Alternate Assessment

Alternate assessments are designed for students with significant cognitive disabilities (about one percent of the student population). The structures of alternate assessments are designed around the students’ physical and cognitive disabilities in a way that allows them to answer test questions and participate in the test as independently as possible. For example, a variety of accommodations are built into the test design in order to accommodate each student’s personal mode of communication (e.g., sign language, eye gaze, augmentative communication devices, etc.).

Are students with an IEP required to participate in the civics assessments? Project-based civics assessments must be completed by a student who has an IEP if the IEP team has determined the assessment is appropriate. The student shall take the project-based civics assessment with the accommodations and/or modifications that are deemed necessary by the IEP team.

The U.S. civics test shall be administered to a student who has an IEP with the accommodations and/or modifications that are deemed necessary by the IEP team.

Federal and state law stipulates that that the requirements for an alternate academic diploma align with the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

Alt civics test item samplers are available here.



For information about the administration of Tennessee AA-AAS:

For assistance with instruction for students who participate in the AA-AAS:

Alison Gauld, Behavior and Low Incidence Disabilities Coordinator
(615) 770-6814

For assistance with eligibility criteria for students who participate in the AA-AAS:

April Ebbinger, Director of School Psychology Services
(615) 626-5102

A student eligible to participate in the alternate assessment will be assessed on all four content areas—ELA, math, science, and social studies—with the exception of the optional Grade 2 TCAP-Alt, which only assesses ELA and math.

Tennessee currently offers the following alternate assessments:

  • [Required] The Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) in ELA/writing and mathematics (Grades 3–8, 11)
  • [Required] The TCAP-Alt for Science and Social Studies (Grades 3–8,  Grade 10 Science)
  • [Optional] The TCAP-Alt for ELA and math (Grade 2)
Grade Level None  MSAA for ELA & Math TCAP-Alt for Math and ELA TCAP-Alt for Science TCAP-Alt for Social Studies
Grade 2     X (optional)    
Grades 3–8   X   X X
Grade 9 X        
Grade 10       X  
Grade 11   X      
Grade 12 X*        

*Unless student has not previously completed the alternate assessment.

The Tennessee Department of Education offers alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards in compliance with the U.S. Department of Education federal regulations and guidance. For more information, please refer to the Alternate Assessment Participation Guidelines.


Criteria Not Appropriate for Decision-Making

  • Instructional setting
  • Disability category or label
  • Poor attendance or extended absences
  • Native language/social/cultural or economic difference
  • Expect poor performance on general education assessment
  • Academic and other services student receives
  • Percent of time in special education

Please note:

As with all assessments, the alternate assessments are a snapshot of student performance based on grade-level expectations, but they are just one data point to help understand a student's progress academically. The student’s IEP goals, alternate assessment score, and a variety of other progress monitoring tools should be used throughout the school year to help the IEP team plan for the most appropriate instructional program to ensure the student is provided with the most postsecondary opportunities.