Alternate Assessment IEP Team GuidanceGuidelines for individualized education program (IEP) teams regarding participation in the California Alternate Assessments and the Alternate English Language Proficiency Assessments for California.
This web page is intended to help guide the IEP teams in determining whether the CAAs and the Alternate ELPAC are the most appropriate assessments for an individual student with the most significant cognitive disabilities. IEP teams must consider a student’s individual characteristics when determining whether a student with a disability should participate in general statewide assessments, with or without accessibility resources, with or without domain exemptions for ELPAC, or participate in the alternate assessments. IEP teams should use the Alternate Assessment Decision Confirmation Worksheet (PDF) to determine whether a student is eligible to participate in the CAAs or the Alternate ELPAC. The participation criteria presented in the Alternate Assessment Decision Confirmation Worksheet are adapted from resources provided by the National Center on Educational Outcomes, an organization that focuses on the inclusion of students with disabilities, English learners, and English learners with disabilities in instruction and assessments. To participate in the CAAs or the Alternate ELPAC, if applicable, students must meet all the criteria in parts A, B, and C outlined in the worksheet. Once a student is determined to be eligible for an alternate assessment, the student will take the alternate assessment for all standardized state assessments, including the CAAs for ELA, mathematics, and science, or the Alternate ELPAC, if applicable.
The learning characteristics of students with significant cognitive disabilities represent a broad range, and assignment to alternate assessments is based on the students’ unique cognitive disability, not the category of a student’s disability. The IEP team should first determine whether the student has a significant cognitive disability before selecting an alternate assessment that provides student access to state assessments, promotes participation, and elicits the student’s best performance. With respect to students identified with a specific learning disability, the IEP team determination that the student has been identified with a specific learning disability rules out the consideration of the student being identified as cognitively impaired.
In addition, as part of the IEP process, parents must be clearly informed that their child’s achievement is being measured against alternate achievement standards and of “how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma” (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, [34 CFR] Section 300.160 [d]). A student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who takes an alternate assessment is not precluded from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular student diploma (34 CFR Section 300.160 [d]). California Education Code Section 51225.31 was amended in 2022 to recognize a new pathway to a high school diploma for students with disabilities who take the alternate assessment and who complete state standards aligned coursework pursuant to their IEP. Details about this pathway to a diploma may be found at: A New Pathway to a High School Diploma.
Description of the CAAs and Alternate ELPAC
CAAs for ELA and mathematics were developed by the California Department of Education (CDE) to ensure that all students are able to participate in assessments that are a measure of what they know and can do in relation to the grade-level California Common Core State Standards (CA CCSS). In addition, the CAAs for ELA and mathematics are aligned with grade-level content and are part of a curriculum and assessment cycle, which is accomplished through a linkage between the CA CCSS and their respective Core Content Connectors. These assessments are delivered via computer, allowing for flexibility in administration (e.g., a student may respond to administrator-presented item stimuli rather than to the item stimuli on the computer). A trained test examiner familiar with the student (e.g., the student’s teacher) facilitates the administration in a one-on-one setting, presenting items via computer, paper, or manipulatives, as appropriate for the student. Items are administered to the student over the course of one or more testing sessions, as needed for the student to complete a content-area assessment. The CAAs for ELA and mathematics use a staged approach, meaning that each student receives items that have been determined to be at an appropriate level of challenge. Embedded-routing tests help determine the items a student receives.
CAA for Science was developed by the CDE to ensure that all students are able to participate in assessments that are a measure of what they know and can do in relation to the grade-level California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). In addition, the CAA for Science is aligned with grade-level content and is part of a curriculum and assessment cycle, which is accomplished through a linkage between the CA NGSS and their associated Core Content Connectors. Test examiners administer the online CAA for Science to students in a one-on-one setting. Eligible students will be administered four embedded performance tasks. Three performance tasks will be operational, and one performance task will be field tested for future use on the assessment. Each performance task will assess two Science Connectors and consists of ten items—five items per Science Connector. Each performance task will assess one of the three science domains (i.e., Earth and Space Sciences, Life Sciences, and Physical Sciences). The performance tasks should be administered soon after the student has received instruction in the content areas. All items on a performance task may be individualized on the basis of the student’s IEP. As with other standardized assessments, the CAA for Science should be administered to each student in a consistent manner, according to the directions provided, and with variations only as specified in each student’s IEP. However, to maximize engagement for all students, the CAA for Science offers some additional options for individualization in specific orienting activities and test questions. Through individualization, test examiners can use materials that the student is most comfortable using to access the science concept. Individualization does not change the standard being assessed.
Alternate ELPAC were developed by the CDE to ensure that all students are able to participate in assessments that measure the English language proficiency of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. It is aligned with the 2012 California English Language Development (ELD) Standards via the ELD Connectors, which are reduced in depth, breadth, and complexity, for this population. Both the Initial Alternate and Summative Alternate ELPAC are delivered online in a one-on-one setting. The student interacts with a trained test examiner, who is familiar with the student’s preferred communication style, collects and records the responses. The Alternate ELPAC is untimed; test items will be administered to the student over the course of one or more testing sessions, as needed, for the student to complete the English language proficiency assessment. The Alternate ELPAC is linear (i.e., not adaptive) and assesses a student’s proficiency in English by allowing for a range of receptive (listening and reading) skills and expressive (speaking and writing) skills while using their preferred modes of communication, including assistive devices, gestures, and accessibility resources used in daily instruction. The Alternate ELPAC adopted a multitiered accessibility resources model so that the assessment will measure language proficiency, not technology ability.
California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance Office | email@example.com
English Language Proficiency and Spanish Assessments Office | firstname.lastname@example.org