Message from the Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs

The “Dear Colleague” letter below is from Ruth Ryder of the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

Dear Colleagues,

In our efforts to support States to meet the requirement in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to assess only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities with an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards (AA-AAAS), we are writing today to inform you of a few new technical assistance (TA) opportunities.

First, many States participated in last October’s convening in Boston, MA, “Supporting States in Implementing ESSA’s 1% State-level Cap on Participation of Students in the AA-AAAS.” The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) led the convening, working in partnership with multiple other ED-funded TA Centers, OSERS’ Office of Special Education Programs and OESE’s Office of State Support. We were encouraged by the work of  216 participants at the convening, including 157 State representatives from 47 States and BIE, and 59 representatives from the federal government, national associations, research and evaluation agencies, and federally-funded TA centers. When the convening ended, participating States left with an action plan to take back to their State teams to further refine their plans for implementing the1% State-level cap.

 A pre-publication version of the proceedings document is now available on NCEO’s website:; or you can download it directly: 1PercentNationalConveningProceedings.pdf. This document provides a summary of the 1% Cap Convening, and it includes video clips of the plenary presentations as well as links to resources that were shared by States and others at the convening.

 Additionally, as a continued step to support implementation, NCEO and the Center on Standards and Assessment Implementation (CSAI) will host three Peer Learning Groups (PLGs) on topics that States identified in their 1% Convening evaluations and action plans related to the 1% State-level cap on participation in AA-AAAS. These are meant to be small groups that work and learn together on topics more detailed than NCEO’s broader Community of Practice. States may choose to participate in all, some, or none of these 1% PLGs, based on their own needs.

 NCEO and CSAI provide detailed information about the PLGs in the attached document, “NCEO-CSAI 2019 PLGs….”  The information includes the PLG topics, meeting dates, group structure, and the registration link. Note that invitations also have been sent to the 1% Cap Convening participants and members of the 1% Cap Community of Practice; if you have staff who have already registered, they need not register again.

We encourage States to share this invitation with other State department staff who are responsible for the implementation of the ESSA 1% Cap requirements. These may include the State’s Alternate Assessment Specialist and Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Math and English/Language Arts, for example. 

 If you have questions about the 1% PLGs, please contact Susan Hayes, NCEO, at or 802-951-8210.  If you have any questions about the proceedings document, please contact David Egnor at And finally, if you are interested in joining NCEO’s broader Community of Practice related to the AA-AAAS, please contact NCEO’s Kathy Strunk at; 615-300-6217.


 Ruth E. Ryder

Deputy Director

Office of Special Education Programs

U.S. Department of Education