For teachers unfamiliar with the ELP standards, the CAN DO Descriptors provide a starting point for working with ELLs and a collaborative tool for planning. As teachers become comfortable with the Descriptors, the standards' matrices can be introduced.
The CAN DO Descriptors are also general enough to be appropriate to share with students' family members to help them understand the continuum of English language development.
The CAN DO Descriptors expand the Performance Definitions for the ELP standards by giving suggested indicators (not a definitive set) in each language domain: listening, speaking, reading and writing. More targeted than the Performance Definitions, the Descriptors have greater instructional implications; that is, the information may be used to plan differentiated lessons or unit plans. The Descriptors may also apply to ACCESS for ELLs® scores and may assist teachers and administrators in interpreting the meaning of the score reports. In addition, the Descriptors may help explain the Speaking and Writing Rubrics associated with the ELP test. A distinguishing feature of these Descriptors, although not explicitly mentioned, is the presence of sensory, graphic or interactive support, through ELP level 4, to facilitate ELLs' access to content in order to succeed in school.
The CAN DO Descriptors offer teachers and administrators working with ELLs a range of expectations for student performance within a designated ELP level of the WIDA ELP Standards.
The Descriptors are not instructional or assessment strategies, per se. They are exemplars of what ELLs may do to demonstrate comprehension in listening and reading as well as production in speaking and writing within a school setting. Unlike the strands of MPIs, the Descriptors do not scaffold from one ELP level to the next. Rather, each ELP level is to be viewed independently.
Currently, the CAN DO Descriptors are written for the entire preK-12 spectrum. Given that they are generalized across grade spans, it is important to acknowledge the variability of students' cognitive development due to age, grade level spans, diagnosed learning disabilities (if applicable) and their diversity of educational experiences. Due to maturation, expectations of young ELLs differ substantially from those of older students. These differences must be taken into account when using the Descriptors.
Presented as an oral language and literacy matrix, similar to the format of the ELP standards, the Descriptors should facilitate educators' examination of the language domains for the five levels of English language proficiency. ELP level 6, Reaching, is reserved for those students whose oral and written English is comparable to their English-proficient peers.