Significant Disabilities

The Significant Disabilities Team provides technical assistance and support in implementation of the Iowa Core Essential Elements and Iowa’s Alternate Assessments.

Please complete this form to request instructional support for students with significant disabilities.

If you have questions or need clarification regarding alternate assessment or working with students with significant disabilities, please contact the PLAEA Students with Significant Disabilities Team at:

Science BlueprintMath BlueprintELA Blueprint

About Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities
Students with Significant Disabilities have multiple complex learning needs requiring extensive, repeated, individualized instruction and support.  High academic expectations have been established through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

About Iowa Alternate Assessment
All students are expected to participate in district-wide assessments. Students with disabilities may participate without accommodations, with accommodations or through the state of Iowa Alternate Assessment. The individualized education plan (IEP) team considers the characteristics of the student and the nature and purpose of the assessment to determine the participation option that is most appropriate.

Alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards are assessments used to evaluate the performance of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in grades K-11. These assessments promote fair measurement of student knowledge and assess educational performance in reading, mathematics, and for some students, science. This process ensures that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities fully have access to challenging instruction, which is linked to grade-level state content standards. In 2017-18, the Iowa Department of Education will support (and require) two alternate assessments for eligible students in grades K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

The Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics Alternate Assessment is required for students in grades 3-11. . These tests are yearlong instructionally embedded assessments with three assessment windows.

Iowa's Early Literacy Alternate Assessment is required for students in grades K-6. The Early Literacy Alternate Assessment uses an approach to assessment called a structured portfolio using work samples, photos, anecdotal notes, frequency counts, and other traditional data recording techniques. IMPORTANT UPDATE: Scales 1-4 & 6 are REQUIRED.  Scale 5 is optional.  The IEP team will choose 1 scale to progress monitor for the year.  This must be documented in the IEP and is required a minimum of once a month. 

K-6 Early Literacy Alternate Assessment Timeline for 2023-2024

Fall Instructional/Data Collection Window: August 28, 2023 - September 29,2023

*Reporting Window: Sept. 18, 2023 - Sept. 29, 2023

Winter Instructional/Data Collection Window: October 2, 2023 - February 23, 2024

*Reporting Window: January 22, 2024-February 2, 2024

Spring Instructional/Data Collection Window: February 5, 2024 - May 31, 2024

*Reporting Window: May 13, 2024 - May 31-2024

DLM Assessment Windows for 2023-24

The DLM Assessment is an instructionally embedded assessment that includes fall and spring assessment windows. Each window includes two (2) phases.


  • Phase 1: Sept. 11 - Oct. 27, 2023
  • Phase 2: Oct. 30 - Dec. 22, 2023


  • Phase 1: Feb. 5 - March 22, 2024
  • Phase 2: March 25 - May 17, 2024

Comprehensive Literacy - Diagram 


Dynamic Learning MAPS (DLM) Videos
Iowa Dept of Ed English Language Arts Strategies
Project Core
Jane Farrall Literacy
Literacy for All

Early Literacy Alternate Assessment

Curriculum Companies
**PLAEA does not endorse any of the curriculum listed on this site. It is the sole responsibility of the users of this site to check out the curriculum.
Don Johnston Readtopia & First Author
Contact Mike Cavin with questions regarding licensure for teaching alternate assessment.                              515-281-3437
Iowa Department of Education
Iowa Alternate Assessment Participation Guidelines

Important contacts

Staff Directory
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Sara Koenecke

Special Education Consultant/Assistive Technology Coordinator

515-705-7121 Email Sara Koenecke
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Kate Besch

Special Education Consultant/Assistive Technology Coordinator

712-335-6027 Email Kate Besch