What is the Iowa Alternate Assessment and what does it mean for students with special needs?

For parents of children with special needs, hearing education jargon like No Child Left Behind, district-wide assessment, proficiency scores, and Iowa Core Curriculum can raise questions. How does all this apply to my child?

Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation requires that all students in grades three through eight and grades 10 and 11 be assessed in reading and mathematics. Students in grades five, eight and 11 are also assessed in science.

In Iowa, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are assessed through the Iowa Alternate Assessment (IAA) and participate in the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment System (DLM). The core standards that are assessed include English/Language Arts, math and science.

In Iowa those standards have been defined by specific knowledge and skills expected at each grade level. These are referred to as the “essential elements.” Iowa Alternate Assessments (IAA) are not given to the students once a year like typical district wide assessments, but instead are part of the on-going assessment during the school year. Students are taught essential elements, and then assessed on them using the DLM at the end of that teaching. This helps students to show what they know, the academic growth they have achieved, and helps in planning for future learning.

Another difference from typical district-wide assessments is that IAA is an assessment that students are able to complete on a computer or tablet independently or with the use of assistive technology and/or teacher assistance based upon their needs.

However a student is assessed; remember that the reason for assessment is to show students’ achievement and progress. If you are a parent of a student with special needs and have questions about alternate assessments, feel free to contact Lisa Jellum, Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) Special Education Team Representative at (641) 420-8560.

Lisa Jellum, AEA 267 Special Education Consultant

Lisa Jellum, AEA 267 Special Education Consultant

Lisa Jellum is an AEA 267 Special Education Team Representative and the AEA 267 contact for the Iowa Alternative Assessments. She can be reached at (641) 420-8560.

Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.

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