Significant Disabilities

The Significant Disabilities Team provides technical assistance and support in implementation of the Iowa Core Essential Elements and Iowa’s Alternate Assessments. 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 upport.  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 2021-2022

Fall Instructional/Data Collection Window: August 30, 2021 – October 2021

*Reporting Window: Sep 20, 2021 – Oct 1, 2021

Winter Instructional/Data Collection Window: October 4, 2021 – February 4, 2021

*Reporting Window: January 24, 2021-February 4, 2022

Spring Instructional/Data Collection Window: February 7, 2021 – Jun 3, 2021

*Reporting Window: May 16, 2021-June 3, 2022

DLM Assessment Window for 2021-2022 (DLM Grades 3-12)

Phase 1: September 13,2021 – October 29, 2021
Phase 2: November 1, 2021 – December 17, 2021

Phase 1: February 7, 2022 – March 25, 2022
Phase 2: March 28, 2022 – May 20, 2022

DLM Spring Guidance FAQ
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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Tiffanie Zaugg

Assistive Technology Coordinator

712-335-6056 Email Tiffanie Zaugg
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Haley Offerman

Special Education Consultant

515-606-7016 Email Haley Offerman