• Delaware System of Student Assessment (DeSSA) Alternate Assessments

    Statewide Alternate Assessments for Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities

    In December 2015, the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA) was reauthorized with the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). As with NCLB, ESSA regulations allow the use of alternate assessments, based on alternate achievement standards, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

    Delaware’s alternate assessment serves about 1% of the Delaware testing population. It is designed to assess what students with the most significant cognitive disabilities know and can do based on Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These alternate assessments meet federal requirements and mirror the general education assessments in content area and grade level.

    Eligibility and Participation

    The determination of eligibility is based on a team decision. Individualized education program (IEP) teams “shall determine when a child with a significant cognitive disability shall participate in an alternate assessment aligned with the alternate academic achievement standards.” (Title 1, Part A, Subpart 1, Sec. 1111(b)(2)(D)(ii)(I)—Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015).

    Teams utilize the Delaware Accessibility Guidelines to help determine eligibility. Only students meeting the Guidelines are eligible to participate in the DeSSA-Alt assessments.

    ESSA requires that no more than 1 percent of the total number of students in the state be administered alternate assessments. All local education agencies in Delaware submit data to the Delaware Department of Education, identifying the percentage of their students at the local level participating in statewide alternate assessments, however, there are currently no negative repercussions for the LEAs exceeding the 1 percent threshold.

    The 1 Percent Threshold for Statewide Alternate Assessments

    Administration of the DeSSA-Alternate Assessments

    DeSSA-Alternate (DeSSA-Alt) assessments measure academic progress in the areas of ELA, mathematics, and Science. The alternate assessments are administered individually, in a one-on-one student/teacher setting in an online and adaptive format, adjusting according to student needs. For the 2017-2018 school year, the assessment will take place within the March 12 – May 18, 2018 testing window.

    Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, Delaware will join many other states in the Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) Consortium. Students participating in Delaware’s alternate assessment, DLM, will be assessed on grade-specific essential elements for ELA. Mathematics, and science. Practice testlets, blueprints, and additional resources are located on the Delaware DLM webpage. http://dynamiclearningmaps.org/delaware

    ELA and Mathematics Alternate Assessment

    Students participate in grade levels 3-8 and 11 in both ELA and mathematics. Essential elements and conceptual area coverage for ELA are documented in the ELA Blueprint.


    Essential elements and conceptual area coverage for math are documented in the math blueprint.


    Science Alternate Assessment

    In science, the alternate assessments take place in grade 5, 8, and 10.

    Essential elements and conceptual area coverage for science, with Biology, are documented in the science blueprint.


    Performance Level Descriptors

    The DLM Performance Level Descriptors (PLDs) provide an overview of the knowledge, skills, and understandings demonstrated by students at specific levels of performance on DLM assessments. Not every student will demonstrate the skills described in each level. Rather, the Performance Level Descriptors provide descriptions of the types of knowledge, skills, and understandings that are typically demonstrated on DLM assessments by students at each level.

    DLM Performance Level Descriptors in English Language Arts


    DLM Performance Level Descriptors in Mathematics


    DLM Performance Level Descriptors in Science


    Optional Resources For Educators

    An extensive list of resources for educators is available on the Delaware DLM website. Some of the educator resources include learning maps, tested essential elements lists, testlet information, videos, and professional development links.


    For Parents, Guardians, and Students

    Dynamic Learning Maps ® (DLM ® ) assessments are designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities for whom general state assessments are not appropriate, even with accommodations. DLM assessments offer these students a way to show what they know and can do in mathematics, English language arts, and science. Information about accessibility, development, content, the learning map model, examples of testlets, the parent interpretive guide, and administration may be found at


    DLM Assessment Window for Alternate Assessments

    March 12- May 18, 2018

Last Modified on September 11, 2019