These are questions to guide your reading and reflection of the text Alternative Assessments Based on Alternative Achievement Standards Policy, Practice, and Potential.

Chapter 1

What are the challenges of evaluating students who take alternative assessments? Who are these students who take alternative assessments?

How do communication and literacy skills of students with moderate to severe disabilities impact their ability to take assessments? How are lack of communication skills and limited use of technology preventing students with severe disabilities from obtaining academic achievement?

Chapter 2 and 3

In your own words, what is a construct? Why is it important to understand constructs that are going to be assessed by an alternative assessment?

“An assessment must be aligned with the state content standards, must yield results separately in both reading/language arts and mathematics, and must be designed and implemented in a manner that supports use of the results as an indicator of AYP” (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2005 p. 15) Is this all we need to understand when we talk about alternative assessments? Why is validity and reliability of alternative assessments important?

Why is the below quote important? “The important conclusion is that for any assessment (including alternative assessment measures and general education achievement tests) refinements are necessary, and validation processes are ongoing?”

What issues affect the validity of test score interpretation? (p. 31)

Why are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 important when we talk about alternative assessment?

What are the two dimensions of assessment (p. 35)? What can we learn from portfolio research and performance assessment research?

Chapter 4

Since the late 90’s federal policy for students with disabilities has moved to an “…emphasis on inclusion in state and district assessments that emphasize students’ attainment of the academic content of the general curriculum rather than functional skills” (p. 42).
Describe one federal statute or regulation related to the above emphasis on assessment.

Why is collaboration important to create quality alternative assessments? What lessons were learned regarding addressing challenges related to successful implementation of alternative assessments? Why is it important to research issues related to alternative assessment?

Chapter 5

With the authorization of NCLB, states were required to develop alternative assessment items that must be linked to grade level expectations. The depth of knowledge on alternative assessment tasks should not match grade level performance indicators for each content standard because they would then be tasks that are based on grade level expectations.

According to Webb 1997, alignment standards are procedures used to describe the degree of overlap among content embedded in state standards, assessment and instruction. (p. 61). Three challenges related to the alternative assessment based on alternative achievement standards system that can influence alignment outcomes are diverse populations of students with disabilities, curriculum changes and challenges, and format challenges. Describe these challenges discussed in your text.

What did you think of the links for academic learning (LAL) developed and researched to define the criteria for alignment of alternative assessments based on alternative achievement standards (AA-AAS)? Each person should summarize one criteria and explain why it is important.

1. The content is academic
2. Content if referenced to the student’s grade level
3. Fidelity with grade level content and performance
4. The content differs in range, balance, and depth of knowledge
5. Differentiation across grade levels and grade bands
6. Expected achievement of students is grade referenced academic content
7. Barriers to performance
8. The instructional program promotes learning in the general curriculum

What were three reasons some states missed the mark for aligning alternative assessments based on alternative achievement standards?

Describe either one of the following tools (“Work It Across” or Work It Up”), the text provided to help schools and states plan extensions of standards. What are the benefits of these tools?

Why is important for regular education teachers and special education teachers to work together to plan how to include students with significant disabilities in the general education curriculum?

Chapter 6

The text refers to extensions of grade level academic content standards. In Maine, these extensions are referred to as Alternate Grade Level Expectations (AGLEs). Do you feel the AGLEs are closely linked to state grade level academic achievement standards?”

Presently, Maine uses portfolios as their form of alternative assessment. Do you think using a rating scale with supporting collections of evidence or a standardized performance task design would be a more affective design for our state alternative assessment system?
What are some of the features of content area and grade level descriptors?

How can the definition of achievement constructs such as reading impact students with the most significant cognitive disabilities? Should the definition of reading only include decoding and comprehension? Would this apply to all students with physical or communication limitations?

What did you learn from Table 6.2 on page 105 regarding categories of definitions of proficient and corresponding alternative assessment designs by states? Explain one of the ways for defining proficiency for AA-AAS discussed in your text.

Chapter 7

What is test validity?
What benefits can validity evaluations provide for alternative assessments?
What validity questions would you pose to evaluators at the state level to improve PAAP?

Chapter 8

The National Center of Educational Outcomes documented state practices in alternative assessments through surveys. The six topics covered in these survey reports include the following:
· Stakeholder expectations and principals
· Content coverage
· Approaches
· Scoring criteria and procedures
· Performance/achievement level descriptors and standard setting
· Reporting and Accountability
(p. 127-128)

On page 132, read, compare and contrast principals taken from three states. Which state (1, 2 or 3) or states demonstrated the shift in thinking by IDEA 1997 that all students must participate in statewide assessments?

Reflect on your reading of the history of alternative assessments from 1997 until today. Was there anything that surprised you and why?
Why do you think that research results from states revealed that students with the most significant disabilities (including those who lack communication strategies) who take alternative assessment are not making progress in academic content of skills from elementary school to high school?

Where do we go from here with alternative assessments? How should decisions about future approaches for instruction, curriculum and alternative assessment of students with significant disabilities be made?