NCEO Reports: Alternate Assessments for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities: Participation Guidelines and Definitions (#406)

Part of the NCEO Reports series.
Martha L Thurlow, Sheryl Lazarus, Erik D Larson, Deb Albus, Kristin K Liu PhD, Elena Sze Chi Kwong


This report documents the status of states' assessment participation guidelines and definitions of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities that were in place just prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2015, renewed attention was paid to the importance of guidelines for participation in alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) and to understanding of who the students are who have significant cognitive disabilities. The analysis includes the factors that states indicated should and should not be considered when making decisions about participation in the AA-AAS. It also documents the format of the guidelines that states made available to decision makers. Finally, it examines the extent to which states provided an explicit definition of "students with the most significant cognitive disabilities."


December 2017 
Number 406
Michael L Moore or +1 612-626-0546
National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)


  • Educational accountability and assessment
    • Assessment Participation
    • Students with Disabilities
    • Alternate Assessments