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. 

Announcements and Communications

NEW:  For the 20-21 school year, the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) announced Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System Consortium at the University of Kansas as the new alternate assessment vendor.  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.

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.


New 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.

Data Verification and Data Extracts Reports Guidance
The PA Alternate Assessment Team has developed this resource to assist PASA DLM ACs in understanding how to run data extract reports and verify accuracy and completeness of data through the KITE Educator Portal. The tasks contained within the resource must be completed routinely to ensure that data is accurate and that users have completed required tasks. Failing to have accurate data or complete certain tasks in a timely manner may impact the delivery of the assessment and/or affect accuracy in reporting.

Enhanced Checklist for PASA DLM Test Administrators
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.

"PASA DLM Test Talks" is a series of weekly, one-hour meetings intended to support the Assessment Coordinators (ACs) as they transition to a new alternate assessment system.  "PASA DLM Test Talks" provide timely updates on enrollment, rostering, testing and training procedures.  A portion of every meeting is dedicated to demonstrations of online procedures in the new system and a questions and answer period.  All "PASA DLM Test Talks" are live but recorded for posting to the website.
PASA Test Talks Directory DLM Quick Start Guide for Assessment Coordinators and DLM Quick Start Guide for Assessors are now available.  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 following PASA important dates calendar is helpful to school administrators and PASA ACs.  It can be found here.


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 2020-2021 school year.  All alternate assessment enrollment, trainings and test administrations will occur through the secure PASA DLM website.  Instructional and professional development online trainings and resources are available through the public website which can be accessed at the link below. The PASA Digital website will close on February 28th, 2021.  The secure PASA Digital system is only available to PASA Assessment Coordinators (ACs) at this time.  PASA ACs may view last year student enrollment rosters and teachers/assessors.  Other student performance data is available including individual student score reports from 2017-2019.  
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.