California’s new assessment program — called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) — represents the next step in our state’s ambitious education remodeling project.
As of spring 2015, California schools replaced old tests with new assessments built to let parents and teachers know how well students are learning the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world. This year will be the second year of full implementation of the new assessments. Spring 2016 testing will take place mostly in April and May, depending on school district calendars.
- Listen to KALW 91.7 FM “Looking at Education” to learn more about the new state assessments as host Carol Kocivar speaks with California State PTA Vice President for Education Celia Jaffe.
UPDATED FOR 2016
Check out two fliers from California State PTA on what the assessment scores mean and what questions parents should ask:
- What the Scores Mean — Family-friendly explanations about the assessment scores
- Questions to Ask — Questions for families to ask to stay engaged in their child’s assessment and education
- Smarter Balanced Resources — This infographic from California State PTA and Children Now offers answers and resources on frequently asked assessment questions
- Early Assessment Program — A flier from California State University, California Community Colleges and University of California outlines what the assessments mean for 11th-grade students
Download new parent guides from the California Department of Education and California State PTA:
- Grades 3, 4 & 5 — available in English and Spanish
- Grades 6, 7 & 8 — available in English and Spanish
- Grade 11 — available in English and Spanish
UNDERSTANDING THE NEW ASSESSMENT SCORE REPORTS
The new CAASPP assessment report uses four achievement levels: standard not met, standard nearly met, standard met, standard exceeded. The levels designate the degree of “progress toward mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for success in future coursework.” For 11th-graders, they measure the degree to which students are on track to be ready for college or a career after graduating from high school.
Page one of the score report shows:
- Scores between 2,000 and 3,000 representing your child’s overall performance in English language arts and in mathematics from this year assessment as well as from last year. The numerical score is indicated by a dot as well as bar showing likely scores if the assessment was taken multiple times. Like progress on a growth chart, the tests, scores and expectations change with your child’s age and grade. Scores are expected to increase from year to year, so achievement levels get higher as your child grows.
- A breakdown of four areas of English language arts, describing your child’s performance on reading, writing, listening and research/inquiry portions of the assessment.
- A breakdown of the three areas of mathematics, detailing your child’s performance on concepts and procedures, problem solving/modeling/data analysis, and communicating reasoning.
Page two of the score report includes:
- A letter from the state superintendent about your child’s assessment and score report.
- The numerical score levels for “standard not met,” “standard nearly met,” “standard met” and “standard exceeded.”
- Additional information based on your child’s grade such as the California Standards Test for Grades 5 and 8 Science or the Early Assessment Program (EAP) Status for Grade 11.
The tests are an academic checkup, designed to give teachers the feedback they need to improve instruction and the tools to improve teaching and learning. Because the tests are taken online, information will be available to teachers, schools and school districts on a timely basis so it can be used to help students learn.
The scores are just one measure of how your child is doing. These new tests are part of an overall system of assessment including classroom assignments, quizzes, report cards and more. Further adjustments will be needed along the way to help us make lasting progress – both patience and persistence will be required to help our schools and students continue to succeed during this time of remodeling.
Score Reports: What you need to know
- The new scores look different – that’s OK! Scores changed as of 2015, and they can’t be compared to the previous STAR scores. The new CAASPP assessment report uses four achievement levels: standard not met, standard nearly met, standard met, standard exceeded. The levels designate the degree of “progress toward mastery of the knowledge and skills needed for success in future coursework.” For 11th-graders, they measure the degree to which students are on track to be ready for college or a career after graduating from high school.
- The scores help improve learning for your child. Scores give teachers the opportunity to adjust instruction and give students and parents an idea of which areas should get extra attention each school year and which areas students have mastered.
- Like progress on a growth chart, the tests, scores and expectations change with your child’s age and grade. As children grow and change, so do the educational standards and related assessments. Although you can see growth from year to year, scores can’t be directly compared to prior years, which measured different grade standards.
- The scores are just one measure of how your child is doing. These new tests are part of an overall system of assessment including classroom assignments, quizzes, report cards and more.
- Ask questions! The score reports will likely go to parents much earlier this year than last.. Parents can start discussions on the score reports with their child’s teacher either before going to summer break or during back-to-school season and during parent-teacher conferences and other meetings and communications in the fall.
Questions to Ask
The new student assessment score reports offer a great opportunity to ask questions:
- Ask Your Child: What areas do you think you should particularly focus on this year, based on your test results? What do you see as your strengths to build on?
- Ask Your Teacher: How will these tests results be used to guide instruction? What can we do at home that will help our child learn and be successful? How are other important subjects assessed?
- Ask Your Principal: Are the individual test results being used at the school for placement in classes or any other specific decisions? What did you learn at the school level from the overall results of the assessments?
- Ask Your Superintendent: Are the district assessment results helping to guide any professional development? What are the next steps the district is taking in continuing the full, successful implementation of the new standards?
Take a practice assessment!
Take the practice test to see examples of questions your child will be experiencing.
What should I look for in my child’s tests?
There may be several assessments used by your child’s school, including interim or benchmark assessments administered throughout the year, as well as a year-end assessment. These tests allow teachers to check on student progress.
To be worthwhile, all tests should:
- Be high-quality. Assessments should measure students’ ability to think critically, synthesize material from multiple sources, and analyze problems. High-quality tests are aligned to standards that prepare students for success beyond high school.
- Measure what matters. Tests should cover what students learn in class and help predict their performance at the end of the year.
- Provide meaningful results that inform instruction. Results from assessments should identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing teachers to improve instruction. Tests should provide results that are timely and easily understandable by parents, teachers and students.
- Go beyond multiple-choice. Tests should include a variety of questions—not just multiple-choice. Writing prompts and math questions that require students to formulate equations or explain their reasoning demonstrate that students truly understand the content.
What do the assessments do?
Measure real-world skills. To be ready for college and the workplace, students need to apply their knowledge and skills through critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving. The new assessments measure the skills students need to know when they graduate.
End teaching to the test. The new assessments include activities that more closely mirror what students are learning in class. They provide a more accurate understanding of student knowledge than previous tests because they ask students to show and apply what they know, instead of just picking the right answer from a multiple-choice question.
Identify whether students are on the path to success. Parents should be able to know whether their children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. The new assessments provide an academic check-up and help teachers and parents know whether students are on track to be college- and career-ready at each grade level.
Use technology to provide better information for teachers and parents. Online tests are faster to score, giving teachers and parents more timely information about student performance. They also include a greater variety of questions and are more secure than paper tests.
Provide opportunities for early intervention. Teachers have access to interim assessments that can be administered during the year to check on student progress. When teachers have information about students’ strengths and weaknesses, they can better support their learning.
Replace state tests in English and Math. Created by experts and educators, the new assessments will replace existing state tests in English and math.
Support students with special needs. New assessments include a wealth of resources to help all students demonstrate what they know and can do.
Be sure to read the FREE all-education edition of our PTA in California newsletter that answers your questions about your child’s assessment-score reports — and more — available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese!