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One Percent (1%) Participation Threshold


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Under ESSA, the number of students who may take the alternate assessment is limited to no more than 1.0 percent of the total number of all students in the State who are assessed in a given subject (i.e., reading/language arts, mathematics, and science). This 1.0 percent threshold is at the state level.

Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities may participate in the alternate assessment (DLM), and no student should take the alternate assessment unless they are also participating in the alternate academic achievement standards (Wisconsin Essential Elements). 34 CFR 200.6(a)(2)(ii)(B). In Wisconsin, a student with the most significant cognitive disability is defined as:

  • typically characterized as functioning at least two and a half to three standard deviations below the mean in both adaptive behavior and cognitive functioning; and
  • performs substantially below grade level expectations on the academic content standards for the grade in which they are enrolled, even with the use of adaptations and accommodations; and
  • a student who requires extensive, direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measurable gains, across all content areas and settings.


Districts normally receive a formal notification from the department when the 1.0 percent participation threshold is exceeded for that year. Due to the ESSA waiver of state and federal 2019-20 assessment requirements, there will be no formal 2019-20 notification letter sent to districts and districts will not be required to submit justifications. The department will be in contact with districts whose data indicate a need for follow-up.  Districts should review IEP’s and Evaluations Reports of students taking the alternate assessment to be sure there is sufficient evidence that meets the state’s definition of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

2019-20 Participation

Calculating a true alternate assessment participation rate is not possible for 2019-20 without valid test outcomes so the rates must be estimated. Test registration data were used to create a credible estimate of alternate assessment participation rates. For more information on this process please refer to the 2019-20 Alternate Assessment Participation Estimation Process.

2019-20 Districts 1% Participation (based on 2018-19 data)