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2015-16 Important Update

DPI is moving ahead with new assessments beginning in the 2015-16 school year. We are in the process of reviewing Proposals for an ELA & Mathematics Assessment for Grades 3-8 and Science Assessment for Grades 4, 8, & 10, and also separate Proposals for a Social Studies assessment in grades 4, 8, and 10. As a result we will no longer be requiring the administration of the fall WKCE and WAA-SwD. More details concerning these new assessments will be forthcoming as the process develops.


The Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD)is administered to a student with significant cognitive disabilities when the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines that the student is unable to participate in the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), even with accommodations. The WAA-SwD is 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 provides information about student achievement and to allows school district staff to use test results to improve educational programs. The WAA-SwD is 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 are 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 dsecriptors (PLDs) located within the Extended Grade Band Standards.

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

Student Eligibility Criteria

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

Participation Criteria:

  1. The student has a significant cognitive disability.
  2. The student is primarily being instructed using the Common Core Essential Elements and the Extended Grade Band Standards as content standards.
  3. The student requires extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measureable gains in the grade-and age-appropriate curriculum.

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

IEP Teams utilize 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 is designed to be administered one-on-one to students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to take the WKCE even with accommodation. The test items appear in a single form for each grade level. The operational design (incorporating scored items only) is such that there 36 items in science for each grade level. The number of operational (scored) items allows for sufficient coverage of the standards at each grade level. The science assessments are administered with test administrators marking each student response in the answer documents provided with the assessment materials. This test is not a timed test and can be completed at any time within the test window.

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