TCAP-Alt Fact Sheet

Students to be tested in the Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) and TCAP-Alt Science and Social Studies (TCAP-Alt)

This fact sheet provides information about the alternate assessments 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 students 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.).

More information on the Alternate Assessments is available here.

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. A student must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and the primary disability must be recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The term “significant cognitive disability” is not a category of disability. It is a designation given to a small number of students with disabilities for purposes of their participation in the state assessment program. For a student to be determined as having a significant cognitive disability for the purpose of participation in the alternate assessment system, all of the follow statements must be true as determined by the student’s IEP team.

The three eligibility criteria that students must meet in order to be eligible for the alternate assessments are:

  1. The student has a significant cognitive disability.
  2. The student is learning content linked to (derived from) Tennessee Academic Standards.
  3. The student requires extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measurable gains in the grade- and age-appropriate curriculum.

More information on eligibility requirements for alternate assessments is available here.

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)
Students to be tested in Multi-State Alternate Assessment (MSAA) and TCAP-Alt Science and Social Studies (TCAP-Alt)
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


Grade 9 X        
Grade 10       X  
Grade 11   X      
Grade 12 X*        

*Unless student has not previously completed the alternate assessment.

TCAP-Alt Assessment Program: The test may be administered over a two-month window. Please see the test administration windows webpage for more information. Students take the test at their own pace over the two-month window in small sessions determined by the test administrator. The test administrator will determine the length of each session based on individual student need.

MSAA Format

The assessment is designed to be administered online; however, depending on students’ individual needs, some students will interact directly with the computer while others will interact with printed materials prepared by the test administrator. The test includes built-in supports to ensure students can respond as independently as possible.

Most of the items are selected response, but some items are constructed response. The assessment includes two mathematics sessions and four ELA sessions with approximately 35–40 total items.

TCAP-Alt Format

TCAP-Alt is in a paper-and-pencil format. The teacher reads test questions to the student and transcribes the student’s answer choice on a scannable form.

Each assessment (science and social studies) will include 20–30 multiple choice questions. Each question has 2–3 possible correct answer choices.