Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 14/The Scoop From Someone Who Knows

A First Hand Account of the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program.

Learning Target

Students will be able to determine eligibility for Virginia Alternate Assessment Program.
Students will be able to identify the five components of the VAAP.
Students will be able to describe proper evidence collection.


The Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) is a portfolio assessment designed to evaluate the performance of students with significant cognitive disabilities (Virginia Department of Education, 2008). The VAAP is an alternative to formal Standards of Learning (SOL) testing and is available to students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 who are working on academic standards that have been reduced in complexity and depth. The content, derived from SOLs, is modified and referred to as the Aligned Standards of Learning (ASOLs). Individual student achievement of academic skills is the single focus of this portfolio assessment.

You can access the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program Implementation Program here.

Introduction of “expert”

Wendy Street is a special education teacher for Louisa County Public Schools (LCPS), located in Louisa, Virginia. Ms. Street is the 2009 Educator of the Year for Louisa County. She holds a Master’s of Science in Education with a concentration in Special Education from Old Dominion University. She serves as the Special Education department chair for Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and as a Louisa County Public Schools Peer Reviewer for VAAP portfolios and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In the classroom, she teaches students with significant cognitive disabilities who fall on the autism spectrum.

Interview Questions

Are there specific criteria that must be met in order to participate in the VAAP rather than SOL testing?

Yes, a student must meet certain eligibility criteria. The student must have a current Individualized Education Plan or have one being developed. An Individualized Education Plan is a plan specifically written for each child to meet their unique educational needs to ensure a free appropriate public education under the federal guidelines (Virginia Department of Education, 2001). written statement designed to meet The student must demonstrate significant cognitive disabilities and require intensive, frequent, and individualized instruction in a variety of settings to show interaction and achievement. The student must be working toward educational goals other than those prescribed for a Modified Standard, Standard, or Advanced Studies Diploma.

What are the components of the VAAP?

The VAAP consists of five components—

1. Determination of Eligibility - The IEP team uses VAAP eligibility criteria to examine how a student with significant cognitive disabilities accesses instruction and how he/she demonstrates knowledge and skills.

2. Use of ASOLs - ASOLs provide students with significant cognitive disabilities access to cross-grade level SOL content that has been modified. Appropriate content level standards have been identified for each content area: reading, math, science, and history/social science.

3. Collection of Evidence (COE)-Students must compile a collection of work samples to demonstrate their knowledge and skills on the ASOLs for which they have received instruction.

4. VAAP Content Area Cover Sheet-The student’s COE must include a cover sheet for each content area within the collection.

5. Affidavit of Student Performance-One must be completed for the entire COE. The affidavit ensures that only the student completed all of the evidence presented and that it was completed under the supervision of the special education teacher of other school personnel such as a paraprofessional.

What can be included in the COE for the VAAP?

COE can include work samples, audiotapes, videotapes, anecdotal records, interviews, data charts/graphs, and captioned photographs. Work samples must address all concepts stated in the ASOL and must be graded correctly so that the student’s proficiency on the content is clear. Work samples may include worksheets, tests, quizzes, writing samples, and any other student-generated work. Audiotapes are often used for the student to answer questions, read a selection, or describe a procedure. If audiotapes are used, a script should be included in case the tape breaks of does not work properly. Videotapes are used to show a student working on a skill or concept. They also often contain an interview of the student to assess knowledge on a specific topic. If a videotape tape is used, a signed release form granting permission to use must be included. A script of the videotape should be included as well in case the tape malfunctions. An anecdotal record is an ongoing log of student performance written by the student or teacher. Anecdotal records should include the date of performance, a description of the observed skill or procedure, and the student’s level of achievement. An example of a good anecdotal record would be, “On March 1, 2009, John Doe sorted a box of 20 objects by size, shape, and color with 100% accuracy. John was able to complete this activity independently.” Interviews might be conducted by the teacher to assess understanding of a concept. The teacher would ask the student questions related to the targeted topic and the student would answer. Interview questions should be short and clear to give the student the best opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge on the given topic. Interviews may be submitted as a written document or videotaped. Data charts and graphs submitted should contain specific information regarding the targeted ASOL, the date of performance, and the student’s level of achievement. Photographs submitted must be captioned with a statement indicating student performance of ASOL knowledge and skills. The statement should be a detailed summary of the activity occurring and the student’s level of achievement.

What are the benefits of using portfolio assessments such as the VAAP?

Portfolio assessments provide a means of evaluation for a population of students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to be assessed using the SOL tests even with accommodations. Portfolio assessments can be a creative and pleasurable experience. They are used to show a student’s progress over time and improvement in specific areas. Using ASOLs help students learn more functional life skills. They also give some students the chance to evaluate their own work as some students are included in the process of selecting evidence to be submitted. Benefits for teachers include developing organizational skills as a result of organizing evidence of performance and compiling a warehouse for teaching ideas for future use.

What are the disadvantages of using portfolio assessments?

I cannot think of any disadvantages of using portfolio assessments to assess students with significant cognitive disabilities. In fact, I think using portfolio assessments for students with test-taking anxiety would be beneficial as well. It would help lessen the gap between assessment scores and classroom performance.

Ms. Street had an interesting take on assessment. While most of our reading deals with assessment of general education students, Ms Street’s background is in special education. Her VAAP portfolios actually look like photo albums of student assessments. Seeing the photographs shows how a teacher can use photographs as assessments for everyone. With general education students, they love to use technology. Whether its digital camera or the new “Flip” video camera students can document assignments and provide you with another means of assessment.

Ms. Street’s information regarding the purpose, criteria, and content of a VAAP assessment coincides with the information provided by other researchers and educational experts. Ms. Street agrees with J.M. Blackbourn that portfolio assessments allow students to demonstrate their own skills of what they have learned rather than specific skills determined by test constructors (Blackbourn et al., 2004). However, she does appear to be more of a proponent of portfolio assessments than most. When asked about the disadvantages of portfolio assessments, she stated that she could not think of any. After reading other articles describing portfolio assessments, Penelope Valdez states that portfolio assessments require too much planning time, are hard to organize, and take too much time away from instruction in the classroom (Valdez, 2001).

Multiple Choice Questions

1. The VAAP is used to assess students with

a. Mild learning disabilities
b. Hearing impairments
c. Significant cognitive disabilities
d. Visual impairments

2. A collection of evidence (COE) for the VAAP can contain all of the following except

a. Interviews
b. Data charts/graphs
c. Anecdotal records
d. A videotape without a signed release form

3. John is working on sorting objects by shape, size, and color for his VAAP portfolio. What is the best way for his teacher to collect this evidence?

a. Interview
b. Audiotape
c. Work samples
d. Captioned photographs

4. Ms. Smith wants to write an anecdotal record for John whose ASOL targets recalling basic math facts for sums up to ten. Which of the following would be the best written anecdotal record?

a. John can recall math facts for sums up to 10 during circle time.
b. John, on 4 out of 5 opportunities, can recall basic math facts independently during circle time.
c. During circle time for the week of March 1–5, 2009, John independently recalled basic math facts for up to 10 with 100% accuracy.
d. John independently recalled basic math facts for sums up to 10 during circle time for the week of March 1–5, 2009.


Blackbourn, J.M., Thomas, C., Britt, P., Blackbourn, R., Papason, B., Tyler, J.L., et al. (2004) Portfolio Assessment: A Guide For Teachers And Administrators [Electronic version]. National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal, 23 (4E) 1-8.

Street, W.D. (2009, June 5) Special Education Teacher / Department Chair, Louisa County Public Schools. Interview.

Valdez, P.S. (2001) Alternative Assessment Retrieved June 4, 2009 from

Virginia Department of Education. (2008) Virginia Alternate Assessment Program Implementation Manual. Richmond, Virginia: Department of Education.

Virginia Department of Education (2001) A Parent's Guide to Special Education. Richmond, Virginia: Department of Education.

Multiple Choice Answers

1. C
2. D
3. D
4. C

Jtmitchem (talk) 21:46, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

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