FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

June 2014

ICI Centers Help Improve State Assessments for Students with Disabilities Nationwide

Federal legislation requires that all students participate in state accountability systems. Most students with disabilities participate in the regular test or, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the Alternate Assessment based on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS). Sixteen states also have an Alternate Assessment based on Modified Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) – an optional test for some low-performing students with disabilities. States with AA-MAS that received waivers from the Federal government from some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind were required to develop a plan for phasing out their AA-MAS by the 2014-15 school year. Additionally, in August 2013, the Federal government proposed a rollback of the regulation that allowed this assessment. New next generation assessments will meet the needs of a wider range of students, including students who participated in the AA-MAS. Two centers at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) are helping states transition from the AA-MAS: the National Center of Educational Outcomes (NCEO) and the North Central Regional Resource Center (NCRRC).

“All states have low-performing students with disabilities – not just states that had this assessment option,” NCEO’s Sheryl Lazarus observes. “Research and lessons learned from states’ experiences with AA-MAS have dramatically increased our knowledge about how to better instruct and assess these students. This has the potential to improve learning and outcomes for students who are currently low-performing throughout the U.S.”

As students transition back to the general assessment, states, districts, and schools have another chance to really think about how to best teach struggling learners. For example, some educators may need professional development on how to differentiate instruction, or on how to select and implement accommodations.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Educational and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) collaborated with NCEO and the Regional Resource Center Program (RRCP) – of which the Institute’s NCRRC is a member – to host a meeting in Atlanta in February 2014 to help states develop AA-MAS transition plans. Michael Yudin, OSERS Assistant Secretary, and Scott Sargrad, OESE deputy assistant secretary attended the meeting (meeting presentations and related resources are available on NCEO’s Web site at NCEO and the NCRRC are hosting a follow-up Webinar for states on July 31. In the meantime, NCEO and NCRRC continue to support states as they implement their plans. For example, state liaisons from the NCRRC followed up with states after the February meeting and continue to provide customized technical assistance.

“The timing of the required AA-MAS phase out, and the requirement for states to develop State Systemic Improvement Plans (SSIP) to improve educational results for students with disabilities, is providing one of the states served by NCRRC with a wonderful opportunity to leverage efforts within and outside the state agency to improve reading outcomes for students with disabilities. While that state’s SSIP will be designed to create and enhance learning opportunities for students who previously took the AA-MAS, the long-term effect will be to improve reading outcomes for all struggling learners,” says NCRRC’s Maureen Hawes.

FFI, contact Sheryl at or Maureen at