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 The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA)

The Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA) is a key component of the Georgia Student Assessment Program. An essential tenet of both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is the fact that states must ensure that all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, have access to a general curriculum that encompasses challenging academic standards. States must also ensure that all students are assessed for their progress toward meeting academic standards.

In order to accomplish this, states must have curricular standards that include all students and then must assess those students with statewide tests of achievement or develop an alternate assessment. Students with significant cognitive disabilities may be assessed via an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. The US Department of Education (USDOE) defines an alternate achievement standard as one that “sets an expectation of performance that differs in complexity from a grade-level achievement standard.” Alternate achievement standards must be aligned to state academic content standards, although they may reflect prerequisite or entry-level skills.

The GAA is a portfolio of student work that enables the demonstration of achievement and progress relative to selected skills that are aligned to the Georgia curriculum. The portfolio is used to capture student learning and achievement/progress in four content areas: English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. This assessment program promotes a vision of enhancing capacities and integrated life opportunities for students who experience significant cognitive disabilities. Committees of Georgia educators developed the requirements of the portfolio system including the number of required pieces of evidence of student performance of tasks aligned to content standards (i.e., student work samples), types of evidence, and the parameters/timing of the collection of student work samples.

Georgia educators also informed the development of the rubrics by which the student work samples are evaluated. The GAA portfolio entries are scored for four discrete dimensions: fidelity to standard, context, achievement/progress, and generalization. A separate score is assigned for each dimension. The focus is on academic content and skills.

  • Kindergarten assembles a portfolio in English/Language Arts and Mathematics

  • Grades 3-8 and 11 assemble a portfolio in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.


Portfolio Collection Periods:

  1. Achievement/Progress is documented in two collection periods during a school year. The first collection period provides evidence of a student’s entry-level performance (initial performance of the skill); the second collection period provides evidence of a student’s achievement/progress to date.

  2. The collection period window between the first collection period and the second collection period is a minimum of fourteen days to a maximum of five months.


Teachers collect evidence of student performance of tasks aligned to content standards. This evidence shows a student’s achievement/progress toward those standards.

As part meeting federal requirements for state standards and assessments systems, the GAA was peer reviewed by a team of external experts in the fields of standards and assessments. This team was convened by the US Department of Education and considered evidence in the following areas: content and academic achievement standards; technical quality; alignment; inclusion; and scoring and reporting. The GAA was found to meet nationally recognized professional and technical standards for alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards.

In 2012–2013, Georgia implemented Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS) in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  The GAA reflected these state mandated content standards beginning in fall 2012.  The standards selected for assessment on the GAA were reviewed and approved by a committee of Georgia educators.

The high school mathematics curriculum based on the CCGPS being implemented by cohort, beginning in 2012–2013, with the 9th grade. Therefore, the GAA blueprint in high school mathematics will not change until the 2014–2015 school year when that cohort of students will be assessed for the first time.

The CCGPS-based blueprint is available both on the GaDOE Web site ( and in the GAA Examiner’s  Manual, 2012–2013, Appendix D.

The curriculum standards for science and social studies will remain GPS-based. For more information on GaDOE’s transition to CCGPS go to:  


High School Retest Opportunities

Beginning in Fall 2011 and in subsequent years, students pursuing a diploma, who are assessed using the GAA and who did not achieve a proficient score on one or more content area(s), will be offered retest opportunities. Three testing windows are offered each year. Students may retest in a content area(s) in which they did not receive a proficient score (i.e., received a proficiency  level of Established Progress). Only students who were enrolled in the ninth grade during the 2008–2009 school year and beyond, and who are seeking a regular education diploma, may exercise the option to retest. Students seeking a special education diploma are not required to retest.


GAA Statewide Scores


 Contact Information

Deborah Houston
Assessment Specialist

Phone: (404) 657-0251
Fax: (404) 656-5976

 Helpful Information