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Students with Disabilities and Statewide Assessment

Federal and state special education legislation requires that all students with disabilities participate in state and district assessments. Specifically, the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states, "All children with disabilities are included in all general State and district-wide assessment programs, including assessments described under section IIII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, with appropriate accommodation and alternate assessments, where necessary and as indicated in their respective individualized education programs." The reauthorized IDEA specifies that an alternate assessment is to be provided for the small number of students with disabilities for whom the standardized assessment is inappropriate even with accommodations. At present, the statewide assessment system, the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS), includes:

General Assessment

Students with disabilities in grades 3 through 11 who are instructed in curriculum aligned with the Wisconsin Academic Standards for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and social studies are expected to participate in the Forward at grades 3-8 and the high school ACT assessments administered in their grade level.

Alternate Assessment

Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades 3 through 11 who are instructed aligned to the Wisconsin Alternate Achievement Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies are expected to participate in statewide alternate assessments.

The National Center for Educational Outcomes (NCEO)  has developed a new brief regarding making assessment accessibility decisions for all students.  It includes information on steps both IEP teams and other educators should take as we shift to a focus on making decisions about accessibility and accommodations required by the new assessment approaches for statewide assessments. These new approaches include making decisions for students without an identified disability or ELL status. Seven steps are highlighted that will be useful in organizing professional development for educators who will be making accessibility decisions on making optimal decisions about accessibility tools and accommodations that meet individual student needs.

To access the brief, go to

Accessibility and Accommodations

The Special Education Team works in conjunction with the Office of Educational Accountability on the use of assessment accommodations and accessibility features. The Department has added a page specific to the use of assessment accommodations for each of the statewide assessments.

These pages provide information about the allowable use of accommodations and supports for students with disabilities.