Public comment sought on proposed alternate assessment waiver

Kentucky Department of Education

News Release

Media Contact: Toni Konz Tatman
Chief Communications Officer
Office: (502) 564-2000, ext. 4602
Cell: (502) 229-1915

Advisory 20-324


Oct. 20, 2020

Public comment sought on proposed alternate assessment waiver

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is seeking public comment on its request to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to extend its waiver on the number of students tested using alternate assessments due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The assessments are aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS) on the annual statewide Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) test.

Public comment will be taken Oct. 20, 2020, through Nov. 3, 2020.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) - as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Section 1111(b)(2)(D) and its corresponding regulation 34 CFR 200.6(c) and (d) - contains requirements for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to participate in statewide testing through the use of AA-AAAS.  

According to federal law, no more than 1.0 percent of the total number of students participating in a statewide assessment such as K-PREP may take the alternate assessment in each subject area tested.

In response to the pandemic, KDE applied for and was granted formal approval of the assessment waiver from the USED. The assessment waiver allowed Kentucky to bypass standardized testing and be relieved of the federal assessment, accountability and specific reporting requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. As a result of the school closures and subsequent waiver, KDE does not have assessment data for the 2019-2020 school year. Therefore, KDE will rely on assessment data from the 2018-2019 school year in forecasting future participation in AA-AAAS.

Data from the 2018-2019 school year shows that slightly more than 1.0 percent of Kentucky’s students participated in AA-AAAS. In accordance with 34 C.F.R. §200.6(c)(4), if a state anticipates it will exceed the cap with respect to any subject for which assessments are administered in any school year, the state may request that the U.S. secretary of education waive the cap for the relevant subject for one year. KDE plans to submit a waiver request to USED in the areas of reading, mathematics and science.

To receive an extended waiver, KDE must gather data on the characteristics of students participating in the alternate assessment to determine whether students who do not have significant cognitive disabilities are participating. Also, KDE must monitor alternate assessment data and request justification from all districts exceeding 1.0 percent participation in any subject. KDE will address any disproportionality in the percentage of students taking the alternate assessment.

As a result of Kentucky’s waiver approval for the 2019-2020 school year, KDE, regional special education cooperatives and school districts have worked collaboratively to develop and implement guidance, training and monitoring to ensure only the students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are participating in the alternate assessment. The proposed waiver for alternate assessment participation that KDE will submit to USED details the progress made in 2019-2020.

The proposed waiver is available on KDE’s website. General information on Kentucky’s AA-AAAS is available on KDE’s Alternate K-Prep webpage.

The public may send written comments on the proposed waiver to Sylvia Starkey, Director, Division of IDEA Monitoring and Results, Office of Special Education and Early Learning, Kentucky Department of Education, 300 Sower Blvd., Fourth Floor, Frankfort, KY 40601. Comments also may be submitted by email to,  by telephone at (502) 564-4970 or by fax at (502) 564-4124.