Ohio's Alternate Assessment FAQs

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General

Eligibility and Participation


General

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

    Ohio’s Alternate Assessment for Students with the Most 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 AASCD 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 assessments?
    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 (ESSA) 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.
     
    *IDEA Regulations on Participation in State and District-wide Assessment Programs:
    (a) A State must ensure that all children with disabilities are included in all general State and district-wide assessment programs, including assessments described under section 1111 of the ESEA, 20 U.S.C. 6311, with appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments, if necessary, as indicated in their respective IEPs. Sec. 300.160.

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    When and how will the AASCD be administered?
    The AASCD testing window opens every spring for eight weeks. This testing window was chosen to provide as much instructional time as possible prior to testing as well as to 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 each student in a one-on-one environment. To stay updated on key Ohio State Testing information, visit the Department’s Test Coordinator News website.

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    How is the AASCD designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?
    The AASCD is designed to be accessible to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The assessment contains questions that range from simple to complex. The assessment is computer adaptive, meaning the level of difficulty a student receives is based on how the student responds to previous questions. Students may respond using their preferred method of communication (oral, point/gesture, sign language, picture system or augmentative communication device). Assessment materials can be adapted to the specific needs and accommodations that are documented in each student’s individualized education program (IEP). There is no time restriction on the assessment, and students may pause and resume the assessment at any point during the multiple week test window.

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    In which grades and content areas will students be assessed?
    Students will take the AASCD in the same grades and content areas that are administered for Ohio’s State Tests in grades 3-8. High school students take the AASCD for the first time in grades 9-11. Which high school content assessment the student takes depends on when the school has determined the student has been taught the content and is ready to be assessed. Districts should not test a student in the AASCD for the first time in grade 12. Grade 12 should be reserved for retesting and for new students. This is thoroughly explained on page 16 in the Alternate Assessment Test Administration Manual.
     
    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 assessment results?
    The printed family score report for the AASCD will be sent to your child’s district in the summer. Check with your child’s school to determine when you will receive their report.

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

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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 assessed. Families are encouraged to speak with their child’s teacher(s) to learn more.

    For more information on the AASCD 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 another language?
    Yes. 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 for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD)?
    The alternate assessment website provides information and family resources regarding Ohio’s AASCD. Families can visit the Ohio Alternate Assessment Portal Students and Families website to find more information, including frequently asked questions documents and practice tests. The families of students with disabilities website also offers resources for family members navigating the educational process for students with disabilities. 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 for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD)?
    Federal law requires that all students take yearly state assessments. Most students with individualized education programs (IEP) take the general state assessment. Ohio’s Alternate Assessment for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities (AASCD) is only appropriate for the very small population of students who are unable to take a general assessment, even with allowable accommodations.

    Students who qualify for the AASCD are most likely identified as having a multiple disability, an intellectual disability, a traumatic brain injury, are deaf-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, fewer than half of these students will have a most significant cognitive disability that would qualify them for participation in Ohio’s AASCD. Students with other types of disabilities will very rarely have a significant cognitive disability that will make them eligible for the AASCD. 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 AASCD?
    First, we would like to make it clear that you as the parent/guardian are a member of the IEP team. As a member of the IEP team, you must have access to and understand the participation criteria for the AASCD. The state of Ohio provides individualized education program teams with criteria for participation in the AASCD, which can be found in Ohio’s required Alternate Assessment Participation Decision-Making Tool.
     
    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 AASCD 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 only standardized test scores.
     
    A wide range of data sources should be evaluated when determining AASCD 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; and
    • Daily instructional supports provided by intervention specialists.

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    When does the individualized education program team make the decision that my child qualifies for participation in the AASCD?
    Students begin taking academic assessments beginning in third grade. The earliest the IEP team will determine AASCD 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 assessments are made at least annually by each student’s IEP team.

    Typically, a student who will participate in the AASCD has had significant disabling issues since birth. There may be situations when a student has experienced trauma such as a traumatic brain injury. Older students who have been taking general assessments during their school careers could suddenly qualify for an AASCD when they did not qualify previously.

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    Where can I learn more about accessibility on state assessments?
    We encourage families and educators to view Ohio’s Accessibility Manual to assist in understanding and utilizing the allowable accessibility features for Ohio State Tests. Ohio’s Accessibility Manual is a comprehensive policy document providing information about the accessibility features of Ohio’s State Tests for grades 3-8 and high school in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The manual helps to define the specific accessibility features available for all students, students with disabilities, students who are English learners and students who are English learners with disabilities. Ohio’s Accessibility System features are made up of administrative considerations, universal tools, designated supports and accommodations for students with disabilities and English learners.
     
    Ohio’s online assessments have universal tools available to all students, including repeating instructions, taking notes on a digital notepad, making text larger or smaller, highlighting and shading text, and crossing out answers on multiple choice questions. The assessments 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 assessments allow student specific accommodations for students with disabilities such as assistive technology and augmentative communication devices. Student practice test resources are available online and on paper.

    The online AASCD has a practice test to give students the opportunity to navigate the online testing system, use the available tools and features and familiarize themselves with the assessment experience. Student practice test resources are available in the testing portal.

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    How will taking the AASCD affect my child and my child's future?
    Planning for life after graduation begins the moment a student enters school. Early learning curriculum and assessments impact what your child will learn and be able to demonstrate in high school and beyond. While Ohio law requires IEP transition planning to begin formally at age 14, or younger if determined appropriate, every grade-level experience can strengthen the foundation for future success. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, 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 AASCD receives the same diploma as other students, the diploma does not reflect the same level of post high school readiness. 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.

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    Can a student who is nonverbal participate in assessments?
    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. A student may have many modes of communication and the individualized education program team will need to consider accommodations that include these varied modes. Students participating in grade level learning, can demonstrate knowledge and skills using alternate forms of communication, including no tech, low tech, augmentative and assistive technology.

    Visit https://ataem.org/ to learn more about assistive technology and accessible educational materials.

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    Where can I learn more about graduation requirements for students with disabilities who take the End of Course exams or AASCD?
    To learn more about Ohio’s graduation requirements for students with disabilities, visit the Students with IEPs and Graduation webpage. If you have questions about graduation requirements, please email gradrequirements@education.ohio.gov.

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Last Modified: 3/29/2023 12:56:03 PM