Begin Main Content Area

Resources for Students With Significant Cognitive Disabilities

The Bureau of Special Education (BSE) is committed to educating students with significant cognitive disabilities. This page is dedicated to the parents, teachers, and administrators committed to educational excellence and ensuring effective instructional practices and fair assessments for students with complex support needs. This page will be updated with current information about BSE’s initiative for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Alternate Eligible Content  

The Bureau of Special Education in collaboration with stakeholder groups including parents, special education and regular education teachers, higher education staff, administrators, PSSA committee members and outside content experts developed, reviewed and finalized alternate eligible content (Grades 3-8 and 11) utilizing the PSSA assessment anchors and eligible content as the framework as required by the United States Department of Education (USDE).  The Alternate Eligible Content process and information was reviewed by the PA State Board of Education as part of the federal requirement on November 18, 2015.  Subsequently, the State Board approved the adoption of Alternate Eligible Content for Reading and Math on November 19, 2015. The Alternate Eligible Content for Science and Writing were approved on May 11, 2017.

Alternate Eligible Content is:

  • Academic content appropriate for students who are eligible for PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment)
  • Aligned to grade-level PA Core Standards
  • The modification of targets relative to the PSSA Eligible Content by reducing depth and breadth
  • Varied by grade and PA Core Standard
  • NOT a one-to-one match for every PA Core Standard and/or every piece of PSSA Eligible Content
  • The highest level of achievement for students taking PASA 
  • Adjusted through essentialization to ensure appropriateness for the variety of students eligible for PASA

A Parent Guide to the PASA

A Parent Guide to the PASA (PDF)

Guide to Interpreting PASA Student Score Reports

Students who participate in the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) receive an individualized score report.  Local Education Agencies are mailed a color copy of each student’s score report to send home to the student’s parent/guardian.  This guide was created to assist parents and guardians in understanding the contents of their child’s student score report. 

Guide to Interpreting PASA Student Score Reports (PDF)
Guide to Interpreting PASA Student Score Reports - Spanish (PDF)

PASA Eligibility Criteria

Students MUST meet the identified 6 criteria of eligibility, as determined by the IEP team, in order to participate in the PASA.   PASA Eligibility Criteria (PDF)

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) Resources

The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) provides resources and training to support and promote effective instruction and assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  Publications, instructional resources, and on-line professional development are available for teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and administrators. To begin accessing these resources, including the grade level, standards aligned Alternate Eligible Content, go to:  https://www.pattan.net/disabilities/intellectual-disabilities

Standards Aligned System (SAS) Resources

The Standards Aligned System (SAS), developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is a comprehensive, researched-based resource to improve student achievement. SAS identifies six elements that impact student achievement: Standards, Assessments, Curriculum Framework, Instruction, Materials & Resources, and Safe and Supportive Schools. Schools and educators across Pennsylvania are supported in their efforts to implement SAS by the development of a state-of-the-art portal. There are a variety of teacher resources on the SAS portal applicable to instruction and assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The PASA Eligible Content is available at http://pdesas.org/Standard.