Superintendent’s Memo #180-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

July 27, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  Changes for the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP)

The Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) is intended to assess the achievement of students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessment program.  Currently a compilation of student work called a Collection of Evidence is prepared for students participating in VAAP.  Work samples used for the Collections of Evidence are intended to demonstrate the student’s achievement of the Aligned Standards of Learning (ASOL) which are based on the SOL but reduced in depth and complexity.  Typically when new SOL are adopted by the Board of Education, new ASOL for students participating in VAAP are also developed.

In addition, in 2014-2015, Virginia will implement online alternate assessments in reading, mathematics and writing to replace the Collections of Evidence currently prepared for VAAP students in these content areas. These new alternate assessments are being developed by a consortium of 13 states, called The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Alternate Assessment System Consortium. The DLM assessments will be administered online and will be computer adaptive so that students taking the assessments will be provided with items/tasks that are appropriate to their ability levels.  In addition, the assessments will be instructionally embedded so that students will participate throughout the year rather than being assessed at one point in time.  While most students will be able to take the assessment online, teachers will be able to provide an alternate method of testing for students who cannot access the assessment online.  The content standards for  the DLM assessments, which are based on the Common Core State Standards and aligned to Virginia’s SOL, are referred to as the “essential elements” and have been developed to provide access to students at even the lowest levels of cognitive functioning.  In preparation for the transition to the new DLM assessments in 2014-2015, the ASOL for reading and writing used to develop the VAAP Collections of Evidence in 2012-2013 will be based on the DLM essential elements.  In addition, based on feedback from school division personnel, the mathematics ASOL used in 2012-2013 for the VAAP collections will also be revised to reflect the DLM content.  Because the DLM essential elements do not include science, the ASOL for science will be based on the SOL adopted by the Board in 2010.  The history ASOL will remain unchanged.

In addition to the changes to the ASOL beginning in 2012-2013, teachers will also be required to select ASOL in the content areas of Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science from the ASOL available from the grade level in which the student is enrolled.  Teachers will not be permitted to select ASOL above or below the student’s grade level in these content areas. In order to provide appropriate flexibility to address the individual needs of VAAP participants, a performance level system will be available.  The performance level system will be used to indicate whether the student: 1) demonstrates the ASOL with significant support and modification; 2) partially demonstrates the ASOL; 3) fully demonstrates the ASOL.  An example of how the performance level system might be used with a mathematics ASOL is provided below.

3 M-MG 3 (a) The student will tell time to the hour on a digital clock.              

Please note that the requirements for Collections of Evidence in VAAP History/Social Science will not change.  Teachers will continue to select History/Social Science ASOL using the student’s grade level as the starting point; however, if there is not an appropriate ASOL at the student’s grade level, teachers may select ASOL from a higher or lower grade level.    In addition, the performance level system will not apply to VAAP collections in History/Social Science.

Six professional development training sessions on the 2012-2013 VAAP changes will be conducted by the Division of Student Assessment and School Improvement and the Division of Special Education and Student Services on the dates and locations indicated below.  Divisions will be able to send four staff members, including the Special Education Director and the Division Director of Testing.  Registration information for these sessions will be distributed to Division Directors of Testing and Special Education Directors.

August 14, 2012 – Charlottesville, Virginia

August 15, 2012 – Wytheville, Virginia

August 16, 2012 – Huddleston, Virginia

August 21, 2012 – Virginia Beach, Virginia

August 22, 2012 – Richmond, Virginia

August 24, 2012 – Fredericksburg, Virginia

If you have questions regarding the VAAP assessments, please contact the student assessment staff by e-mail at or by telephone at (804) 225-2102.  For questions regarding the changes to the ASOL, please contact Deborah Johnson, education specialist, by e-mail at or by telephone at (804) 371-2725.