Superintendent’s Memo #315-12

State seal, Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Education

November 16, 2012

TO:  Division Superintendents

FROM:  Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction

SUBJECT:  Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP)-First Contact Census Survey

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, an alternate method of testing will be available for students who cannot access the assessment online.

As a crucial element of assessment development, states in the consortium have been asked to participate in the 2012-2013 First Contact Census Survey in order to provide assistance in collecting accurate and consistent data on students who will be participating in the alternate assessment. The data collected will inform the DLM project of the needs of our assessment population as well as inform the DLM assessment system.

The First Contact Survey has been designed to compile student data that will eventually assist in the completion of the online alternate assessment. In order to collect information to inform the assessment system, one survey must be completed for each student participating in the alternate assessment.

The rater should be the student’s primary educator (i.e., the individual who has extensive knowledge of the student). The following procedures should guide this data collection effort.

Educator and Student Participation:

The First Contact Census Survey requires that ALL students who participate in the alternate assessment have a First Contact Census record.  The survey should be completed by each student’s primary educator.

Identification of students:

The survey is dynamic in that some responses will lead to additional questions.  Average time to complete the survey is estimated at 12-15 minutes.  All results and information obtained will be strictly confidential. All surveys must be completed and ready for analysis by May 1, 2013. An e-mail with instructions for completing the survey and the survey link will be sent to all special education directors.  They will then distribute survey information to those teachers administering the VAAP in your division.  We will send periodic reminders regarding the closing date for the survey.

We appreciate your participation in this very valuable component of the design of an assessment system to evaluate students with significant cognitive disabilities.  If you have any questions, please contact Deborah Johnson at or (804) 371-2725.