The New York State Alternate Assessment for Students with Severe Disabilities

New York State
has raised
for all students,
including those
with the most
What is the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA)?
  • is a collection of evidence, including student work and parent/teacher observations, called a datafolio that shows what the student can or can not do based on the learning standards for all students.
  • measures student progress toward meeting the alternate performance indicators for each standard, which are educational outcomes on a basic functional level.
  • includes information collected over several months, in a variety of ways.This may include photographs and videotapes, evidence of social interactions, interviews, data collection forms and surveys.
  • ensures that skill acquisition and competencies needed for positive adult outcomes (employment, training and independent living) are regularly assessed.
  • includes a parent survey, which asks for essential information about the families' perception of student performance.
  • was developed in 1999 by a task force which included parents, researchers, educators and advocates.
  • was piloted statewide from March through May 2000.

The NYSAA is not:

  • A traditional test in which a question is asked of the student and to which the student must respond on paper.
  • An assessment that measures student performance only in the classroom. Student performance is assessed across a variety of settings (school, community and home).
Why is the NYSAA being implemented?

Two federal laws require that students with severe disabilities are assessed.

  • Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act mandates that states establish standards, assess students in English Language Arts and Mathematics, and that states report student performance.

Assessment, Standards, Curriculum, Instruction Graphic

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) requires that each state develop and implement an alternate assessment for students who can not participate in the regular assessment system, even with accommodations.

More importantly, the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) for students with severe disabilities allows students to demonstrate their mastery of skills and attainment of knowledge relative to New York State learning standards. It ensures that Individual Educational Programs (IEPs), curriculum and classroom instruction are based on the skills and competencies that students need to achieve positive adult outcomes.

How are families involved in the process?family
  • are assessed in a variety of settings, across social interactions, and parents have a broad base of knowledge about their child's mastery of skills across a variety of learning experiences.
  • Families and school personnel should work together so that an accurate representation of the student's mastery of skills is documented in the NYSAA datafolio.
  • Families of students with severe disabilities have a great investment in ensuring that their children are prepared to live and work as independently as possible. This commitment and support are an integral part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) planning process.
A guiding principle of the NYSAA is to encourage families and school personnel to work together to determine a plan toward educational success.
Who should take the NYSAA?
Participation in the NYSAA is a Committee on Special Education (CSE) decision. As a member of the CSE, parents are integral to that decision.
To take the assessment:
(1) The Student has
  • a severe cognitive disability
  • significant deficits in
  1. communication/language
  2. and adaptive behavior


(2) The student requires a highly specialized educational program that facilitates the acquisition, application and transfer of skills across natural environments.


(3) The student requires educational support systems, such as: assistive technology, personal care services, or behavioral intervention.
Students with severe disabilities may experience severe speech, language, and/or perceptual-cognitive impairments and evidence challenging behaviors that interfere with learning and socialization. These students may also have extremely fragile health conditions and may require personal care, physical/verbal supports and/or prompts and assistive technology devices.
How is the alternate assessment linked to the other State assessments and to the learning standards?
girl working
The Standards for students with severe disabilities are the same standards that have been approved by the Board of Regents for all students. However, alternate performance indicators were developed to reflect appropriate educational outcomes for these students.
Students with severe disabilities are assessed using the NYSAA at ages 9-10 (grade 4), 13-14 (grade 8), and 16-17 (high school).
Additional information is available in a publication entitled The Learning Standards and Alternate Performance Indicators for Students with Severe Disabilities, available at:

Results from the NYSAA will be reported on the School Report Card in the same manner as all other State assessments.   
How does the NYSAA measure student progress toward meeting standards at the level of the alternate performance indicator?
Progress is measured toward meeting the alternate performance indicators level of the general learning standards based on the information that is collected over a period of time. This information is then scored using a rubic. A rubric is a scoring guide. Scores are based on a scale of one to four.

A score of one would indicate that the student:
  • participates passively in activities based on the standard(s) and alternate performance indicator(s);
  • work indicates linkage to a single standard and alternate performance indicator;
  • does not evaluate his/her own performance;
  • participates in an activity in a single setting;
  • requires extensive adult prompts/cues for social interactions.

A score of four would indicate that the student:

  • initiates specific skills based on the learning standard(s) and alternate performance indicator(s) and performs accurately and independently in routine and new situations;
  • work indicates linkage to an extensive variety of standards and alternate performance indicators;
  • consistently makes choices and self-evaluates performance independently in multiple activities;
  • demonstrates all skills in a wide variety of settings;
  • has sustained social interactions that are appropriate.
* Examples of alternate performance indicators are: understand basic safety rules; demonstrate appropriate eating skills; follow directions that involve one or two steps; use familiar communication systems to satisfy personal needs; activates devices; utilize information to make decisions; and participate in activities that help promote good health and growth.
How to get more
Regional Associates of the Office of Vocational and Educational Services
for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) may be reached at:
bullet  Western Region (718) 344-2112 x-420
bullet  Central Region (315) 471-4796
bullet  Hudson Valley Region (914) 245-0010
bullet  Eastern Region (518) 486-6366
bullet  Long Island Region (631) 884-8530
bullet  New York City Region (718) 722-4544

New York State Education Department
bullet  Education Department:
bullet  VESID Special Education:

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The State Education Department does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, religion, creed, disability, marital status, veteran status, national origin, race, gender, genetic predisposition or carrier status, or sexual orientation in its educational programs, services and activities. Portions of this publication can be made available in a variety of formats, including braille, large print or audio tape, upon request. Inquiries concerning this policy of nondiscrimination should be directed to the Department’s Office for Diversity, Ethics, and Access, Room 530, Education Building, Albany, NY 12234.

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