New NCSC Resource for Planning and Providing Standards-Based Instruction

How to Teach State Standards to Students Who Take Alternate Assessments

This new resource from NCSC Partners at the University of North Carolina Charlotte provides an overview of the many resources available from NCSC to plan and provide standards-based instruction for students with significant cognitive disabilities. It covers lesson planning for both English language arts and mathematics that aligns to each student’s grade level, but the general procedures can be applied to other content areas as well. In addition, the general procedures presented here can be used regardless of the alternate assessment that the state uses for its students with significant cognitive disabilities.

NCSC Briefs

These Briefs cover topics that shaped the NCSC comprehensive system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment during NCSC’s five years of research-to-practice development.

NCSC Solution Architecture

NCSC Solution Architecture for Spring 2015 PDF

This document describes the NCSC Assessment System architecture used to support the spring 2015 administration.  This includes a list and explanation of all components of the NCSC Assessment System and information to describe to the interaction of each element.

NCSC Papers from the 2015 AERA/NCME Conference

Spring 2015 Operational Test Administration Manual now publicly available

On March 30, 2015, the Spring 2015 NCSC Operational Testing window opens in 14 NCSC states. Test Coordinators and Administrators began completing required training on March 9, 2015. You may view or download the NCSC Spring 2015 Operational Test Administration Manual (TAM) here: TAM.PDF

Draft NCSC Operational Test Blueprint

This document describes the current design of the NCSC test blueprint for the summative assessment in Mathematics and ELA. This is a draft document, and it will be updated pending data from pilot testing in fall 2014. The final operational blueprint will be published in early 2015, prior to operational testing. The NCSC partner states and national centers have worked closely with McGraw-Hill Education CTB to develop this draft. NCSC Operational Test Blueprint 12-10-14 (PDF)

NCSC Curriculum and Instruction Resources

We have posted our core curriculum and instruction resources on a public wiki (, created to host the materials that educators will need to deliver instruction aligned to College and Career Ready standards. The materials are grouped in four categories:

  • Curriculum Resources - What to Teach; Curriculum Resources are reference materials created to reinforce educators' understanding of curriculum content.
  • Instructional Resources - How to Teach; Instructional Resources are reference materials created to support classroom teaching.
  • Educator Professional Development and Parent Resources – Presentations and interactive modules designed to supplement written NCSC materials as well as written summaries about the NCSC project, explore teaching and learning for students with significant cognitive disabilities, and provide broad coverage of topics of interest to educators and parents alike.
  • Parent Tips and Tools - These documents include a one page wiki navigation tool and a more detailed wiki navigation guide. In addition, there is a wiki tips series, made up of eight short documents, that helps parents use the resource materials.
In the near future, additional professional development modules will be posted on these pages.

NCSC Resources for Parents (and for others interested in summaries of our project)

NCSC Policy Guidelines

Recent NCSC Presentations

NCSC Papers

Kleinert, H., Towles-Reeves, E., Quenemoen, R., Thurlow, M., Fluegge, L., Weseman, L., & Kerbel, A. (In press). Where Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities Are Taught: Implications for General Curriculum Access. Exceptional Children. (PDF) Surveying 15 states and 39,837 students, this research examined the extent to which students who took the AA-AAS in the 2010-11 school year had access to regular education settings, and the extent to which that access correlated with expressive communication, use of an augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) system, and reading and math skill levels. The vast majority (93%) of students were served in self-contained classrooms, separate schools, or home settings, while only 7% were served in regular education or resource room placements. There was a significant, positive correlation between expressive communication, reading and math skill levels with increasingly inclusive classroom settings; and a significant, negative correlation between use of AAC and more inclusive settings. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Kleinert, H., Kearns, J., Quenemoen, R., & Thurlow, M. (2013). NCSC GSEG Policy Paper: Alternate Assessments Based on Common Core State Standards: How Do They Relate to College and Career Readiness? (PDF) Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center and State Collaborative. In this research/policy paper, we explicate the relationship between what alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) are intended to measure (i.e., grade-level content knowledge in math and language arts) and the concept of college and career readiness. We discuss: (a) how a well-designed AA-AAS based on the CCSS addresses important dimensions of college and career readiness for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities; and (b) how practitioners can identify those essential elements of college and career readiness that are not within the scope of even the best designed AA-AAS. We base our discussion on the approach of the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC), which is building an assessment as one integral part of a well-aligned, evidence-based system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Lee, A., Towles-Reeves, E., Flowers, C., Hart, L., Kearns, J., Kerbel, A., Kleinert, H., & Thurlow, M. (2013). Teacher Perceptions of Students Participating in AA-AAS: Cross-State Summary (A product of the NCSC validity evaluation) (PDF). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center and State Collaborative. This report summarizes the findings of a survey developed to collect data from teachers in all 18 core partner NCSC states to evaluate teachers’ beliefs and perceptions (a) about students who participate in AA-AAS, (b) appropriate instruction for these students, and (c) their post-school outcome goals.

Towles-Reeves, E., Kearns, J., Flowers, C., Hart, L., Kerbel, A., Kleinert, H., Quenemoen, R., Thurlow, M., (August 2012). Learner Characteristics Inventory Project Report: A Product of the NCSC Validity Evaluation (PDF).
This report summarizes the learner characteristics of 49,669 students who participated in alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS) during the 2010-2011 or 2011-2012 academic year across 18 states that are partners of the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) project.

NCSC Community of Practice Newsletters

The NCSC Communities of Practice in each state receive periodic newsletters which include information important to our continued and collaborative work efforts. To access these newsletters, please click on the following: 

Archived NCSC presentations – from early project development

Lee, A. (January 19, 2012). National Center and State Collaborative approach to Content for Students with Significant Disabilities (PDF). Division on Autism and Development Disabilities - Council for Exceptional Children. Miami, FL.
This presentation provides general information on the NCSC assessment system and describes the foundation for the content. It outlines the components of the system that help to make the content accessible to students with significant disabilities. The steps involved in creating the content strands along with examples o f math and ELA strands are presented. A brief description of the teacher support being developed, including curricular resources, lesson plans, and sample activities, are also included.

Wakeman, S.Y., Lee, A., & Browder, D. (2012, April). National Center and State Collaborative approach to content for students with significant disabilities (PDF). Presentation at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children, Denver, CO.
This presentation provides general information on the NCSC assessment system and describes the approach to making the content accessible for students with significant disabilities. It also provides a description of the teacher supports being developed including curricular resources, unit and lesson plans, and content modules.

Thurlow, M. (2011, August). Common core state standards: Implications for students with disabilities (PDF). National Association of State Boards of Education, Las Vegas, NV.
This presentation provides contextual information regarding the instruction and assessment of students with disabilities including a description of this student population. It presents information on how the principles of college and career readiness and common core state standards apply to these students. Unique instructional concerns for students with disabilities are addressed including the provision of supports and accommodations and appropriate IEP development. Promising practices in the design of instruction and assessment are also outlined.

Thurlow, M., Quenemoen, R., Kleinert, H., & Kearns, J. (January 9, 2012). New developments in alternate assessments for students with significant cognitive disabilities (PDF). Presentation to membership of Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), webinar.
This webinar presentation provides a description of the five assessment consortia and the states involved with each, including the NCSC GSEG. It also includes a description of what college and career readiness means for students with significant cognitive disabilities. The presentation outlines key ideas that form the foundation of the NCSC GSEG assessment system development, including the development of curriculum and instruction. The presentation goes on to cite the importance of communicative intervention with augmentative communication devices and provide ideas on how University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) can be involved.

Thurlow, M. L., Lee, A. (2011). National Center and State Collaborative General State Enhancement Grant (PDF). 2011 OSEP Leadership Mega Conference.
This presentation provides an overview of the NCSC – GSEG project and includes challenges identified by the partners and states and key ideas for building the foundation of the system. The presentation also includes information on the development and validation of the “core content connectors” which are aligned with the common core state standards and the learning progressions.

Quenemoen, R. (July 10, 2012). NCSC Overview with background on CCSS and the GSEG Projects (PDF). CCSSO Webinar.
This webinar presentation provides an overview of the NCSC comprehensive assessment system along with some background information on the Common Core State Standards and the GSEG projects. Guiding principles for development and teacher resources, and emerging models of learning and understanding are presented.