The Best Headset Choices for WIDA Testing

In the past years, states across the nation have begun implementing the WIDA assessment program. WIDA develops proficiency standards and assessments for English-language learners throughout the country and has also developed the same for Spanish-language learners. Since its beginning in Wisconsin, Delaware, and Arkansas, WIDA is now used by school districts in 37 states. With WIDA, schools determine a student’s level of English when entering a school and can then place them in the correct language learning class level.

WIDA includes both listening and speaking exercises and gives recommendations for what sort of headsets will work best with the test. WIDA suggests using over-ear headphone-style headsets with microphones and stereo sound, instead of earbud-style. Lighter styles with smaller earpieces work well for younger students, while heavy-duty earpieces that sit over the entire ear are good for noise reduction and help students focus on their test exercises. Boom microphones work much better than inline microphones since they capture sound better than inline mics, which sit farther from students’ mouths. Fabric-covered cords will prevent tangling and are much more durable than rubber-covered styles. Finally, WIDA recommends having inline volume control. Since the volume cannot be adjusted once the testing software is in use, the inline volume control allows students to set the headphone volume to a comfortable level before the test begins.

While WIDA does not require any specific brand of the headset, they do have a few that they recommend. Here are three of the most popular styles among our customers for use in their WIDA testing:

  1. Hamilton Buhl Trios: The Trios headset comes equipped with both dual plugs and the TRRS plug, so it is convertible between different devices like desktops, laptops, and tablets. This makes them a great investment for school computer labs: Hamilton’s products are well-built, reliable, and can be used for a variety of applications outside of standardized testing. The Trios has a large, over-ear headphone design to help block outside noise and keep students on task.
  • AVID Education SMB-25VC: These headsets are another large over-ear design, and are heavily padded for maximum comfort. The large boom microphone can swivel up out of the way and is also adjustable to sit closer or farther from the student’s mouth so each student can achieve the perfect fit. These come with a dual plug, making them a good choice for testing environments utilizing desktop computers.
  • AVID Education AE-36: The AE-36 is possibly the most popular headset that our customers use for WIDA testing. They can be used with any laptop or desktop, and are a great choice for Chromebooks. The AE-36 comes with a 6-foot cord, which ensures that students won’t accidentally pull the cord out, even if the audio jack is in the back of the device. The padded headband and earpieces on this design keep the headphones comfortable for long-term use.

While headsets with microphones are needed for WIDA testing, purchasing a large set for school-wide testing isn’t always feasible and can be cost prohibitive. Since WIDA only recommends having three to five students working on the speaking portion of the test at a time, an affordable solution is to purchase a smaller set of headsets and combine these with headphones that can be used for the listening portion of the test. A very popular style of headphone for WIDA is the AVID Education AE-35. Similar in style to the AE-36, the AE-35 is a lightweight style with an adjustable headband that fits most students’ heads. A comfortable style for long-term use, the AE-35 is a good choice for both computer and language labs as well as classroom and school-wide headphone sets. With bulk pricing available, these headphones are not only a reliable choice for schools but are also affordable.

WIDA testing has become an important tool for school districts, and having the right equipment puts students in the best position to succeed. As schools begin to plan for the next academic year and look for headset solutions, keep these WIDA recommendations in mind!