The new DLM™ Alternate Assessment System will let students with significant cognitive disabilities show what they know in ways that traditional multiple-choice tests cannot. The DLM system is designed to map a student’s learning throughout the year. The system will use items and tasks that are embedded in day-to-day instruction. This gives teachers the opportunity to see what students know during the year when teachers still have time to change instruction to better support student learning. An end of the year assessment will be administered and used for accountability in addition to the instructionally embedded tools.
A learning map is a network of sequenced learning targets. Often, we think of learning as one skill building on another single skill. A dynamic learning map, by comparison, shows a learning landscape in which multiple skills are related to many other skills. Dynamic learning maps not only show the relationships between skills but also show multiple learning pathways. Instead of assuming that all children learn a skill in the same way, allowing for multiple pathways recognizes that there are alternate ways to learn the same skill. By using dynamic learning maps as the basis for assessments, the DLM® system will give teachers a clearer view of each student's knowledge.
Think of a learning map like a common road map. Although students may share the same destination, they all begin their journeys from different starting points on the map. For parents and educators who hope to guide students to their destination, that road map provides a wealth of information. First, it shows where a student is starting. It also shows the main route, which is the shortest, most direct way to get there. However, a good road map does more than show a single route. It also shows several alternate routes in case the main route can’t be traveled. Finally, the map shows all the places students must travel through to get to their destination.
Kinds of Skills Included in Learning Maps:
- Tested Subject-Specific Skills. These skills include things like knowing a vocabulary word or being able to solve a multiplication problem.
- Related Precursor Academic Skills. These are the underlying skills necessary to master the tested skill. For example, to solve a multiplication problem, a student first needs to understand what numbers are, be able to order numbers, etc. For each grade-level skill that is tested, there are numerous precursor skills.
- Communication Skills. These are skills that allow students to communicate their answers. Communication skills are not limited to speech, but include a variety of things like pointing or nodding.
- Attention Skills. Before a student can show knowledge of a particular subject, the student must first be able to focus on the task or item presented.
By mapping these and other types of skills, learning maps allow students to show what they do know rather than simply cataloging what they don’t know.
Student Eligibility Criteria
When determining whether a student who is eligible for special education services should participate in the DLM or Smarter, the student’s IEP team must determine whether the student meets the following criteria.
- The student has a significant cognitive disability
- The student is primarily being instructed using the Common Core Essential Elements and the Extended Grade Band Standards as content standards.
- The student requires extensive direct individualized instruction and substantial supports to achieve measureable gains in the grade-and age-appropriate curriculum.
When the IEP team concurs that all three criteria accurately characterize a student’s current educational situation, then the DLM should be administered in order to provide a meaningful evaluation of the student’s current academic achievement.
IEP Teams utilize the Participation Guidelines for Alternate Assessment (Form I-7-A) and the Individualized Education Program: Participation in Statewide Assessments Form (Dynamic Learning Maps Form I-7 DLM) to document their decisions.
Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM)
Data and Student Demographics