013, and the findings reflect the use of the 2007 edition of the standards. The research revealed that the main factors that influence language educators’ use of the standards are their experience as English as a Second Language teachers and their knowledge of language development, as well as the opportunities available to them to unpack content standards and write their own performance indicators. The only ESL teachers who were able to take full advantage of the standards as a resource (by transforming model performance indicators and using the strands they create to guide their instruction) have had repeated opportunities to work with the standards over multiple years. ESL teachers use the WIDA standards because they provide (a) guidance on how teachers can support the academic language development of students with dissimilar language strengths and needs, (b) tools for formatively assessing academic language development and setting language development goals, (c) a sense of prestige and accountability, and (d) confirmation of key principles that teachers use to guide their language instruction.
The study reveals that it is primarily language professionals, not general education teachers, who use the Can Do Descriptors and Model Performance Indicators (MPIs) included in the ELD Standards, which raises the question about difficulties non-language specialists might encounter when using them. The study reports, "The only ESL teachers who were able to take full advantage of the standards as a resource (by transforming model performance indicators and using the strands they create to guide their instruction) have had repeated opportunities to work with the standards over multiple years." Improved access to training on the MPIs, MPI-based unit and lesson planning tools, and formal opportunities for collaboration are recommended next steps.