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Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) FAQ

Accountability and Testing of students in various situations:

Q. Do I need to test students who are migrant or homeless?

A. Yes. All students enrolled at the time of testing must be assessed.

Q. Do I count in my enrollment and assess students who are in my school district under the school open-enrollment program?

A. Yes. These students and their parents/guardians chose to attend your school under provisions covered by state law. Therefore, it is your district’s responsibility to test these students.

Q. Are the scores of open enrollment students included with the scores of regular residents for my school?

A. Yes. Test participation is based on the number of students enrolled, regardless of FAY status. Open enrollment students are treated exactly the same as all other district students for the purpose of reporting.

Q. Do I need to test a homebound or hospitalized student?

A. Yes. Homebound students who remain enrolled in the district are the district’s responsibility for testing.

Test security needs to be carefully considered when dealing with homebound or hospitalized students. Be sure that the person who is administering the assessment at the home of the student or at hospital is a licensed district staff member who has been trained in test administration.

Each of these situations is unique. Educators should use their own judgment on when it is appropriate to test a student. Keep in mind that children might wish to be included in everything their peers are doing. Non-tested students count as non-participants for reporting purposes.

Q. When does a student qualify as having a “significant medical emergency”?

A. A significant medical emergency is a significant health impairment that renders the student incapable of participating in any academic activities, including state assessments, for the entire testing window. Districts should maintain documentation of the circumstance within their district. The student will be excluded from test participation and achievement-based accountability calculations.

Q. Who is responsible for testing students attending a Virtual School?

A. Virtual schools are responsible for testing all students enrolled in grades 3-11. This may be done in the district, or with district staff at other arranged sites. Other districts should not test students who live in their attendance area and attend a virtual school in another district.

Q. Is our district responsible for testing private school students?

A. No. Your district may not test private school students.

Q. Is the school or district responsible for testing a home-schooled student if the parent requests that?

A. No. You are neither required nor permitted to include home-schooled students in the DLM, including those enrolled in your district for two or fewer classes per day.

Q. When is parent /guardian opt-out allowed?

A. When a parent or guardian requests that the student be excused from participating in the WSAS, this request must be honored at grades 4, 8, 9-11, per Wis. Stats. 118.30(2)(b)3.. This request may come at any time during the testing window. All students excused by parent opt-out are marked as “not tested” students in school and district reporting determinations.

Q. How does a parent/guardian request an opt-out for their student?

A. A parent must submit a written request for student opt-out to the principal or the school board. Per Wis. Stats. 118.30(2)(b)3., if the student is in grades 4, 8, and 9-11 the request must be granted. However, if the student is not in the above mentioned grade levels, the decision to grant the request is at the discretion of the school board.

Q. Do I need to test a student who is out of state during the testing window?

A. No. The DLM cannot be administered out of state. If the student is still enrolled in the district/school, the student counts as not tested for reporting purposes.

Q. Do I need to test a student who is attending a school out of state but living in my district?

A. No. The student is likely being instructed on standards different from Wisconsin. The student does not need to be included in the count of students enrolled in the district if the placement is out-of-state.

Q. Who is responsible for testing students who are placed in either a state mental health facility operated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services or in a corrections facility operated by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections?

A. If the student is still enrolled in a district, it is the district’s responsibility to test the student. The district should work with the facility to complete testing; however, it is not the facility’s responsibility to test the student. If the student is not tested by the district, the student counts as not tested for reporting purposes.

NOTE: When a student is permanently placed under the care of one of the above systems and they are no longer enrolled in a district, these facilities are not required to administer the DLM.

Q. Who is responsible for testing a student with a disability who is placed in a Residential Care Center (RCC) when the RCC is a third party provider?

A. If the student is still enrolled in a district and they manage the student’s IEP, it is the district’s responsibility to test the student. The district should work with the RCC to complete testing; however, it is not the facility’s responsibility to test the student. If the student is not tested by the district, the student counts as a not tested for reporting purposes.

NOTE: The district holding the IEP is usually responsible for providing educational services, for holding the WISEId, and for submitting data to WISEdata. There are many different scenarios in which a student is enrolled in an RCC. If you still need additional information, please contact OSA at (608) 267-1072.

Q. What is DPI’s definition of “Full Academic Year” (FAY)?
A. The transition to spring testing for English language arts and mathematics assessments required an adjustment to what counts as full academic year (FAY) enrollment for the purposes of reporting and using assessment results in accountability calculations. With fall testing, FAY was calculated based on continuous enrollment from the 3rd Friday of September of the prior year to the current year. Such a calculation is not appropriate for spring testing. Starting in the 2014-15 school year, FAY will be based on the following:
- For spring testing, an FAY student is one who has been continuously enrolled in a school or district from the 3rd Friday of September to the completion of testing, with no enrollment gaps of 30 days or more.

- For fall test administrations prior to and including 2014-15, an FAY student is one who had been continuously enrolled in a school or district for 9.25 months, not including time that the student was not in school during the summer.

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1% Participation Rule:


Q. Is it true that only 1% of students can participate in the alternate assessment?

A. Beginning in fall 2017 the Every Student Succeeds Act, limits the number of students who may take an alternate assessment 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) in an assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards. While these changes are specific at the state level, it requires the State to monitor district participation so as to not exceed the 1.0 threshold. All eligible students should participate in the DLM. Eligibility is determined by the IEP team using the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment. Districts may be required to provide documentation if they exceed the 1.0% threshold, DPI will contact the district to determine if circumstances warrant a district response.

Q. What if a small district has enough students taking the alternate assessment that more than 1% of the students could count as proficient for the 1% proficiency threshold?

A. DPI may request that the district complete a justification with appropriate assurances and documentation if the number of students exceeds the 1% threshold. DPI will contact the district to determine if circumstances warrant a district waiver. The decision to participate in the DLM is made using the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment rather than the student's impact on district accountability calculations.

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Q. Which student supports are allowed?

A. The DLM Accessibility Manual is also a good resource for information on allowable supports. This document provides some reminders about allowable supports and materials used to deliver assessments. It also provides examples of how students with different response modes can indicate their answers to computer-based testlets.

Q. Where can I find information on the accessibility features of the DLM Assessment?

A. Information on the accessibility features can be found in the DLM Accessibility Manual. DLM accessibility features should be documented on the student’s IEP Form I-7 DLM. Category 1 features should be documented under Section A, while Category 2 and 3 features should be documented under Section B on the IEP form.

Q. Can test administrators give directions to students based on their response style (e.g., “squeeze my hand when we touch the correct answer choice") without changing what is being tested?

A. If a student cannot respond orally, it is likely that the student has assistive communication strategies and devices that he or she is already using. These assistive communication strategies and devices should be used to allow the student to express his or her answers. In the given example, the test administrator should practice with the student before actually administering the test on how the student will indicate a chosen answer. The additional instruction of “squeeze my hand when I touch the correct answer choice” can be added without changing what is being tested.

Q. Does DPI need to know how a student responds (eye gaze, pointing, etc)?

A. No. DPI trusts that test administrators know each student’s response style and will document answers accordingly.

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Communication with Parents:


Q. Is there a brochure available for parents that explain the DLM Alternate Assessment?

A. Yes. DPI has created DLM Assessment Information for Families which gives information about the test.

Q. Is there a brochure available for parents that explains the Wisconsin Essential Elements?

A. DPI has created has developed a Parent Brochure that explains the standards.

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English Language Learners:


Q. Can oral translations be provided for a student taking the DLM who is an ELL?

A. Yes, unless exceptions are noted on the Testlet information Pages (TIPs). Test Administrators are able to translate the text for the students, simplify test instructions, translate words on demand, provide synonyms and /or definitions (when permissible) and accept responses in either English or the student’s native language for Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science (in applicable grades). When deciding which disability related accommodations should be provided on the DLM, refer to the student's IEP.

Q. Will DPI provide translated tests for the DLM, or should local interpreters provide translations?

A. No. DPI will not provide translators for the DLM test; district appointed local interpreters should be used as necessary. Guidelines for the use of translators and interpreters are posted on the ELL page of the OEA website.

Q. Do I need to test English language learners (ELLs) who are new to country and qualify for the alternate assessment?

A. Yes, all students enrolled at the time of testing must be assessed. English language learners (ELLs) with limited English proficiency (ACCESS level 1 or 2) who are new to country (less than 12 calendar months) are permitted a one-time exemption to the English language arts test. If the student does not participate in the ELA assessment, he or she must participate in Alternate ACCESS for ELLs®. Recently arrived students must also participate in all other content areas, with or without accommodations. Students in district for less than a full academic year (FAY) are counted for test participation only; their assessment results are not factored into school or district report cards.

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Visually Impaired Students:


Q. How can a school request Braille copies of the DLM?

A. Uncontracted Braille testlets are available through DLM, test administrators should not braille DLM forms for their students. Because the testlets are determined dynamically, fixed form Braille versions are not possible. Assignment to uncontracted Braille forms requires the Test Administrator to select Braille support on the PNP (P) Access Profile). All Braille forms are delivered in BRF format through Educator Portal. Districts will be required to emboss all testlets. Testlets are assigned to the student by the KITE system, the same way that non-Braille testlets are assigned. As each testlet is assigned to the student, the teacher or assessment coordinator embosses the testlet. For further information regarding blind and visual impairments contact the Special Education Team at (608) 266-1781.

Q. What if the student has a severe visual impairment and needs larger presentation of content than the 5x magnification setting provides?

A. The test administrator may use an interactive whiteboard or projector, or a magnification device that works with the computer screen.

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Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students:


Q. How does an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter translate items that can be read to students since it's not translated word-for-word? Can ASL phrases be signed to students even though the interpreter won’t be “sticking to the script”.

A. An interpreter is allowed to sign all content and items to a student if this accommodation is identified in the student’s IEP since sign is not provided via the computer. For students who sign, test administrators may sign the contents to the student using ASL, Exact English, or personalized sign systems. Items and questions should be interpreted as closely as possible without changing the construct of the questions. For further information regarding deaf or hard of hearing impairment contact the Special Education Team at (608) 266-1781.

Q. What if the student who uses sign language to communicate has a limited proficiency in reading text?

A. The test administrator may sign the test, spelling unfamiliar words and adapting or interpreting the language as needed based on the signs the student is familiar with.

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Q. Do specific manipulatives for the DLM need to be listed in a student’s IEP?

A. No. The use of manipulatives is allowed for all students taking the DLM as part of the standard administration. Test administrators should ensure that the manipulatives are already used in the student’s classroom instruction and the student is familiar with them so test administrators are not introducing something new in the middle of testing.

Q. Will DPI/DLM Consortium provide manipulatives for the DLM?

A. No. It is important that the objects be easily available and familiar to the student. The Testlet Information Page includes information which describes the general properties of the objects that are needed. Objects that are not on the list may be substituted as long as they meet the general requirement for that Essential Element. The use of manipulatives is dependent upon individual student needs and should be consistent with materials used instructionally. The provision of manipulatives is a district responsibility.

Q. Can I substitute materials/manipulatives?

A. Testlets sometimes call for the use of materials or manipulatives. Suggested materials are included in the Testlet Information Page (TIP) for each testlet. To gather materials ahead of time that are likely to be used in a student’s assessment, please see the materials collections lists on your Educator Resource Page.

In a few testlets, some materials are required and cannot be substituted, but in most testlets substitutes are allowed. For more information about substituting objects, see the Test Administration Manual, section titled Teacher-Administered Tests. When substituting materials, remember to change the words in the question (including the answer choices) to match the substituted item.

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Test Administration:


Q. Do I have to be trained to administer the DLM assessment? If so, how often?

A. Yes, all test administrators must complete the required test administration training modules through the Moodle website. There is a Guide to help all users access and navigate the training website. Returning users must complete a refresher training course taking approximately 30 minutes. New test administrators must complete 5 modules taking approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. All users will be required to pass a quiz at the end of each module and print the certificate of completion.

Q. What is the First Contact Survey (FCS) and do I have to complete it?

A. The FCS collects important information about student characteristics such as communication and academic skills, as well as attention. The survey is used by the DLM system in assigning the first testlet level for each content area. Therefore, a test administrator must complete the FCS for every student on their roster. The FCS, found in Educator Portal, must be reviewed each year and resubmitted. Test Administrators can find more information about the First Contact Survey in the DLM Test Administration Manual.

Q. What is the Personal Needs Profile (PNP)?

A. The Personal Needs Profile activates certain accessibility features both within the system and documents supports provided outside of the DLM system. The PNP is found in Educator Portal and must be reviewed/resubmitted every year for a student. Test Administrators can find more information about the Personal Needs Profile in the DLM Test Administration Manual.

Q. What is the Instruction and Assessment Planner?

A. The Instruction and Assessment Planner is an optional resource available to teachers in Educator Portal that will allow them to create instructional plans for an individual student. Educators are then able to administer (optional) testlets for a single Essential Element throughout the year tracking a student's progress. Test Administrators can find more information about Instruction and Assessment Planner in the DLM Test Administration Manual or on the Educator Resource Page.

Q. Can I use the Instruction and Assessment Planner as an alternate benchmark assessment (e.g. as an alternate to MAP, STAR, etc. ) for students taking the DLM?

A. It depends. While the Instruction and Assessment Planner can provide useful information, it should not be confused with a formal common benchmark assessment, nor should it be used for any high stakes decisions regarding students. By design, the Instruction and Assessment Planner system allows flexibility for a teacher to choose a standard and specific linkage level to assess based upon an individual student’s level of understanding. There are currently a limited number of testlets at each linkage level. However, not all essential elements (EEs) are currently available to be selected in the system. In addition, the Instruction and Assessment Planner system does not generate a performance level score for the EEs assessed, thereby making it difficult to predict a student’s future performance. Instruction and Assessment Planner is available starting September 19, 2019.

With those cautions in mind, a teacher may be able to use the system as a means of informally measuring individual student progress toward a specific standard or group of standards, noting again that not all EEs are available in this system. In the same way, this tool could also be used formatively so as to immediately adjust teaching during an instructional cycle. In short, the Instruction and Assessment Planner system is probably not a good alternate to tests such as MAP and STAR, but teachers certainly could use it as an informal benchmarking or formative tool within their own practice.

Q. What content areas are tested with DLM?

A. Students in grades 3-11 are tested in English language arts and mathematics. Students in grades 4 and 8-11 will be tested in science. In addition, students in grades 4, 8 and 10 will be tested using the DPI social studies rater form.

Q. Where are the Testlet Information Pages?

A. TIPs are located on the Test Management tab in Educator Portal. Test administrators in see About Testlet Information Pages YE.

Q. How many testlets will my student get?

A. Students will receive 5-7 testlets in ELA and 6-7 testlets in mathematics, depending on the student’s grade. This year students in grades 4 and 8-11 will also take the science assessment. All students will receive 9 science testlets. The number of testlets in each grade for ELA and Math is shown in the table in the back of the Test Administration Manual. Test administrators are also responsible for entering a performance level for social studies for students in grades 4, 8 and 10. These performance levels are determined based upon a rater form that can be completed at anytime prior to the end of the test window. Students may be assigned additional field test testlets depending upon their grade and linkage level. 

Q. How do I know if my student is done testing?
A. Your student has completed testing if you have administered the number of testlets as shown in the table below. The only exception would be if you were contacted by your state about a special reassignment of testlets. Your District Test Coordinator is also able to run DLM Test Administration Monitoring Reports for your district.
Content Area Tested
Grade Levels Assessed
Number of Testlets
Approximate length of time, depending on grade level and student’s individual needs
English language arts
5 – 7 testlets
70-90 minutes
5 – 7 testlets
35-60 minutes
4 and 8-11
9 testlets
45 – 125 minutes
Social Studies Rater Form
4, 8 and 10
Q. I can’t see all of the images, test questions, or test answers onscreen.

A. Your Technical Liaison can help you troubleshoot these issues using the KITE Client Whitelist Settings.

Q. Can the test administrator enter student responses into the computer on behalf of the student?

A. Yes. If a student is unable to enter a response into the computer, but they indicate their response in some other fashion such as eye gaze, manipulatives, verbalization, etc., the Test Administrator may enter the response into the computer on behalf of the student. This system for responding to items should be consistent with the student’s usual means of expressing choices.

Q. Where can I find DLM sample items?

A. Sample test items are posted on the DLM website.

Q. Does one testlet (a set of 3-5 items and an engagement activity) in one content area of the DLM need to be administered in one day?

A. Yes. There are no time limits set on DLM tests and no limits on the use of breaks during testing. There are three ways a student can take a break during testing: take a short break (28 minutes or less), take a break between tests or stop in the middle of a test using the Exit Does Not Save button. All testing must be completed within the test window.

Q. Are paraprofessionals allowed to administer the DLM?

A. No. Paraprofessionals cannot engage in evaluation practices or evaluate students. Therefore they cannot administer the DLM.

Q. If a paraprofessional holds a guidance counselor degree, can he/she deliver or administer the DLM?

A. No. In order to be a test administrator, he/she would have to be licensed as a guidance counselor AND be currently employed in that position.

Q. Are Occupational Therapists (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT) considered licensed to administer the DLM?

A. Yes. They can administer the test as long as they are familiar with the student and the student’s response style, have completed the required test administration training, and are an employee of the school district.

Q. Would it be allowable for a paraprofessional to assist a teacher in administering the DLM? Sometimes paraprofessionals are most familiar with the student’s response style.

A. Yes, as long as the paraprofessional is only assisting the teacher. The paraprofessional cannot administer the test or evaluate the student. Teachers should be familiar with their students’ response styles.

Q. Do test administrators need to sign something ensuring that test security has been maintained and/or to ensure that they have been trained properly in administration?

A. Yes. Test Administrators are expected to deliver DLM assessments with integrity and maintain the security of the testlets. Test Administrators will read and agree to the DLM Security Agreement through the Educator Portal. Each Test Administrator will need to complete a module on Test Security and pass a test with 80 % proficiency. The district is responsible to make sure all test administrators are trained.

Q. My student is not able to respond to questions in the assigned testlet. How do I indicate ‘no response’?

A. Testlets at the lowest linkage level (Initial Precursor) includes “no response” as one of the response options for the subject areas of ELA and mathematics. This is an appropriate choice if the student has not provided an intentional response. However, testlets at the distal precursor to the successor linkage levels do not include “no response” options. If the student has not provided an intentional response, then the test administrator should leave each item blank for which the student has not responded and submit the testlet for scoring (Exit-Save). It is possible that with the assignment of a lower testlet level, that a student may be able to provide an appropriate response.

Test administrators must administer a minimum of two consecutive testlets. After two consecutive testlets with no response, it is a district decision as to when to stop testing. When a student has not provided an intentional response for all items within the two testlets, the student will be considered a test participant in the given subject area. The students score report will indicate the lowest accountability level.

Q. Can a student teacher administer the DLM?

A. No. A student teacher is neither a licensed teacher nor hired by the school/district. Student teachers may observe the administration of the DLM or may assist as needed and as appropriate.

Q. Does one test administrator need to administer the entire test to one student, or may several test administrators take turns (as long as all are licensed and employed in an appropriate position) administering test items to a student?

A. More than one licensed test administrator may give the DLM test to one student, as long as this is appropriate for the student and the test administrators are all familiar with the student's response style. However, test tickets will only appear to the test administrator for whom the student is rostered to. Students should only be rostered to one test administrator.

Q. Can an interpreter administer the test?

A. No. The use of an interpreter is an accommodation and should be documented on the student IEP under accommodations for statewide assessment. The interpreter may work with a licensed teacher and be present during the administration.

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Test Participation:


Q. When IEP teams look at content standards to decide whether a student will participate in the Forward Exam/ACT High School assessment or the DLM do they look at the grade in which the student is enrolled, or the grade at which the student functions?

A. Students must be tested for the grade in which they are currently enrolled, and they should be enrolled in the grade that corresponds to their chronological age. Additionally, students should be instructed in the curriculum that is appropriate for their enrolled grade level. The curriculum used (e.g., the general curriculum based upon the Wisconsin Academic Standards or the alternate curriculum based on the Wisconsin Essential Elements) is the information that should be considered when deciding if a student participates in the Forward Exam or DLM. The IEP team will also use the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment to determine whether a student will participate in the Forward Exam 3-8 or ACT High School Assessments, with or without accommodations or the DLM, with or without supports.

Q. How should IEP teams decide whether or not a student participates in the DLM?

A. The decision about whether or not a student takes the DLM or the Forward Exam and ACT High School Assessments, with or without accommodations, is made by the IEP team using the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment. This decision should not be made based on disability area, or on which test a student would be most likely to demonstrate proficiency. Instead, IEP teams should determine which curriculum is used to teach the student, either the general curriculum aligned with the Wisconsin Academic Standards or the alternate curriculum aligned with the Wisconsin Essential Elements. The content taught within the alternate curriculum reflects the skills assessed by the DLM. The DLM is intended for students whose instruction is based upon the Essential Elements. IEP Teams may also use the Guidance for Determining Participation in General Education Standards and Curriculum to Support DPI Model Form (I-4) to help in making the decision.

Q. If students are tested during special service time by the service provider, does that service time (speech or OT, for example) need to be made up?

A. Yes. Any service time missed during testing, even if the student is tested by the service provider, must be made up.

Q. Where are the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment posted on the DPI website?

A. The Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment is posted on the Special Education Team page and the Office of Student Assessment page. IEP Teams may also use the Guidance for Determining Participation in General Education Standards and Curriculum to Support DPI Model Form (I-4) to help in making the decision.

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Scoring and Reporting:


Q. Where can I find more information about DLM results?

A. DPI provides information to parents regarding their students score report. Dynamic Learning Maps has also created additional information for parent and teachers regarding grade-level performance level descriptors. DLM scores are also provided in WISEdash for those schools that had students in grades 3 through 11 taking the DLM assessment.

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Wisconsin Essential Elements:


Q. What are the Wisconsin Essential Elements?

A. The Wisconsin Essential Elements are alternate achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. These standards are clearly linked to grade-level academic content standards, promote access to the general curriculum and reflect professional judgment of the highest expectation possible. The Wisconsin Essential Elements exist in English/language arts, mathematics, and science.

Q. Where can I find learning maps aligned to the Wisconsin Essential Elements?

A. Dynamic Learning Maps has developed conceptual maps for all Essential Elements assessed on the DLM assessment. Each EE is represented in the map by a collection of nodes and the connections among them. The DLM consortium uses nodes that represent EE-related skills at different levels of cognitive complexity to create assessments that are accessible for a broad range of students.

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