Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources

TDOE Releases 2018 English Learner Assessment Results

Number of Students Meeting Growth Standards Increased Even With More Students Taking Assessment
Wednesday, October 03, 2018 | 10:00am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen today released the 2018 English language proficiency assessment (ELPA) results from the WIDA ACCESS assessment. The scores show that nearly 50 percent of English learners who took the test met their growth standard in 2018, up from 45.5 percent in 2017, while hundreds more students took the test this year. Additionally, 64 school districts – about 48 percent – increased the percent of students meeting the growth standard from 2017 to 2018, compared to only 43 districts from 2016 to 2017.

“Tennessee students speak more than 140 languages, and it is our responsibility to ensure all of these students are supported in both their English language development and in their academic growth,” Commissioner McQueen said. “These results show encouraging progress and that what we are doing to support our students is working. In Tennessee, we are committed to the growth and development of all students, and through our continued efforts we will be able to better support our English learners.”

All students who qualify for English learner (EL) services take the WIDA ACCESS assessment each spring until they reach proficiency in English. This assessments looks to make sure EL students are developing in their understanding and mastery of the English language, and similar to the state assessment, provides an apples-to-apples point of comparison across Tennessee. The key metric the department looks at is the percent of students meeting the growth standard. This standard is a realistic, ambitious target that is set based on a student’s prior year ELPA score, which also accounts for our state’s goal that all students exit EL programming within 6 years.

The 2018 WIDA ACCESS scores show that six of Tennessee’s school districts had 80 percent or more students meet or exceed growth standards. Those are:

  • Alamo City Schools
  • Arlington Community Schools
  • Giles County Schools
  • Union City Schools
  • Union County Public Schools
  • Weakley County Schools


As an EL reaches high levels of English proficiency, determining when they are ready to exit from English as a second language (ESL) services is an important discussion and decision to be made between the district, educators, students, and families. Exiting from ESL services is based on a student’s proficiency in all areas of language—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. WIDA scores must support the decision to exit a student.

Across the state, 17.6 percent of ELs met the exit criteria on the WIDA ACCESS assessment in 2018, up from 16.8 percent of ELs in 2017. The scores for 2018 also show that seven of Tennessee’s school districts had 40 percent or more students meet the exit criteria. Those are:

  • Collierville Schools
  • Elizabethton City Schools
  • Germantown Municipal School District
  • Union City Schools
  • Union County Schools
  • Weakley County Schools
  • Williamson County Schools

In Tennessee, schools are expected to meet the needs of all students, and those who are furthest behind and have been historically underserved must be prioritized. Further, Tennessee’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan, which is a continuation of the department’s strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, outlines supports for ELs as they are developing English language acquisition skills and academic skills. The department has set a goal that by the 2024-25 school year, 75 percent of English learners will meet the appropriate growth standard on WIDA ACCESS.

To support this work, starting this school year all ELs are required to have an individual learning plan (ILP), a document that details the strategies, accommodations, and goals to be implemented daily in the classroom in order to help ELs be successful. To support this work, the department has developed a framework that outlines supports for ELs and provided the ESL Manual to offer guidance for teachers and administrators who are working to improve outcomes. The department has also sought to ensure these resources and training opportunities are not just utilized by ESL teachers, but by all of the students an English learner may interact with throughout the school day.

For information about English learner programs, contact Jan Lanier, director of EL, immigrant and migrant programs, at For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast, director of communications, at (615) 532-6260 or