December 11, 2003
TITLE I REGULATION ON ALTERNATE ACHIEVEMENT STANDARDS
SUMMARY OF KEY PROVISIONS
1. States may use alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in meeting the Title I requirements, if certain criteria are met. An alternate achievement standard is an expectation of performance that differs in complexity from a grade-level achievement standard.
- Alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards must be aligned with a State's academic content standards, promote access to the general curriculum, and reflect professional judgment of the highest achievement standards possible (See §200.1(d)). These standards will be considered during each State's peer review of its standards and assessment system.
2. Alternate achievement standards may be used for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
- Each State that wishes to use alternate achievement standards must establish
clear and appropriate guidelines for individualized education program (IEP)
teams to apply in determining when a child's significant cognitive disability
justifies an assessment based on alternate achievement standards.
- The regulation does not create a separate category of disability. Rather, the term "students with the most significant cognitive disabilities" includes that small number of students who are (1) within one or more of the 13 existing categories of disability (e.g., autism, multiple disabilities, traumatic brain injury, etc.) and (2) whose cognitive impairments may prevent them from attaining grade-level achievement standards, even with the very best instruction.
3. When measuring Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), States and school districts have the flexibility to count the "proficient" and "advanced" scores of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards - as long as the number of those proficient and advanced scores does not exceed one percent of all students in the grades tested (about nine percent of students with disabilities). Without this flexibility, those scores would have to be assessed against grade-level standards and would be considered "not proficient."
- Any proficient and advanced scores based on alternate achievement standards
(from either alternate or out-of-level assessments) above the 1.0 percent
cap must be counted as not proficient relative to grade-level standards. No
scores (including those from alternate or out-of-level assessments) may be
excluded from AYP calculations. For an alternate assessment based on grade-level
achievement standards, all proficient and advanced scores may be counted in
- The 1.0 percent cap applies to the number of proficient and advanced scores
that may be included in AYP determinations. It does not limit the number of
students taking an assessment based on alternate achievement standards. In
consideration of small schools and those that provide special services, the
1.0 percent cap does not apply at the school level. This does not mean, however,
that the use of alternate achievement standards is unlimited at the school
level. For most schools, the expectation is that only a small portion of students
with disabilities - those with the most significant cognitive disabilities
- will participate in an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement
standards and all other students with disabilities will be assessed against
grade-level achievement standards.
- In those circumstances in which a district has more than 1.0 percent of
its students score proficient or advanced on an alternate assessment based
on alternate achievement standards, the State must determine which proficient
scores are counted as non-proficient at schools in the district responsible
for students who took an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement
standards. This ensures that schools do not have an incentive to inappropriately
increase the number of students assessed with an assessment based on alternate
4. If students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take out of level assessments, States may include their advanced and proficient scores as results of alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards, if certain requirements are met.
- States are expected to assess as many students as possible with academic
assessments aligned to grade-level achievement standards. If a State allows
out-of-level assessments as an alternate assessment, the advanced and proficient
results from those assessments may be included in AYP calculations only if
the alternate achievement standards associated with the out-of-level assessments
meet the requirements of §200.1(d).
- Alternate achievement standards associated with out-of-level assessments
meet the alternate achievement standards under §200.1(d) only if they
are aligned with the State's academic content standards, promote access to
the general curriculum, and reflect professional judgment of the highest achievement
- All results from out-of-level assessments must be included within the 1.0
percent cap for the purposes of calculating AYP, because the achievement standards
associated with the content and skills measured by out-of-level assessments
are clearly different in complexity from grade-level achievement standards.
5. The final regulation does not dictate how individual students must be assessed.
- Under IDEA, IEP teams do not have complete discretion regarding the assessment
of students with disabilities. The team decides how a student participates,
not whether the student participates in the assessment. Under this Title I
regulation, States must develop and disseminate guidelines to inform IEP teams
about how students may be assessed appropriately.
- The final rule does not alter the responsibility of the IEP team to make
individual determinations about how a child is assessed. Instead, it restricts,
solely for purposes of calculating AYP, the number of scores based on alternate
achievement standards that can be counted as proficient or advanced.
- If an IEP team decides that a student will not participate in any part of
the regular assessment, even with appropriate accommodations, the team must
identify why the assessment is not appropriate for the child and determine
how the child will be assessed, such as through an alternate assessment.
6. Districts and States must work together to manage the use of alternate achievement standards.
- State guidelines for the use of alternate achievement standards should be
communicated to local schools and districts early in the school year to ensure
consistency between instruction and assessments and to prevent confusion during
test administration. The district should provide information to school personnel
and IEP teams about the statewide assessments, appropriate accommodations,
and alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards.
- Districts should also provide access to appropriate training to support
sound IEP decisions about which students should participate in an alternate
assessment based on alternate achievement standards. These decisions should
always be made on a case-by-case basis and should support access to the most
challenging curriculum possible for the individual student. Finally, districts
should monitor implementation of assessments based on alternate achievement
standards to ensure that alternate achievement standards are being used consistent
with the best instructional practices known for students with the most significant
7. States or districts may submit data and make a case to exceed the 1.0 percent cap.
- States may apply to the Secretary for exceptions in order to slightly exceed the 1.0 percent cap. Likewise, districts may apply for exceptions from their State using a similar process. To ensure that States make timely AYP determinations based on 2003-2004 assessment data, we will inform States of the process and deadline for submitting applications to exceed the 1.0 percent cap. In these applications States must:
|1.|| Document that the incidence of students with the most significant
cognitive disabilities exceeds 1.0 percent of all students in the combined
|2.|| Describe the circumstances that explain why the incidence
of such students exceeds 1.0 percent of all students in the combined grades
assessed, such as school, community, or health programs in the State that
have drawn large numbers of families of students with the most significant
cognitive disabilities, or such a small overall student population that
it would take only a very few students with the most significant cognitive
disabilities to exceed the 1.0 percent cap.
|3.||Document that it is fully and effectively meeting the requirements of §200.6(a)(2)(iii), which includes requirements that States develop guidelines for IEP teams to apply in determining when a child should be assessed based on alternate achievement standards and ensuring that parents are informed that their child's achievement will be based on alternate achievement standards. In addition, States must report on the use of alternate assessments, and be able to document that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are, to the extent possible, included in the general curriculum and in assessments aligned with that curriculum.|
- States with significant numbers of students taking alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards should contact the Department as soon as possible.