Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a new alternate assessment?

The national consensus around college and career ready standards based on real-world expectations presents an opportunity to raise expectations for all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities. As states build common general assessments that measure college and career readiness, as defined grade by grade in the Common Core State Standards, we need an alternate assessment based on the same foundation of rigorous real-world content, while taking into account these students’ unique learner characteristics.

What does ‘college and career ready’ mean for students with significant cognitive disabilities?
The terminology of “college and career ready” as defined by educational experts and policy makers may seem out of reach for many students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, but the skill sets associated with these standards are important and meaningful for these students.  For students with significant cognitive disabilities, we are only beginning to learn what is possible with the benefit of 12 years of systematic instruction in communication, reading, math, and other rigorous content. The NCSC project will work with key research and practice partners to rethink our ideas of what is possible for these students by operating on the principle of the “least dangerous assumption.”

How will my state’s participation in the NCSC project affect the way that my district serves and assesses students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?
Your district will have access to all of the curricular, instructional support, and professional development materials developed through NCSC for teachers of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The alternate assessment will be based on the best research available about how these students build competence in academics and how to prepare them for life after high school. NCSC will also design systems to ease the burden of administering the alternate assessment.

Will the C&I materials be accessible for all students who have the most significant cognitive disabilities, including those with the most complex challenges?
Yes. In order for any student to benefit from challenging curriculum and high quality instruction, they have to be able to communicate what they know and can do. In addition to intensive training for teachers and related service providers on communication strategies for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, NCSC will produce materials at varying levels of complexity to meet students’ unique learning needs, and will develop strong accommodations policies, procedures, and professional development.

When will the NCSC materials be available for use?
Teachers can start using the NCSC curriculum, instruction, and professional development resources as they are made available throughout the project. The final product will be a summative alternate assessment to be made available in the final year of the project.

Will the NCSC assessment be available to all states?
Yes. While only the original 18 partner states will have the opportunity to shape the design of the assessment system, all states will have access to all NCSC products after the project ends. In addition, other states can apply through September 2012 to become official beta tester/evaluation partners, as a Tier II affiliated partner.