States’ Flexibility Plans for Phasing Out the Alternate Assessment Based on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) by 2014–15

Some states have an alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards (AA-MAS). The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allows up to two percent of students to be deemed proficient with this assessment option. Students who participate in an AA-MAS must have an individualized education program (IEP) and be unlikely to achieve grade level proficiency within the year covered by the IEP. In 2011 the U.S. Department of Education provided the opportunity for states to request flexibility from some of the ESEA accountability requirements. To receive a flexibility waiver, states with an AA-MAS were required to include a plan to phase out the use of the AA-MAS for ESEA accountability by the 2014-15 school year. This report compiles, analyzes, and summarizes the states’ plans for phasing out the AA-MAS in their approved waiver applications. Twelve states with an operational AA-MAS have approved flexibility waivers as of December 2012. Nine of these states indicated that they plan to provide professional development that will help educators develop skills they need to more successfully instruct and assess low performing students with disabilities. Two-thirds of the states indicated that they plan to provide technical assistance that will help transition this group of students to the new common core state standards (CCSS) and assessment systems. Some of the other features of states’ plans included: consideration of students’ access needs, ensuring that students have access to grade- level content, and reviewing and updating the IEPs of students who participate in an AA-MAS. States provided varying levels of detail about how they plan to phase out the AA-MAS. Some states provided fairly extensive information about the transition, while other states provided brief, broad statements. As states move toward phasing out the AA-MAS for accountability purposes, many will need to develop more detailed plans. As students are transitioned back to the general assessment, states have an opportunity to think thoughtfully about how to best instruct and assess low performing students with disabilities and other struggling learners.

Content Comments 

The content is good, yet it is for a narrow audience. The audience includes state policy-makers whose work centers on students with disabilities and accountability assessment. The information was accessible. The utility will be for states in the process of developing or revising assessment transition plans for students with disabilities. The report makes good suggestions about what quality transition plans consist of.