The PA Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) is an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards.  This type of test is used to evaluate the performance of students who are unable to participate in the general state assessment (i.e., the PSSA and Keystone Exams) even with accommodations.  Alternate assessments provide a way for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities to be included in the educational accountability system.  In addition, achievement descriptions on the alternate assessment are based upon what the state determines as high expectations for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.  Achievement standards on the alternate assessment will be different from achievement standards on the general assessment.
Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Every Student Succeeds Act require the participation of all students, including students with disabilities, to participate in statewide testing.  Specifically, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, § 300.160 Participation in assessments, provides that a State must ensure that all children with disabilities are included in all general State and district-wide assessment programs, including assessments described under section 1111 of the ESEA, 20 U.S.C. 6311, with appropriate accommodations and alternate assessments, if necessary, as indicated in their respective IEPs. 

In PA, the PASA serves as the statewide alternate assessment for federal accountability.  PASA is administered in grades 3-8 and 11 in ELA (includes writing) and Math and grades 4, 8 and 11 in Science.  The PASA is for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities - which is about 1% of the total tested population.

The PASA is aligned to grade-level standards and alternate eligible content (AEC).  AEC is reduced in depth, breadth, and complexity.  In order to participate in the PASA, students must be deemed eligible by the IEP Team.  The IEP team should review participation in statewide assessments annually and determine whether the student will participate in the general assessment (known as the PSSA or Keystone Exam) or the PASA.  The decision is based upon the IEP Team’s ability to answer “YES” to all six PASA eligibility criteria.  Decisions to participate in the alternate assessment should not be determined by an administrator, be based upon anticipated poor performance on the general assessment, or upon disability category.  Students eligible for the PASA should be receiving instruction aligned to the AEC, and the IEP must include standards-aligned goals and objectives. 

2021-2022 PASA DLM Instruction and Assessment Calendar

The PASA DLM Instruction and Assessment Calendar is provided at the link below.  It was revised September 15, 2021 and contains dates for enrollment, trainings (required and optional), testing and score reporting.  Audience members responsible for the various instruction or assessment activities are identified.  

2021-2022 PASA DLM Instruction and Assessment Calendar - The 21-22 PASA Instruction and Assessment Calendar was revised to reflect a  change to the start date of  "Charting the Course" professional development training.

Announcements and Communications

The Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System Consortium at the University of Kansas continues as the vendor for the 2021-2022 PASA DLM.  To learn more about the PASA DLM, go to

Penn Links

Penn Links are communications sent directly from the PA Department of Education to education agencies and their constituents – often school administrators. 

Email Communications to PASA Assessment Coordinators

The Bureau of Special Education (BSE) will need to apprise PASA Assessment Coordinators (ACs) of assessment related topics in a timely manner.  As such, the BSE uses email distribution.  It is important for all districts, charter schools, and service providers to ensure PASA AC contact information is current in the PASA DLM Kite Educator Portal.  Updates can be made by contacting  Emails disseminated to PASA ACs, will be posted here.
2021-2022 PASA AC Emails

Significant Cognitive Disabilities Newsletter

The BSE and PaTTAN DLM Core Team publish a newsletter on a consistent basis with a focus upon news related to students with the significant cognitive disabilities and complex learners.  Newsletters provide important assessment, instruction, and policy related news and resources. 

Training, Resources and Websites


The Bureau of Special Education provides an annual training for special education administrators and PASA Assessment Coordinators with information on relevant updates to the alternate assessment including training requirements, test administration procedures, participation guidance, and policies.  This training provides a high-level overview of updates and is not intended to replace the annual test administration training.


DLM frequently Asked Questions

This resource regarding the PASA DLM answers frequently asked questions by PASA Assessment Coordinators and Teachers.  Find answers to commonly asked questions on how to get started, complete training, enroll students – including those missed in the enrollment window, transfer students between districts/service providers, administer the assessment (including during a pandemic), code opt-outs for religious reasons, etc.

Enhanced Checklist for PASA DLM Test Administrators-2022 Version Coming Soon
The PA Alternate Assessment Team has developed an enhanced Checklist for DLM Test Administrators. This checklist differs from the checklist available in the Test Administration Manual, pp. 9-16 in that the PA Alternate Assessment Team has identified the most critical steps, excluded irrelevant steps (e.g., instructionally embedded assessments), and provided additional resources or tips specific to PA.

DLM Quick Start Guide for Assessment Coordinators and DLM Quick Start Guide for Assessors-2022 Versions Coming Soon.  If you are an Assessment Coordinator or Assessor and wondering how to begin the new alternate assessment system, check out a “Quick Start” Guide.  These short checklists provide concise, easy to understand directions with built in resource links.

The following PaTTAN publications are provided on behalf of the Bureau of Special Education and intended to support IEP Teams and families in determining eligibility decisions for participation in the alternate assessment.  The PASA Eligibility Criteria Decision Making Companion Tool contains the six requirements that must be met in order for students to be eligible to participate in the alternate assessment.  These resources can be downloaded or ordered free of charge through PaTTAN Publications.


The PA Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education includes many special education related topics, including statewide alternate assessment.  After selecting the link below, choose “Assessment” to find information on alternate assessment. The PASA DLM Alternate Assessment Consortium through the University of Kansas will be the State’s alternate assessment vendor for the 2021-2022 school year.  Assessment and instructional resources and trainings are available through the PASA DLM public website which can be accessed through the links below.  The National Center on Educational Outcomes is a national technical assistance network that supports States and local educational agencies in their support of student with disabilities, English learners (ELs) and ELs with disabilities.  It focuses upon knowledge development, technical assistance and dissemination and collaboration.  Resources and research related to statewide assessment and students with disabilities can be found here including resources to help States and local education agencies increase the number of students in general statewide assessments and decrease the number of students in alternate assessments.