As a community, we know how important State Testing is for our school districts. It helps the district in many ways: performance evaluations for teachers and students, standards for teaching, and much more. However, some of our students do not qualify to take Keystones or the PSSA. Thankfully, the student of Pennsylvania is offered an alternate assessment, known as the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment or the PASA. Students in 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 11th grade who qualify for the PASA are administered the test. The students are tested in Reading, Math, and Science. Science tests are only administered in 4th, 8th, and 11th grade.

According to, the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is a statewide alternate assessment designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Specifically, it is intended for those who are unable to participate meaningfully in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) even with accommodations. By administering the PASA to students with severe disabilities, schools achieve compliance with federal laws and the Pennsylvania School Code that require that all students participate in the statewide accountability system.

The PASA is an individually administered test given each spring to students by their teacher or another certified Test Administrator who knows the student well. Test administration can be adapted so that even students with the most severe disabilities can participate in the assessment and receive a score. There are three levels of difficulty within each grade for all three content areas. Level A contains the least complex reading, math, or science related skills. Level B consists of intermediate skills, and Level C consists of the most complex skills. Like the PSSA, the PASA is designed to take a snapshot of student’s typical performance on a small sample of academic skills derived from the PA Academic Standards.

Student performance is video recorded and submitted for scoring to the contractor at the University of Pittsburgh. Teams of scorers (comprised of practicing teachers, administrative school personnel, and college/university faculty) are trained to use a scoring rubric to evaluate student performance. Once scoring has been completed, aggregated results are submitted to the state for inclusion with scores from the PSSA. In addition, PASA reports are generated at the state, home district, service provider, and student levels.

Below is the Criteria for Determining Who Should Take the PASA:

1. The student is in grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 11; and

2. The student has a very severe cognitive disability; and

3. The student requires very intensive instruction to learn; and

4. The student requires very extensive adaptations and supports in order to perform and/or participate meaningfully and productively in the everyday life activities of integrated school, home, community, and work environments; and

5. The student requires very substantial modification of the general education curriculum; and

6. The student’s participation in the general education curriculum differs very substantially in form and/or substance from that of most other students (i.e., requires modified objectives, materials, and/or activities).

If all of the above criteria are met, it would be appropriate for the IEP team to decide that the student should take the PASA. If the criteria are not met, the student should be assigned to take the PSSA with or without accommodations.

Our student scores have been through the roof. Over 90% of our students have scored Proficient in all of the categories, which is outstanding. Our students work all year on a curriculum designed to fit their individual needs, work on their goals and objectives, and prepare them for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA). Our students should be commended and honored for their hard work-they are outstanding!



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