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 called a datafolio that shows what the student can or can not do in English language arts, social studies, mathematics and science based on the learning standards for all students.
  • measures student achievement 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, video and audiotapes, data collection forms and student work samples.
  • 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 family's 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.
  •  was implemented in 2001-02 and revised for 2002-03.

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 progress during the assessment period.
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 science, and 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.
  •  No Child Left Behind requires that states assess student progress toward state learning standards. 

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
  • In the NYSAA process, family involvement and participation is critical. 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 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.
Schools must administer the NYSAA to eligible students with severe disabilities who are at the required age for testing at the elementary, middle and secondary levels.
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 achievement toward meeting the learning standards?
Achievement is measured toward meeting the alternate performance indicator level of the general learning standards based on the information that is collected over a period of time. Examples of alternate performance indicators are: demonstrate appropriate eating skills and follow directions that involve one or two steps. This information is then scored using a rubic. The scores from the rubric are converted to alternate assessment levels ranging from Alternate Assessment Level 1 to Alternate Assessment Level 4.

Alternate Assessment Level I would indicate that the student:
  • participates passively in activities based on the mandatory alternate performance indicator from a single learning standard.*

Alternate Assessment Level 4 would indicate that the student:

  • independently and accurately performs skills based on at least two learning standards and four alternate performance indicators.

* The mandatory alternate performance indicators include using communication skills (English language arts), relating mathematics to the studentís environment (mathematics), participating in activities that promote good health and growth in humans (science) and demonstrating what it means to be a good citizen (social studies).
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 (585) 344-2112 x-420
bullet  Central Region (315) 428-3287
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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