Ohio's Alternate Assessment FAQs

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General

Eligibility and Participation

Ohio's Learning Standards–Extended and Instruction


General

    What is the Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD)?

    Ohio’s Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD) is the federally required statewide assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in the state’s general assessment even with allowable accommodations.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015) limits the total number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed statewide with an alternate assessment to 1% of the total number of students in the state who are assessed (or approximately 9% of all students with disabilities). The alternate assessment is aligned to Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended (OLS-E) and designed to allow students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an appropriately rigorous assessment.

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    Why must students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take state tests?
    The reauthorized federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) extends educational accountability and reform to ALL students, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities. This legislation, along with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and Ohio law, mandates that all students with disabilities be included in state and district test programs and that they take either the general tests (with or without accommodations) or alternate tests. These laws provide clear expectations that states will align assessments of student achievement with the state’s academic content standards.

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    When and how will the alternate assessment be administered?
    The alternate assessment testing window opens in February and ends in late March. This window was chosen to provide as much instructional time as possible prior to testing and still provide ample time to test all eligible students at each student’s pace. A test administrator, usually the student’s teacher, will administer the tests to your child in a one-on-one environment.

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    How is the alternate assessment designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?
    The alternate assessment is designed to be accessible to students with significant and disabilities. The test contains questions that range from simple to complex. The test is computer adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the next question a student receives on their test is based on whether they answer the previous question correctly. Students may answer using their preferred method of communication (oral, point/gesture, sign language, picture system, or augmentative communication device) and test materials can be adapted to the specific needs and accommodations that have been documented in the individualized education program (IEP). There is no time restriction on the test and students may stop and resume the test at any point during the multiple week test window.

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    In which grades and content areas will my child be tested?
    Students will take the alternate assessment in the same grades and content areas that are administered for Ohio’s State Tests in grades 3-8. High school students take the alternate assessment for the first time in grades 9-11. Which high school test the student takes and which grade depends on when the school has determined the student has been taught the content and is ready to take the test.
     
    Student Grade Level Content Areas to Be Administered to Each Student
    3 English language arts and mathematics
    4 English language arts and mathematics
    5 English language arts, mathematics and science
    6 English language arts and mathematics
    7 English language arts and mathematics
    8 English language arts, mathematics and science
    High School English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies

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    When will I receive my child’s test results?
    The family score report for the alternate assessment will be sent to your child’s district in the summer. Check with your child’s school to determine when you will receive your child’s report.

    The score reports for the alternate assessment will show your child’s performance on each content area of the test. It will also explain what students at your child’s proficiency level know and can do in each content area.

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    What does my child’s performance level tell me?
    The performance levels indicate how often and accurately your child demonstrates the knowledge and skills being tested.

    For more information on the alternate assessment family score reports, visit the Ohio Alternate Assessment Portal and download the Score Reports Interpretive Guide, which walks users through the features of the reports.

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    Can I receive my Family Score Report in a second language?
    Yes, for more information, please contact the Office of Assessment at Statetests@education.ohio.gov or 1-877-644-6338.

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    Where can I learn more about Ohio’s Alternate Assessment?
    Families can visit the Ohio Alternate Assessment Portal Students and Families page (oh-alt.portal.cambiumast.com/) to find more information, including frequently asked questions documents and practice tests. Families are also encouraged to speak with their child’s teacher(s) to learn more.

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Eligibility and Participation

    Who takes the alternate assessment?
    Federal law requires that all students take yearly state assessments. Most students with individualized education programs (IEP) take the regular state assessment. Ohio’s Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD) is only appropriate for the very small population of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to take a regular assessment, even with allowable accommodations.

    Students who qualify for the alternate assessment are most likely to be identified as having a multiple disability, an intellectual disability, a traumatic brain injury, are deaf and blind or identified as being on the autism spectrum. However, even though students identified in these disability categories are most likely to have a significant cognitive disability, less than half of these students will have a most significant cognitive disability that would qualify them for participation in the alternate assessment. Students with other types of disabilities will very rarely have a significant cognitive disability that will make them eligible for the alternate assessment. Students with a specific learning disability or a speech language impairment (only) do not have a cognitive disability and cannot qualify for participation.

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    How does the individualized education program (IEP) team make the decision that my child qualifies for participation in the alternate assessment?
    A wide range of data sources should be evaluated when determining alternate assessment eligibility that may include:
    • Work sample evidence;
    • Results from formative assessments;
    • Universal screeners and diagnostic assessments;
    • Data from evidence-based interventions;
    • Support needs assessments;
    • Assistive technology assessment;
    • The learner profile;
    • Daily services and supports provided by an aide or paraprofessional.
    • Daily instructional supports provided by intervention specialists.

    As a member of the IEP team, you must have access to and understand the participation criteria for the alternate assessment. The state of Ohio provides individualized education program teams with criteria for participation in the AASCD, which can be found on the Ohio Alternate Assessment Portal on the Resources page.

    It is important to understand that identifying a significant cognitive disability is not solely determined by an IQ test score, nor based on a specific disability category, but rather on a wholistic understanding of the complex needs of a student. Participation in the alternate assessment reflects the pervasive nature of a most significant cognitive disability that impacts both intellectual ability and adaptive functioning (daily living skills). These students will have intellectual functioning and adaptive skills well below average and other characteristics must also be considered beyond just standardized test scores.

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    When does the individualized education program team make the decision that my child qualifies for participation in the alternate assessment?
    Students begin taking academic assessments beginning in third grade, so the earliest the IEP team will determine alternate assessment participation is when they develop the IEP that will be in effect during the student’s third-grade year. Decisions concerning a student’s participation in statewide tests are made at least annually by each student’s IEP team.

    Typically, a student who will participate in the alternate assessment has had significant disabling issues since birth and except for extreme cases, such as a traumatic brain injury, older students who have been taking general assessments during their school careers could suddenly qualify for an alternate assessment when they did not qualify previously.

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    Should my child take the alternate assessment?
    Deciding whether your child should take the alternate assessment can be a challenging decision. There is often the fear that a child may be stressed out if taking the regular assessment or that expectations will be lowered if your child takes the alternate assessment. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you and the IEP team make the decision that is right for your child.

    To guide and support individualized education program teams in determining whether a student is most appropriately assessed with an alternate assessment, the Ohio Department of Education, in consultation with parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders, has developed a new Alternate Assessment Participation Decision-Making Tool.

    The online Ohio’s State Tests have universal tools available to all students, including repeating instructions, taking notes on a digital notepad, making text bigger or smaller, highlight and shade text, and cross out answers on multiple choice questions. The tests also have built-in accommodations, including read aloud or text-to-speech, calculator, masking which lets students cover or hide text, color and contrast control. Additionally, the tests allow certain student specific accommodations for students with disabilities such as assistive technology and augmentative communication. Student practice test resources are available online and on paper at this link.

    The online Alternate Assessment has practice tests to give students the opportunity to navigate the online testing system, use the available tools and features and familiarize themselves with the testing experience. Student practice tests resources are available at this link.

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    How will taking the alternate assessment affect my child/child's future?
    Planning for life after graduation begins the moment a student enters school. Early learning curriculum and assessments impacts what your child will learn and be able to demonstrate in high school and beyond. While Ohio law requires IEP transition planning begin formally in Ohio at age 14, or younger if determined appropriate, every grade-level experience can strengthen the foundation for future success. Students, teachers, administrators, parents and families and agency providers can work together to identify and deliver the services and supports that will help students with disabilities meet the rigorous requirements to earn an Ohio diploma and move toward meaningful post-graduation goals.

    In Ohio, all students who graduate from high school receive a regular diploma. Ohio does not have an alternate diploma, certificate of attendance or some other “lesser” diploma option for students who do not meet regular graduation requirements. However, parents must understand that while a student who takes the alternate assessment receives the same diploma as other students, the diploma does not reflect the same level of post high school readiness. This is because students who have taken an alternate assessment have learned academic content that is greatly reduced in breadth, depth and rigor and they are not prepared for the same postgraduation goals as students who earn their diploma by meeting regular requirements. When students take the alternate assessment, the expectations about what they can learn and be able to do are significantly reduced compared to their typical peers.

    When students with disabilities receive their diplomas without earning them by meeting regular requirements, they are less likely to be able to successfully and independently participate in post-high school learning experiences, military service, earning and sustaining a living wage or engaging in a meaningful, self-sustaining vocation. After high school, students who take an alternate assessment will likely need ongoing support for daily living their entire lives.

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    Where can I learn more about participation in the Ohio Alternate Assessment?
    Families can visit the Ohio Alternate Assessment Portal to find more information, including other frequently asked questions documents and practice tests for the alternate assessment. Families also are encouraged to speak with their students’ teachers to learn more.

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Ohio's Learning Standards–Extended and Instruction

    Why should students with the most significant cognitive disabilities participate in academic instruction and assessment?
    Under IDEA, all students have the right to have the same opportunity to access academic content and demonstrate their mastery in addition to learning functional life skills such as communication, social skills and practical daily living skills. In addition to learning functional life skills, such as communication, social skills and practical daily living skills, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities must have access to the general curriculum; be involved in the general curriculum; and make progress in the general curriculum. General curriculum means the same grade-level academic content standards curriculum that is afforded other students. Students with the most significant cognitive disability receive this content through instruction based on Ohio’s Learning Standards-Extended.

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    What are Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended?
    Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended (OLS-E), commonly referred to as the “extended standards,” were designed to make Ohio’s Learning Standards more accessible to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The extended standards ensure students who take Ohio’s Alternate Assessment for Students with the most Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD) are provided with multiple ways to learn and demonstrate knowledge aligned to grade-level standards. At the same time, the extended standards are designed to maintain the rigor and high expectations of Ohio’s Learning Standards.

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    How are Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended different from Ohio’s Learning Standards?
    The OLS-E target the same academic content as Ohio’s Learning Standards but reduce breadth and complexity of the grade-level standards into alternate achievement markers for state testing purposes. Thus, ensuring equal participation in grade-level assessment with allowable modifications to grade-level outcomes.

    Ohio Learning Standards–Extended have three levels of difficulty from "most complex" to "least complex" aligned to each standard from Ohio’s Learning Standards. This allows teachers to adjust difficulty based on individual student strengths. Ohio educators deconstructed Ohio’s Learning Standards to monitor growth and progress over time that includes alternate achievement markers of progress.

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    What does instruction look like for students being educated with the extended standards?
    Instruction for students who qualify to take the AASCD should include meaningful opportunities for learning grade-level concepts and skills, with the added individualized supports, including explicit, direct, systematic and sequential instruction, accommodations, scaffolds, peer interaction, special services, assistive technologies and, when needed, modifications to the achievement markers as outlined in the Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended.

    Based on the complexity of the most significant cognitive impairment, students who qualify to take the AASCD will almost always require extensive, repeated, individualized instruction, methods, materials substantially adapted materials for accessing information in alternative ways and supports to acquire, maintain, demonstrate and transfer skills across multiple settings. These individualized and adapted methods, materials, supports and services should be described in detail within the student’s individualized education program, specifically in sections 7 and 12.

    More information about Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended, including how they are used in pairing with the grade-level standards to plan for instruction and assessment, can be found at the Teaching Diverse Learners Center at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence.

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    I am concerned that my child will not receive functional life skills because of the push for academic content standards. Are functional life skills in the extended standards?
    Functional life skills are critical for all students, including those with the most significant cognitive disabilities. As instruction is designed, educators should blend academic content and functional life skills into meaningful lessons for their students. It also should be noted that many of the standards are important to transitioning into adulthood and could be considered functional or life skills. Communicating, reading, writing, numeracy, using tools and technology, finding your location on a map, knowing how the world works, day/night, sequence of events and so on are life skills all students need. Other student-specific functional life skills should be aligned to future outcomes through individualized transition assessment and planning and also should be embedded into daily individualized instruction.

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    How can my child who is nonverbal participate in standards-based instruction and assessment?
    All individuals communicate, regardless of their verbal ability. Most people interact using many modes of communication throughout each day. Some students communicate through facial expressions, eye gaze, gestures, signed language, augmented language systems, picture exchange and/or using a variety of other behaviors. Your child may have many modes of communication and the educational team will need to consider accommodating to include these varied modes. Content learning that is guided by the grade level standards provides the educational team with instructional opportunities to develop and practice alternate forms of communication, including no tech, low tech, augmentative and assistive technology.

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    Can Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended be used with students who do not take the AASCD?
    The Ohio’s Learning Standards–Extended and associated learning progressions can support educators to differentiate instruction for all students. However, they must be used with caution. Ohio’s Learning Standards are written and assessed at a much higher level of expectation than the extended standards. While these extensions and learning progressions can provide entry points into Ohio’s Learning Standards for students who need differentiation to grow and build base skills and close gaps in knowledge in the classroom but do not take the alternate assessment, it is important to remember these students are working toward and will be assessed using Ohio’s Learning Standards. When using the extended standards with students who do not have the most significant cognitive disabilities, the learning expectation should be the same as their nondisabled peers.

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Last Modified: 3/3/2022 6:59:53 AM