This memorandum is to inform school districts of the new policy brief, Eligibility Criteria for Participation in the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA), developed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to assist school districts in determining the appropriate participation of students with severe disabilities in NYSAA. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that states administer annual statewide assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics to all students in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school, as well as assessments in science once in each grade span (i.e., 3-5, 6-9, 10-12). ESSA includes provisions to ensure that all students are tested, offered appropriate accommodations when needed, and held to the same standards.
To ensure that the vast majority of students take a state’s general assessment and only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards, ESSA places a state-level cap on the total number of students with significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed with an alternate assessment to 1.0 percent of the total number of students in the state who are assessed in the subject. States may not prohibit a school district from assessing more than 1.0 percent of its assessed students with an alternate assessment. However, states must require school districts that assess more than 1.0 percent of their assessed students in any subject with an alternate assessment to submit information to the state justifying the need to exceed the 1.0 percent threshold.
Consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), committees on special education (CSEs) must follow state guidelines for determining on a case-by-case basis whether a student is most appropriately assessed with an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards. To assist CSEs in determining whether NYSAA is the most appropriate assessment for an individual student, NYSED has developed the attached policy brief, decision-making flowchart, and decision-making checklist which should be used in conjunction with guidance provided in NYSED’s Eligibility and Participation Criteria - NYSAA.
If a student is determined eligible to participate in NYSAA, ESSA requires that, as part of the process for developing the IEP, the student’s parents be clearly informed that their child’s academic achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards that do not meet the expectations necessary to earn a regular high school diploma in New York State and how participation in NYSAA will affect their child from completing the requirements for a regular New York State high school diploma. To assist school districts in ensuring that parents are appropriately informed, NYSED has developed the attached Parent Notification of Participation in the New York State Alternate Assessment (Sample Letter). CSEs should also be discussing this information at each student’s annual review meeting.
NYSED will annually notify school districts that exceed the 1.0 percent participation cap that they are required to submit information justifying the need to assess more than 1.0 percent of their students with NYSAA in one or more subject areas. As part of the justification, school districts will be required to provide assurance to NYSED that CSEs are using Eligibility and Participation Criteria - NYSAA in determining if a student with a disability will participate in NYSAA. As required by ESSA, NYSED will make all submitted justifications publicly available.
Additional information on administering NYSAA to students with severe disabilities is available on the Office of State Assessment’s New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) webpage. Questions regarding this memorandum may be directed to the Special Education Policy Unit at (518) 473-2878 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about NYS’s procedures for school districts that assess more than 1.0 percent of their students in any subject is posted on the Office of Special Education’s News, Announcements and Timely Information webpage.
- Eligibility Criteria for Participation in the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA)- Policy Brief
- New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) Participation Decision-Making Flowchart
- New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) Participation Decision-Making Checklist
- Parent Notification of Participation in the New York State Alternate Assessment (Sample Letter)