Begin Main Content Area

Instructional Resources for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities 

The Bureau of Special Education (BSE) is committed to ensuring students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are provided effective instructional practices and fair, equitable assessments.  This page is intended to serve as a resource for parents, educators and administrators who work with students taking the PA Alternate System of Assessment (PASA).  

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) 

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. Access PaTTAN’s resources, including the grade level, standards aligned Alternate Eligible Content. 

Standards Aligned System (SAS) 

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 Alternate Eligible Content, which represent a reduction in breadth, depth, and level of complexity of the Eligible Content such that it is appropriate for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, is available on the PDE SAS website.   

Dynamic Learning Maps Professional Development Series 

Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) will serve as the new assessment and vendor for the PASA in 2020-21. The DLM website offers a professional development webinar series for educators working with students with significant cognitive disabilities. Topics include ‘Beginning Communicative Symbols’, ‘Measurement’, ‘Writing with Alternate Pencils’ and more. The webinars can be accessed on the DLM website. 

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. 

  • 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