The Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is a statewide alternate assessment designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Specifically, it is intended for those who are unable to participate meaningfully in the Pennsylvania State Assessment System (PSSA) even with accommodations. By administering the PASA to students with severe disabilities, schools achieve compliance with federal laws and the Pennsylvania School Code that require all students to participate in the statewide accountability system.

The PASA is a series of individually administered image-based multiple-choice tests given each spring to students by their teacher or another certified assessor who knows the student well. Test administration can be adapted so that even students with the most severe disabilities can participate in the assessment and receive a score.

The tests, administered to students in the equivalent of grades 3 through 8 and 11, consists of 30 test items aligned with PA English Language Arts (ELA) standards; 30 test items aligned with PA math standards; and, for students in grades 4, 8, and 11, 30 test items aligned with PA science standards. Each test item represents an authentic, relevant, and age-appropriate skill related to ELA, mathematics, or science. In addition, there are two levels of cognitive complexity within each grade for all tests (Tier 1 and Tier 2).

Like the PSSA, the PASA is designed to take a snapshot of a student's typical performance on a small sample of academic skills derived from the PA Core Standards in ELA and Math and the PA Academic Standards in Science.

Student responses are entered by the assessor into the digital system and scores are generated for reporting purposes. Also, student performance is recorded and submitted for validation. Once scoring has been completed, scale scores and performance categories (Emerging, Novice, Proficient, Advanced) for each student are submitted to the state for inclusion with scores from the PSSA. In addition, PASA reports are generated at the state, district, service provider, and student levels.

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