The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team makes the decision about how the student with disabilities participates in each state or districtwide assessment. The decision is based on specific participation criteria provided by the state or district. Some students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in the general assessment, even with accommodations, may participate in alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS).
The 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) required that states be limited to 1.0 percent of the state’s total tested student population in a subject area participating in the AA-AAAS. If a state is over the 1.0 percent threshold, the state must request a waiver that is open to stakeholder input.
National data on who participates in the states’ AA-AAAS show that most students who participate in this assessment have been in the disability categories of intellectual disabilities, autism, and multiple disabilities.
The IEP team also makes participation decisions for English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities. These English learners participate in both an AA-AAAS for academic content and an alternate assessment of English language proficiency (alt-ELP), if available.
Frequently Asked Questions
AA-AAAS is used to ensure that all students with disabilities, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, are included in state content assessments. Participation in these assessments helps to ensure that the education system is accountable for their learning. When students are excluded from this assessment, the reporting of test results is incomplete and these students are not considered when decisions are made about how to improve programs. Excluded students may be denied educational opportunities available to other students.
Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities should participate in the AA-AAAS. State participation guidelines should be followed when the IEP team decides whether the student should participate in the general assessment or the AA-AAAS. Decisions should not be based on the category of a student’s disability, the setting in which a student receives instruction, or the percentage of time a student spends in a general education classroom. English learners with the most significant cognitive disabilities also participate in AA-AAAS (although they may not participate in the test of reading/language arts in their first year in a U.S. school).