Frequently Asked Questions
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Graduation Alternatives

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated October 2018

Submission Process

How do I submit/request a Graduation Alternative?

  • For CIA Cut Scores (formerly Basic/L2) or Off-Grade Level using the regular accountability assessment, administrators may indicate the assessment type in TIDE.
  • For Off Grade Level on the alternate assessment, teachers may register a student under an off grade level classroom via the WA-AIM assessment platform.
  • For the Engagement Rubric, school and district staff must follow instructions found in the WA-AIM Guidelines and Supports.
  • For all other Graduation Alternatives, school or district staff will submit the forms via the Graduation Alternatives Application in EDS.

Grades Comparison (GPA Comparison)

I received an error message in the Graduation Alternatives Application that the cohort for my GPA Comparison was too small, what does that mean?
The GPA Comparison calculator embedded in the Graduation Alternatives Application calculates GPA Comparisons according to WAC 392-501-202 which states that a student's cohort must contain students who have taken the same two credits of coursework, at the same school, in the same period of time as the target student, but must have passed the same assessment attempted by the target student. If the student's cohort does not contain six or more students that meet these criteria, a GPA Comparison is not possible.

I have a transfer student with excellent grades, but the GPA Comparison function in the application isn’t detecting them as applicable. Why is that?
Transfer credits, by their nature, are incapable of creating cohorts because they are from private/out of state institutions. Specifically, no group of six of more out of state students could have taken the same 2 content area credits with them, at the same time, in the same (out of state) school, AND taken the same WA state test. Because out of state courses cannot fulfill the GPA comparison cohort requirements as outlined in WAC 392-501-202, they are not included in the applicable course list generated in the application.

College Admission/AP/IB Tests

Can I use the ACT without the writing portion if I'm only submitting an Assessment Graduation Alternative for Math?
Yes. As of October 25, 2016, OSPI has broadened the scope of approved College Admissions tests for mathematics to the SAT or SAT with Essay as well as the ACT (no Writing) or ACT with Writing. It is highly recommended that students participate in the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing version to ensure that their test results can be used beyond the initial pursuit of meeting an individual assessment graduation requirement.

If a student took the SAT, ACT, AP or IB test before taking a state exam or accountability assessment, can a student submit those scores?
Unless a student has already met the Eligibility Criteria in a given content area, the student must first participate in the required state exam or accountability assessment before gaining eligibility to submit scores from any college admission/AP/IB test. Scores from a previously taken ACT or SAT may be submitted once eligibility is granted.

Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) Options

Can a student who is not receiving services in a content area still be assessed with an alternative in that content area?
Yes. A student's IEP team will make the appropriate assessment decision based on the student's IEP. Please see the IEP Team Guidance for Selecting the Appropriate Assessment to Earn a Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) document as well as the webpages for each CIA option for full details on eligibility for each CIA option.

If a student has exited from services after earning a CIA, do they have to now earn a CAA?
If a student has earned a CIA, the state will not remove that designation from the student's transcript as a result of exiting services. If the student then earns a CAA, the CAA will replace the CIA on the student's transcript. If the student did not earn a CIA prior to exiting, the student must then meet the requirement for CAA.

How do I document an accommodation/assessment on a student's IEP?
Please work with your local special education administrators for guidance with the IEP writing process, including the provisions for testing accommodations.

CIA Cut Score (formerly Basic/L2)

How do I indicate CIA Cut Score (formerly Basic/L2) on the Smarter Balanced assessment?
Administrators will follow the directions for documenting a Special Test Incident Code (CIA Cut Score) for a student found on page 71 of the TIDE User Guide.

Can I submit a retro-Basic for a student who earned a level 2 prior to qualifying for services?
A student must be receiving special education services at the time of testing in order to be eligible for a retro basic.

Can I submit a retro-Basic for a student who earned a level 2 while receiving SPED services, but L2/basic was not indicated by the IEP team prior to testing?
If an IEP team has determined and documented the Basic/L2 as the appropriate assessment option for the student, administrators may request a Retro-Basic for the student if the student was receiving special education services at the time of testing. This is only available for high school students retroactively, and can be updated in the CAA/CIA database by following these Retro-Basic Instructions.

Off-Grade Level

Does my student need to take an on grade level test before they can take an off grade level version?
No. However, a student taking an off-grade assessment in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade is not excused from participation in the on-grade federal accountability assessment (Math and ELA Smarter Balanced assessment, to be administered in spring of 10th grade starting in 2018, or the applicable content version of WA-AIM). A district may test a student with an off grade level test before the federal accountability assessment---but this student will still be expected to participate in the on-grade accountability assessment.

Can students with IEPs take off-grade level assessments in 10th grade?
Yes. A student can access the off-grade level assessments for graduation purposes in 10th, 11th and/or 12th grade but is still expected to participate in on-grade level exam(s) in 10th grade required for federal accountability*. *Note: Taking the on-grade federal accountability tests with the CIA cut score option counts as having participated in these exams.

Are 10th graders able to take off-grade level test in lieu of the Grade 10 Smarter Balanced ELA or Math assessment to meet standard for Federal Accountability?
No. A student can access the off-grade level assessments for graduation purposes in 10th, 11th and/or 12th grade but is still expected to participate in on-grade level exam(s) required for federal accountability*. *Note: Taking the on-grade federal accountability tests with the CIA cut score option counts as having participated in these exams.

How do we indicate that a student is going to take the off-grade level assessment in ELA/Mathematics?
For the student file: IEP teams will determine what grade level to provide the off-grade level assessment for the student and document said grade level on the student's IEP. For the state: District Assessment Coordinators or designated staff can find specific directions on AIR's WCAP portal and select Pre-ID Details Document (PDF). Information is housed under "Online Administrations". Complete instructions are available in the TIDE User Guide and TIDE webinar recordings.

What accessibility features are available on the off-grade level assessments?
The off-grade assessments are administered online in the same fashion as the general administration for the applicable grades. Accessibility features can be different for different grade levels and contents and are defined by the assessment administration format. Please refer to the state's Guidelines on Tools, Supports & Accommodations for State Assessments for additional information.

What is the testing window for off-grade level assessments?
Testing windows for all assessments can be found on our 2017-18 State Testing Timelines/Calendar webpage.

Locally Determined Assessment (LDA) Option

Do I have to be a science teacher to administer the science LDA?
The educator supporting the administration of the LDA can be a science teacher, elective teacher, special education teacher, or any other educator providing academic support to the student. Schools should consider each student's particular situation and corresponding support arrangements in determining the best use of schedule and personnel to accomplish the assessment.

Locally Determined Assessment (LDA) Option

My student took an off-grade level test; shouldn’t they be able to take an LDA now?
No. Students who use an off grade-level test or LDA to meet graduation assessment requirements are still expected to participate in on-grade level exam(s) required for federal accountability. However, you can administer the LDA in 11th or 12th grade prior to the student gaining eligibility from participation in the on-grade federal accountability test or makeup administration. In that event, you must simply wait until the student meets eligibility criteria before submitting the application.

Out-of-State Waiver

I have an 10th grade transfer student with passing scores on another state's ELA and/or mathematics assessment, do they have to participate in the Spring 10th grade Smarter Balanced assessment?
Yes. If a student is enrolled in WA state schools during the federal accountability administration of the ELA or Math Smarter Balanced assessment, they must participate, or they will not gain eligibility to submit an OOS waiver in the respective content area.

When can I submit a 10th grade transfer student's Out of State Waiver?
In order for a user to submit a waiver for a student, the student must meet the Eligibility Criteria for accessing assessment graduation alternatives, have a passing score on an approved Out of State test. Once these conditions are met, the user may submit an OOS Waiver in the applicable content areas for the student.

My student passed graduation exams in another state. Can/do those exams count toward graduation requirements here in Washington?
Not necessarily. Any student graduating from Washington state schools must meet Washington state graduation requirements. Out of State (OOS) tests are not approved based upon their meeting other states’ graduation or end of course standards. OSPI approval of OOS tests (to be added to the approved OOS test list on the Graduation Alternatives application) is based on those tests meeting a similar set of standards, rigor, and appropriate score, to those that meet graduation requirements in WA state. If, considering these criteria, you believe a test should be added to the OOS test list, please follow the steps outlined on our OOS Assessment Review Request Process.

My student’s transcripts only say “met standard” for the graduation tests taken in their previous state. Can you accept these as passing scores for the Out of State waiver.
No. Although a student may have met another states’ graduation or end of course standards, a designation of “met standard” or “passed” on an OOS test is insufficient to determine whether the student has demonstrated the skills and knowledge required to earn a Washington State diploma. OSPI reviews and approves tests based upon those tests meeting a similar set of standards and rigor, which must be determined by a numerical score.

NEW Expedited Assessment Appeal Waiver

I need to enter a student for an expedited appeal, but am unable to view the Expedited Assessment Appeal (EAA) tool in the Graduation Alternatives application. How can I get this fixed so I have access?

In order to access and use the EAA tool, you must be a District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) or a District Assessment Coordinator (DAC) Designee. Only those who possess these user roles in the Graduation Alternatives application are authorized to submit Expedited Assessment Appeals for students. If you are a DAC or DAC designee for your district, please contact your District Data Security Manager if you do not have the appropriate role.

What type of documentation do I need for an Expedited Assessment Appeal (EAA) to verify the student's pathway?

Note: At present, no documentation is required for submission within the application. However, school districts are expected to retain all verifying documentation within the student's cumulative folder, in accordance with current records retention schedules.

The types of documentation appropriate for each pathway (selected on the EAA form) are:

  • College level course completion: A copy of transcripts showing student passed a 100 level (or above) college course in either Math or ELA, respectively.
  • Admission to institution of higher learning/career prep program: A copy of the admission letter to the respective institution or program
  • Scholarship: A copy of the scholarship offer letter
  • Military: A copy of enlistment papers (or signed "intent to enlist" paperwork from the military branch)
  • Other: Any records verifying tests passed or awards granted in math/ELA, to indicate proficiency in the content area being appealed. Any post-secondary certificates/training records relating to the student's progression towards achievement of their college and career goals.

What counts as a graduation alternatives "attempt" for class of 2018 students who wish to apply for the Expedited Assessment Appeal (EAA)? What documentation is required?

Note: At present, no documentation is required for submission within the application. However, school districts are expected to retain all verifying documentation within the student's cumulative folder, in accordance with current records retention schedules.

The following are graduation alternative options a class of 2018 student could have attempted, as well as a description of the documentation that would verify the attempt:

  • SAT/ACT/IB/AP test: A score report showing that the student did not meet designated cut score in the respective content area.
  • COE: A score report or record showing that the student did not meet the designated cut score in the respective content area.
  • GPA comparison: GPA comparison results showing that the student had a 3.2 cumulative GPA, over 2 credits in the given content area, and had taken an EOC and/or SBA in the respective content area.

Since the Expedited Assessment Appeal (EAA) Waiver can be granted to students from classes of 2014 through 2018, how do I report the resultant graduation statuses to CEDARS?

For information on how to report these graduation statuses in CEDARS, please see OSPI guidance on reporting students issued a high school diploma via the EAA process, published in issue 2017.17 of the Washington Assessment Weekly on September, 12, 2017.

When I tried to enter a student for an EAA, got a red error box that said, "The student is not eligible for an Expedited Assessment Appeal. Enrollment records confirm this student has already graduated with a high school diploma." What does this mean? Why can't I enter the student’s EAA?

Any student who has been issued a diploma would have already met graduation requirements, and, thus, not be eligible for the waiver. If the school district issued a diploma in error, it is the district's responsibility to correct the student's information in their local system, and in CEDARS.

Engagement Rubric (formerly Awareness Waiver)

Is Awareness Waiver no longer an option for students with significant cognitive challenges?
The WA-AIM Engagement rubric replaces the process formerly known as Awareness Waiver. Students in 11th or 12th grade who participate in the WA-AIM through the Engagement Rubric will automatically have the assessment graduation requirement waived as an Awareness Waiver.


   Updated 10/25/2018

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