WIDA LADDER is a professional learning program dedicated to helping schools and districts make data-informed improvements to programing and instruction for language learners. The key features of LADDER are its focus on continuous improvement, team-coaching, and multi-disciplinary leadership teams.

The LADDER program consists of one WIDA Facilitator, who supports each district for the duration of the program, two district- or school-based LADDER Coaches who lead a multi-disciplinary team of five to eight LADDER Leadership Team members. Through this approach, LADDER promotes long-term, sustainable professional learning assisted by 14 months of WIDA program support.

Program Deliverables:

  • LADDER Coaching Institute for LADDER coaches in Madison, WI
  • 1 Pre-Program Virtual Meeting with the WIDA Facilitator and LADDER Coaches
  • Monthly Coaching Calls with the WIDA Facilitator and LADDER Coaches
  • Monthly meetings with the LADDER Leadership Team lead by the LADDER Coach
  • 4 professional learning workshops for the LADDER Leadership Team at your district, up to 32 participants
  • Pre-workshop meeting between the WIDA Facilitator and LADDER Coaches
  • Post-workshop debriefs for LADDER Coaches


“The knowledge we gained has completely changed our approach to lesson planning and instruction.”

— 2014-2015 LADDER Coach

The LADDER mission is to develop the capacity of district and school leaders to develop their capacity to use data to sustain the continuous improvement of programming, instruction, and assessment of their language learners. WIDA LADDER was developed through a five-year professional development grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of English Language Acquisition. 

The overarching mission of LADDER is to improve programming and instruction for language learners through data-informed decisions, is accomplished through the following program goals:

  • Build capacity of LADDER Coaches (typically district language specialists) through a comprehensive coaching program. This professional learning helps them guide and support LADDER Leadership Teams (multi-disciplinary district- or school-based teams of educators). The coaching model involves team coaching (not instructional coaching).
  • Develop and support a process of continuous reflection on data that is used to identify strengths and needs and to implement an action plan focused on language learners.
  • Provide ongoing, high quality, in-person and web-based professional learning to LADDER Coaches and LADDER Leadership Teams on data literacy and improvement planning.
  • Provide access to various resources that help promote sustainability and build capacity of LADDER Coaches and LADDER Leadership Teams.
  • Improve access to educational opportunities for language learners by expanding and replicating the process across districts and schools.


“LADDER is unique compared to other data-driven initiatives. Here, the teachers collect all the data. Our personal experiences incorporated with the data makes it much more meaningful.”

— 2013-2014 LADDER Coach

In 2007, WIDA received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition to build the capacity of educators to systematically use data for improving programming and instruction for language learners. This resulted in the creation of LADDER (Literacy in Assessment and Data Designed for Effective Results) for ELLs.

The design of WIDA LADDER is informed by evidence from key research areas including data-informed decision making, team leadership, professional learning, language development, and coaching.

PDF — LADDER Foundations (coming soon)

PDF — LADDER Bibliography (coming soon)

“I’m just looking back at the last two years and how we started the LADDER process. Looking at the data first was so eye opening for our group. You know exactly where your ELL kids were scoring and how many kids were at different levels. Our findings started to steer our team where we wanted to go.”

— 2013-2014 LADDER Coach