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WAA-SwD Historical Information



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The Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) was administered to a student with significant cognitive disabilities when the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines that the student was unable to participate in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), even with accommodations. The WAA-SwD was administered to students in grades 4, 8, and 10 in Science and Social Studies (through a teacher rater form). 

The Purpose of the WAA-SwD

The WAA-SwD provided information about student achievement and to allowed school district staff to use test results to improve educational programs. The WAA-SwD was designed to meet the requirements of the NCLB accountability goals, IDEA, Wisconsin Statutes, and to provide students, parents, teachers, and schools with information about how students were progressing in relation to the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards through the Wisconsin Extended Grade Band Standards.  In February 2009, Wisconsin educators further developed the performance level descriptors (PLDs) located within the Extended Grade Band Standards.

The WAA-SwD provided individual and school-level achievement information to districts, schools, and students. In addition to providing results for use in state and federal accountability programs, WAA-SwD results could be used:

  • As one of many tools to provide parents and guardians with information about the academic performance of their children,
  • To help inform district and school-level decision-making related to student learning, to identify grade level curricular strengths and weaknesses, and
  • To identify curricular areas where additional diagnoses are indicated in order to prescribe a course of intervention or enhancement, corrective instruction, or specialized services.


Students assessed with the WAA-SwD typically had significant limitations in cognitive functioning, in adaptive behavior, and in academic functioning expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. Often, these students were identified as having a Cognitive Disability; however, students with some other types of disabilities (e.g., Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc.) could also satisfy the criteria for participation on the WAA-SwD.

Student Eligibility Criteria

When determining whether a student who was eligible for special education services should participate in the WAA-SwD or the WKCE, the student’s IEP team had to determine whether the student met the following criteria.

Participation Criteria:

  • The student had a significant cognitive disability.
  • The student was primarily being instructed using the Common Core Essential Elements and the Extended Grade Band Standards as content standards.
  • The student required extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measurable gains in the grade-and age-appropriate curriculum.

When the IEP team concurred that all three criteria accurately characterized a student’s educational situation, then the WAA-SwD should have been administered in order to provide a meaningful evaluation of the student’s current academic achievement.

IEP Teams utilized the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment (Form I-7-A) and the Individualized Education Program: Participation in Statewide Assessments Form (Form I-7 WAA-SwD) to document their decisions.

Test Design and Blueprint

The WAA-SwD was designed to be administered one-on-one to students with significant cognitive disabilities who were unable to take the WKCE even with accommodation. The test items appeared in a single form for each grade level. The number of operational (scored) items allowed for sufficient coverage of the standards at each grade level. The assessments were administered with test administrators marking each student response in the answer documents provided with the assessment materials. This test was not a timed test and could be completed at any time within the test window.