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MDE Seeks Public Comments on Waiver to Law Limiting Alternate Assessments

December 7, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) is seeking public comment on its request for a waiver on the number of students who can be tested using an alternate assessment on the annual statewide Mississippi Academic Assessment Program-Alternate (MAAP-A), based on the number of students who have taken the alternate assessment in the past.

Alternate assessments are provided to students with a significant cognitive disability. All students enrolled in public schools must take statewide assessments, including students with a disability. Mississippi follows the federal participation requirement and has met or exceeded the federal guidelines set at 95 percent student participation in annual assessments.

In addition, federal law states the total number of students assessed in each subject using an alternate assessment may not exceed 1 percent of the total number of students in the state. If a state anticipates going above the 1 percent cap, it must submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education. 

Based upon historical data, Mississippi anticipates that about 1.5 percent of students will be assessed using the alternate assessment.  Since this exceeds the limit, Mississippi must request a waiver to the 1 percent cap for one year.

The MDE plans to submit the waiver request to the Department of Education in the areas of English/language arts, mathematics, and science. The waiver request states that MDE will gather data on the characteristics of students participating in the alternate assessment to determine whether districts are properly identifying students with significant cognitive disabilities, which is the only population of students who can take the alternate assessment.

In addition, the waiver also states that MDE will collect and analyze alternate assessment data and request justification from districts that exceed the one percent cap. The MDE will address any overrepresentation of racial subgroups in the percentage of students taking the alternate assessment.

Any individual or organization may submit written comments on the proposed waiver. Written comments will be accepted through, December 30, 2017 and can be sent to

Media Contact: 
Patrice Guilfoyle, APR
Director of Communications

Jean Cook, APR
Communications Specialist