All students, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, deserve and have a right to a quality educational experience. This right includes, to the maximum extent possible, the opportunity to be involved in and meet the same challenging expectations that have been established for all students. To ensure students with the most significant cognitive disabilities have that opportunity, Wisconsin educators collaborated with educators from several other states in the Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium (DLM) to create alternate academic achievement standards called the Essential Elements. These alternate academic achievement standards are aligned to the Wisconsin Academic Standards. The Essential Elements have been created in the areas of English language arts, mathematics, and science.
The Essential Elements were developed to satisfy the requirement of the U.S. Department of Education that Wisconsin have alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities that are clearly linked to grade-level academic content standards, promote access to the general curriculum and reflect professional judgment of the highest expectation possible.
IEP teams are required to consider whether a student with the most significant cognitive disability should receive instruction aligned to alternate achievement standards and participate in alternate assessments. To make this decision, IEP teams can use the document Guidance to Determining Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities, when filling out the sample IEP form I-4 IEP: Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance. This document guides the IEP team through a step-by-step decision making process to determine the most appropriate curriculum for that individual student.
Wisconsin has alternate academic achievement standards called the Wisconsin Essential Elements in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The alternate standards are K-12 academic standards, are aligned with college and career expectations, include rigorous content, and application. For students to be college and career ready, including students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, educators should include instruction in both academic content, as well as the reading and writing skills needed to demonstrate learning in the other disciplinary areas.