Accessibility & Accommodations for AA-AAAS

Each student participating in an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS) should be able to participate under optimal testing conditions. Some students may need accessibility features that meet their individual needs, either embedded within a technology platform or non-embedded and provided by a human.

Similar to the approach used for general assessments, many AA-AAAS now have levels of accessibility features. The levels include:

  • Universal features (such as embedded zoom or highlighting or non-embedded features such as magnification) are available to all students. 
  • Designated features (such as embedded text-to-speech or non-embedded features such as translation); these features are identified by an adult or team of adults and must be identified before testing so that they can be available to the student.
  • Accommodations, either embedded or non-embedded, are changes in testing materials or procedures beyond what are available to any student taking the AA-AAAS (for example, a human sign language interpreter for an English learner with a hearing impairment who does not use American Sign Language).

These approaches to accessibility allow for more accurate measurement of the student’s knowledge and skills, and are an important part of technology-based and paper-pencil testing of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Alternate assessments have many accessibility features incorporated into their design, but some students who take these assessments still will need universal features, designated features, or accommodations. None of these accessibility features alters the construct being measured by the AA-AAAS. Designated features and accommodations for assessments documented in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) should be consistent with those in the state’s accessibility policies.

Decisions about accessibility features need to be made by people who know the educational needs of the student. Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams must make decisions for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who participate in the AA-AAAS. The IEP team should include the special education teacher, the parent or guardian, and the student (if appropriate). General education teachers can provide input on decisions about accessibility features even if they are not members of the IEP team.

For English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities, it is important that an English language development educator serve on the IEP team so that decisions take into account both the student’s disability and language learning needs.

In rare instances some students may need accommodations not included in a state’s accessibility policy.  For example, unanticipated needs for new types of technology-based accommodations may emerge. Many states already have procedures for teachers or teams to request accommodations that are not on an “approved” list. States without procedures for requesting new accommodations most likely will need to develop them.