NCEO Tool 6

Who Should Participate in Your State’s Alternate Assessment?
A Slide Presentation Tool for Administrators


Maureen Hawes, Martha Thurlow, Cesar D’Agord, Charity Funfe Tatah Mentan,
Kathy Strunk, and Sheryl Lazarus

A publication of:

In collaboration with
NCEO’s 2019 1.0% Peer Learning Group (PLG)


The Center is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G160001) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Project Officer: David Egnor

All rights reserved. Any or all portions of this document may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission, provided the source is cited as:

Hawes, M., Thurlow, M. L., D’Agord, C., Mentan, C., Strunk, K., & Lazarus, S. S. (2019). Who should participate in your state’s alternate assessment? A slide presentation tool for administrators (NCEO Tool #6). National Center on Educational Outcomes.


This Slide Presentation Tool for Administrators was developed through the work of the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) 1.0% 2019 Peer Learning Group (PLG) 3, “Building Capacity of IEP Teams and Parents/Guardians in Making Decisions about Assessment Participation,” which took place October-December, 2019.

In addition to the authors of this document, it took a team to ensure that PLG 3 was successful.
Members of this team included, in addition to the authors (in alphabetical order): Anthea Brady, Sheila Brookes, Sharon Hall, Susan Hayes, Judy Lee, Kate Nagle, Travis Peterson, Tanner Petry, and Tony Ruggiero.

Staff from 45 states and the District of Columbia participated in the PLG 3 webinar calls. The participating states are listed here. This product would not exist had it not been for their active participation in PLG 3.

District of Columbia
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia


Who Should Participate in Your State’s Alternate Assessment? A Slide Presentation Tool for Administrators

The 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), includes a 1.0% cap on state-level participation rates in the alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS). No limit was placed on district or school rates, but districts must provide justifications if they expect their rate to be above the 1.0% threshold. In addition, states are to provide oversight to districts.

These requirements mean that states and districts need to examine their data on AA-AAAS participation as a basis for having discussions about the data and whether state guidelines are being followed and appropriate decisions are being made for individual students. This resource may be adapted by states to reflect their unique circumstances.1 It intends to provide administrators with clear and concise information about the alternate assessment, federal law, and the importance of making appropriate decisions for the participation of students with disabilities in the AA-AAAS. The slide presentation may be used to support administrator knowledge, train educators, and communicate with parents. It is intended to be a versatile resource, one that may be used for in-person trainings, webinars, handouts, or as a website publication.


Federal Law

Alternate assessments were first developed in response to the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which required that all states and districts develop, by the year 2000, alternate assessments for those students with disabilities unable to participate in regular assessments even with accommodations. IDEA did not define who the students were who could participate in an alternate assessment, nor did it use the term “significant cognitive disability.” In 2003, regulations added to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allowed states to count as proficient those students with significant cognitive disabilities who participated in the alternate assessment and met rigorous alternate achievement standards set by the state.

In 2015, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA reaffirmed that an AA-AAAS is the appropriate assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. ESSA placed a 1.0% cap on the state participation rate for each subject, based on the total number of all students in the state assessed in the subject (34 CFR 200.6(c)(2)). ESSA specified that states cannot place a cap on the participation rates of local education agencies (LEAs) in any subject (34 CFR 200.6(c)(3)(i)). This means that LEAs can exceed 1.0% participation in an AA-AAAS in a given subject, but the state as a whole cannot exceed 1.0% AA-AAAS participation in any subject.

ESSA required LEAs expected to exceed 1.0% AA-AAAS participation to submit information justifying the need to exceed 1.0%. In addition, the state must provide oversight and monitoring of LEAs that submit justifications (34 CFR 200.6(c)(3)(ii-iii)).



This resource is one of three developed by states and technical assistance centers working together in NCEO’s 2019 1.0% Peer Learning Group (PLG 3). The two other documents that were developed can support this tool for administrators on who should participate in your state’s alternate assessment.2 They include:


Purpose of Tool

The purpose of this tool is to support the need for administrators to have access to brief but substantive information about who should participate in the state’s alternate assessment. The resource highlights the purpose of the alternate assessment, the implications of a student taking the alternate assessment, strategies for talking with parents, and identification of students who should participate in the alternate assessment. The Slide Presentation Tool is intentionally short with a focus on the information that is perhaps most important for administrators to know. Click the icon in the upper left corner of each page to see comments that the presenter might want to make when using the slides. The slides may be customized for each state (see to access the actual PowerPoint slides). In addition to serving as an information resource for administrators, it may be used for in-person or webinar trainings for educators, and as a handout for educators and parents.



1 States may wish to adapt the slides. They may be found at
2 All tools may be found at


Presentation Slides

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 4

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 7

Slide 8

Slide 9

Slide 10

Slide 11

Slide 12

Slide 13