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Alternative Maryland School Assessment

The Alternate Maryland School Assessment (Alt-MSA) tests the areas of math, reading, and science and is administered to students with disabilities in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10 when a student’s IEP (individualized education plan) team finds that the Alt-MSA is the most appropriate assessment for the students’ educational needs.

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Math 67.7% 67.3% 81.4% 87.2% 76.9% 82.3% 88.7% 89.5% 82.0% 83.3%
Reading 69.6% 64.3% 81.4% 87.6% 83.7% 87.7% 92.2% 92.1% 87.4% 86.8%
Science 69.3% 61.0% 69.6% 81.5% 81.8% 73.4% 77.0%

Data Source: Data provided by the Maryland State Department of Education

Story Behind the Data:

The Alt-MSA is the assessment used for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities when, through the IEP Team process, it has been determined that the student cannot participate in the Modified MSA (Mod-MSA), even with accommodations.  The Alt-MSA assesses and reports student mastery of individually selected indicators and objectives from the reading and mathematics content standards or appropriate access skills for students in grades 3 through 8, grade 10, and in science content standards for students in grades 5, 8 and 10.

The Alt-MSA is a portfolio assessment constructed of evidence that documents individual student mastery of the assessed reading, mathematics, and science objectives.  The Statewide performance standards reflect three levels of achievement: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.

The Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services has worked closely with the Division of Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability to provide support to educators who instruct students with the most significant support needs to understand the content to be taught and assessed in all content areas.  In collaboration with the testing vendor, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has developed resource content materials to support instructional planning, delivery and Alt-MSA implementation for the educator.

Professional development and technical assistance was provided to local school systems in all content areas by MSDE content leads, including instructional strategies and resources to support student achievement.  Specifically, in collaboration with the testing vendor and educators from the field, was the development of the Alt-MSA online Professional Development Modules.  The priorities of this four module series includes: maximizing efficiency in the classroom, accessing grade-level content, understanding content and standards, gaining science content knowledge, creating artifacts that align to Mastery Objectives, and providing links to websites and resources. These modules are updated yearly with the most current information and best practices.

In addition, pre-approved artifacts for various mastery objects that demonstrate direct alignment between the content and the assessment task item were developed by content experts at MSDE and the testing vendor.  These artifacts are available for teachers to select and use as evidence to demonstrate mastery of a skill as selected by the Alt-MSA testing team for a student.  The advantage of selecting the pre-approved artifacts is that the artifact is accurately aligned to the content being assessed.

It should be noted that Maryland will be piloting a new, national assessment in the 2014-2015 school year.  This assessment, National Center and State Collaborative or NCSC, will be fully implemented in the 2015-2016 school year.