Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – Alternate

by PammyMcB

Module 1 – Overview of New TAKS-Alt Assessment

The first Module of the new TAKS-Alt begins with an overview of the changes made due to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which states that without exception every student must be assessed. Therefore, the Texas Education Agency developed the TAKS-Alt to be administered to the 1% of students that are found to have significant cognitive disabilities. Therefore, the TAKS-Alt is not a traditional multiple choice or paper and pencil test. It is an observation-based assessment filled out by the student’s teacher as the student completes task aligned with the TEKS.

In order to be qualified to take the TAKS-Alt, the student’s ARD committee must determine whether the student is able to take the TAKS with the accommodations and modifications. For the ARD Committee to determine a student’s qualification, they must assess the student’s level of functioning, determine how the student performs at grade level, review participation requirements, and document assessments with “allowable” or “approved” modifications and accommodations. It is important to remember, not all students who qualify for special education services will qualify for the TAKS-Alt.

The participation requirements of the student are listed as:

  1. The student requires supports to access the general curriculum that may include assistance involving communication, response style, physical access, or daily living skills.
  2. The student requires direct, intensive, individualized instruction in a variety of settings to accomplish the acquisition, maintenance, and generalization of skills.
  3. The student accesses and participates in the grade-level TEKS through activities that focus on prerequisite skills.
  4. The student demonstrates knowledge and skills routinely in class by methods other than paper-and-pencil tasks.
  5. The student demonstrates performance objectives that may include real-life applications of the grade-level TEKS as appropriate to the student’s abilities and needs.

There are three key resources for accessing the grade-level TEKS curriculum in order to assist educators with administration of the TAKS-Alt – the TEKS Vertical Alignment documents, TEKS Curriculum Framework documents, and Standardized Assessment Tasks for TAKS-Alt. The TEKS Vertical Alignment documents are a listing of the TEKS that provides the expectations of students’ knowledge and skills from kindergarten to exit level. The TEKS Curriculum Framework documents provide the objectives, knowledge and skills, and student expectations of those participating in the TAKS, and are aligned with the TEKS Vertical Alignment documents. The Standardized Assessment Tasks for TAKS-Alt provides three complexity-varied tasks for each essence statement based on predetermined criteria. The assessment tasks are like test items rather than activities used for instruction. The tasks are broadly written to allow access to most students who qualify and vary in complexity to meet USDE requirements.

The module ends with the following four steps to administer the TAKS-Alt

  1. Choose the assessment TASK for each required essence statement.
  2. Determine IMPLEMENTATION of the assessment task.
  3. OBSERVE and DOCUMENT student performance on the predetermined criteria.
  4. EVALUATE student performance and enter the information into the online instrument.

Module 2 – Implementing the TAKS-Alt Assessment

The first step is to select the appropriate TAKS-Alt assessment task. There are 3 assessment tasks for each essence statements. The teacher must choose the appropriate complexity level for an assessment task based on the student’s current level of performance, targeted prerequisite skills, complexity levels of the assessment tasks, and specific verbs in the assessment tasks. The verbs used in the essences statements define the complexity level. Level 3 Assessment Tasks are the most difficult and requires higher-order thinking skills. The tasks include: determining distinguishing features, organizing information, comparing components, generating ideas, making inferences, and justifying answers. An example of a verb used at this level is ‘determine.’ Level 2 Assessment Tasks are mid-level tasks and involve rote memory. Tasks at Level 2 include: identifying or sorting elements, assisting in procedures, choosing options, matching components, replicating information, and examining features. Examples of verbs used at this level are ‘review’ and ‘identify.’ Level 1 Assessment Tasks are the most basic tasks and involve beginning awareness response. Level 1 Tasks include: acknowledging features, indicating preferences, responding to stimuli, participating in process, exploring materials, and anticipating outcomes. Examples of verbs used at this level are ‘explore’ and ‘acknowledge.’ If the student has difficulty accessing the Level 1 Assessment Tasks, the teacher should evaluate the instruction and student supports provided, confer with other school professionals, consider the No Response Observed designation, and call TEA for further guidance. However, if the student does respond to some of the tasks, then No Response Observed is inappropriate.

The second step is to add supports to individualize the assessment task by the use of supports, materials, and identifying appropriate student response modes. Appropriate supports and materials are those that are effective and used in the classroom on a regular basis. They must reflect the student’s learning style and address the measured skill. They must be grounded in the content area assessed, be age appropriate, and include the student’s interests. Most importantly supports and materials must maintain the integrity of the assessment and not give the student a direct answer. The teacher must select the most appropriate response modes, which is also a component of individualizing the assessment. Response modes must allow demonstration of the skill and independence of the student. They, too, must maintain the integrity of the assessment and be effective and used in the classroom on a regular basis. The teacher must be certain the supports and materials maintain the complexity level, otherwise the integrity of the assessment has been lost and the supports are deemed inappropriate.

The third step is to conduct and document the observation. Before observation begins, the teacher must be prepared to observe, which includes the comfort and distractibility level of the testing environment. The teacher must plan for any personnel needed or an inter-rater observation. The pre-determined criteria must be reviewed to ensure the expectations of the student are met. All supports and materials should be available. A review of cueing and prompting hierarchy terms is required. If the student does not respond, the teacher must first cue then prompt the student. All cueing and prompting during the assessment affect the student’s score. The hierarchy of cueing is as follows: physical gesture, pointing, visual cue, verbal direct cue, and verbal indirect cue. The hierarchy of prompting is as follows: Physical assist, adult modeling, student modeling, visual graphic, gesture assist, and verbal direction. The teacher must record the date of the primary observation, the demonstration of the skill, and level of support, as well as, all cues and prompts. The fairness of the observation is determined by the amount of previous instruction provided, the time allowed for the assessment, the attentiveness of the student, the environment the assessment occurred, and the level of cueing and prompting provided to the student.

Module 3 – The TAKS-Alt Online Instrument

The fourth and final step to the TAKS-Alt is the evaluation of student performance via the online instrument. The purpose of the TAKS-Alt Online Instrument is to provide the teacher with ample time to provide instruction, and select and individualize assessment tasks. The teacher is provided with a submission window from January to April in which the tasks can be completed, observed, and documented. The window allows evaluation of student performance at any time, as well as submission of completed assessments at any time. Before online submission begins, it is recommended that the teacher review the observation notes and become familiar with the TAKS-Alt rubric.

The TAKS-Alt rubric is based on a point system from yes and no answers on the demonstration of a skill section. The student will receive two points for each yes answer to the predetermined criterion. The student will receive zero points for a no answer to the predetermined criterion. The student’s level of support will also be evaluated. Two points will be given for independent performance, one point will be given for cued performance, and zero points will be given for prompted performance on the predetermined criterion. The assessment tasks are weighted as determined by the complexity level of the task performed with Level 3 as the highest and Level 1 as the lowest numerical value. The teacher must make sure the demonstration of a skill is reviewed without consideration of level of support as they are scored separately.

Now the teacher can begin the automated scoring process. First, the teacher answers yes/no questions based on the predetermined criterion established to score the student’s demonstration of the skill. Next, the teacher answers questions based on student’s level of support. The teacher answers the questions as follows: independently, needed cueing, or needed prompting based on the student’s performance. The yes/no and independently/needed cueing/ needed prompting questions are answered by selecting the appropriate ‘radio button’ next to the word.

The online instrument will alert the teacher to determine the student’s opportunity to generalize the skill. The student is only eligible for generalization if he/she is assessed at Level 2 or 3, the student demonstrated the skill on all three predetermined criteria, and the student was not prompted for the completion of the tasks. The generalization process allows 3 points for the generalization of a skill. The student receives one point for each predetermined criteria completed on an independent level or with a cue. The student will receive zero points for any completed tasks that required prompting or any uncompleted tasks. It is recommended that observation begins early enough in the submission window to allow the generalization of the skill.

The maintenance of the data collection forms is determined by the school district’s procedures for maintenance. It is recommended that the teacher use the state’s forms for observations; however, other forms that contain the same sections as the state’s forms are allowed. If the student is in an inclusive classroom setting, the district is responsible for sending the documentation forms to Pearson for validity audit purposes.

The next part of Module 3 focuses on accessing and using the online instrument, which can be accessed from any computer system with the necessary system requirements. The district coordinator will provide user names and passwords required to access the TAKS-Alt online system at http://www.taksalt.com. Once the teacher has logged in, he/she will gain access to the TAKS-Alt home page. From here, the teacher is recommended to check the ‘alert’ box for new messages after each log-in. The TAKS-Alt online instrument consists of six sections: home tab, assessment tasks tab, assessment status tab, historical assessment data tab, resources tab, manage account tab, and left frame with list of classes. The manage account tab gives the teacher information about the students and the teacher’s user profile. The assessment allows the teacher to choose the assessment task and answer the performance questions for each predetermined criterion. The historical assessment data tab displays student data from previous years. The resources tab provides access to sample forms, documents, and other information that can assist the teacher in implementing the assessment. The assessment status tab shows the status of each student’s assessment. In order to ensure the finalization of the assessments, the teacher must submit all assessments by the cut-off date determined by TEA. Any assessments that are not submitted at this time will not be finalized.