School Improvement in Maryland

Does my child participate in state assessments?

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 requires that ALL STUDENTS be assessed and that students receive an individual score in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and a high school grade. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004, also requires that states provide an "alternate assessment" when implementing statewide accountability systems. An alternate assessment is an assessment designed for students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in a regular assessment, even when accommodations are provided.

Which assessment will my child take?

In Maryland, students with disabilities participate in either the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in reading, mathematics and science (with or without accommodations, as appropriate), in Mod-MSA or in the Alternate Maryland School Assessment (ALT-MSA), as determined by the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. The MSA is administered to students in grades 3-8 and 10 and tests students' attainment of grade level objectives in reading and mathematics. In addition, the Alt-MSA measures a student's attainment of science Mastery Objectives in grades 5, 8 and 10. Students with significant cognitive disabilities who cannot participate in the MSA and the MSA/Science, even with accommodations participate in ALT-MSA. ALT-MSA assesses student attainment of their instructional level reading, mathematics and science mastery objectives that are aligned with grade level Maryland Content Standards.


  • Maryland State Assessment MSA
  • Mod-MSA (does not lower expectations)
  • Alt-MSA (students on certificate track)


  • High School Assessments
    • Algebra
    • Biology
    • English
  • Mod-HSA
    • Algebra
    • Biology
    • English
  • Alt-MSA Grade 10

Criteria for Identifying Students with Disabilities for Participation In a Mod MSA

Criteria for Identifying Students with Disabilities for Participation In Alt-MSA

To meet a graduation requirement, all students who entered 9th grade in or after 2005 are required to take and pass the High School Assessments to receive a Maryland High School Diploma, including students in special education. The Modified HSAs - or Mod-HSAs - is an alternative for students with disabilities who are able to make progress toward grade-level standards. The Mod-HSAs, which are available in the four HSA content areas, are based on the same course content as the HSAs, but the question format may be altered.

The Mod-HSA option is available for a student with an IEP who has received course credit but has failed the related HSA at least once and whose participation is approved by the IEP team.

The Mod-HSAs are administered at the same time as the HSAs. Students with disabilities who pass the Mod-HSA are eligible to earn a Maryland High School Diploma.

To find out whether your child is eligible to take the Mod-HSAs, contact his or her IEP team.

Criteria for Identifying Students with Disabilities for Participation In a Mod-HSA

Additional information about the graduation requirements and supports for passing HSAs are included under the question about graduation requirements.

What accommodations will my child receive?

All students with special needs—regardless of the test they take—are entitled to accommodations during instruction and testing. The accommodations your child needs are indicated in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP). If you have a child with a disability and have questions about his or her program of study or participation on State tests, send a note to your child’s special education teacher or case manager.

The Maryland Accommodations Manual provides background information and guidance for the use of accommodations in both instruction and assessment. This is a resource with a lot of information about the use of selecting, administering, and evaluating accommodations for Students with Disabilities (Special Education Students with an IEP).

The Maryland Accommodations Manual was developed to ensure:

  1. Participation in assessments is consistent in all Maryland programs, schools, and school systems;
  2. Accommodations are provided to all qualified students; and
  3. Accommodations used in assessments (State and local tests) are also used in daily instruction.

The use of accommodations is linked through each of these areas:

The Maryland Accommodations Manual is broken down into sections.


Section 2-Maryland Policy Overview

Section 3-Maryland Assessment Summary

Section 4-Five Step Process for Accommodations
Selecting, Administering, and Evaluating Accommodations

Section 5-Seven Accommodations Fact Sheets for Students with Disabilities (SWD)
Fact Sheet SWD 1-Presentation
Fact Sheet SWD 2-Response
Fact Sheet SWD 3-Timing and Scheduling
Fact Sheet SWD 4-Setting
Fact Sheet SWD 5-Examples based on Student Characteristics
Fact Sheet SWD 6-Do's & Don'ts when Selecting
Fact Sheet SWD 7-Rules for Specific Accommodations

Section 6-Eight Accommodations Tools for Students with Disabilities
Tool SWD-1: Access Needs that May Require Accommodations
Tool SWD-2: Accommodations from Student Perspective
Tool SWD-3: Assessment Accommodations Plan
Tool SWD-4: Assessment Accommodation Agreement
Tool SWD-5: Logistics Planning Checklist
Tool SWD-6: Accommodations Journal
Tool SWD-7: Application for Multiple Day Accommodations on the High School Assessment
Tool SWD-8: Guidance for Provision of the Interpretation/Transliteration Accommodation for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Section 7- Five Step Process for Accommodations
Selecting, Administering, and Evaluating Accommodations for English Language Learners (ELLs)

Section 8-Accommodations Fact Sheets for English Language Learners

Section 9-Accommodations Tools for English Language Learners

Appendix A: IEP Team Decision Making Process Eligibility Tool/Mod MSA

Appendix B: IEP Team Decision Making Process Eligibility Tool/Mod HSA

Appendix C: Quick Reference Guide to Accommodations for SWD

Appendix D: Quick Reference Guide to Accommodations for ELLs

Appendix E: References

If you have specific questions about a student's participation or accommodations on state tests, send a note to your child's special education teacher or case manager.