Obtaining Necessary Parity through Academic Rigor (ONPAR), in development at
WIDA is working to develop and implement accessible and valid criterion-referenced assessments on academic content standards for beginning English language learners (ELLs) that could be used for accountability purposes to meet the requirements of federal law. The first two ONPAR assessments are in the subject areas of Science and Mathematics.
In some states, a percentage of ELLs—generally those in the beginning to intermediate levels of English language proficiency—do not participate in state academic assessments. In other states, beginning level ELLs participate in alternative forms of academic assessment or they take the identical large-scale state tests given to English-proficient students, except with accommodations. However, the full, meaningful participation of ELLs in assessments for academic accountability has proven difficult and has yet to be achieved.
The ONPAR project encompasses the following 5 goals: (a) develop a prototype of standards-based assessment instruments designed to measure the academic achievement of beginning ELLs; (b) conduct scientifically sound research to create a valid, reliable, fair, and comparable assessment; (c) through research, explore links between English language proficiency and academic achievement and chart student progress over time; (d) disseminate information about this No Child Left Behind-compliant, standards-based academic assessment and the results of related research; and (f) collaborate with states, institutions of higher education (IHEs), and other experts to meet all goals.
In 2006, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), on behalf of WIDA, received an Enhanced Assessment Grant to develop ONPAR-Science. ONPAR-Science will give students a more linguistically and culturally appropriate assessment tool than any paper-and-pencil state test. It will give beginning ELLs opportunities to show what they know and can do through multiple modalities. Namely, they will have opportunities for web-based audio, visual, and text-based prompts and response modes that do not rely on traditional multiple choice items with a heavy English reading load. ONPAR-Science will be developed to assess elementary (Grade 4), middle (Grade 8) and high school (Grade 11) science knowledge.
In 2007, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), on behalf of WIDA, received an Enhanced Assessment Grant to develop ONPAR-Mathematics. This assessment will be administered to elementary (Grade 3), middle (grade 7) and high school (Grade 11) beginning ELLs.
WIDA will create items and tasks that are accessible to beginning ELLs and that offer response options that allow them to demonstrate academic achievement because linguistic challenges have been either eliminated or significantly reduced due to the proposed test's innovative web-based format.
ONPAR-High School Science
In 2009, the Virginia State Department of Education, on behalf of WIDA, received an Enhanced Assessment Grant to develop ONPAR-High School Science. WIDA and its partners, CAL and Pacific Metrics, will be developing and pilot testing an assessment of complex biology and chemistry knowledge for all high school students and especially those with beginning English language proficiency. The assessments will address an integrated set of state science standards and can be used for end of semester benchmark tests. The computer-based test items use less language and more graphics and animations than traditional test items and some of the cognitively complex interactive items will use differential algorithms to present sequenced items based on student responses. ONPAR-High School Science seeks to identify the important research issues involved in ensuring that its test items perform comparably to those on states' benchmark science assignments.
For more information please visit the ONPAR website.