Understanding the CAASPP

Do you have questions about what the new assessment scores mean for your child?

California State PTA held a webinar to help answer some of the questions parents may have about the new  California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and will be offering the same presentation with the support of Ninth District PTA on November 12, 2015 starting at 6:30 pm at the San Diego County Office of Education (click here for more information).

If you are unable to make it to the Ninth District PTA event on November 12, here’s a recap from the webinar:

What is new in education in California:

  1. New California Standards based on Common Core and New Generation of Science Standards
  2. How standards are being taught – more hands-on lessons, inquiry based learning, different approaches to problems, critical thinking, and group projects
  3. How funding is divided due to Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)
  4. Who decides how to spend education funds – More local decisions, less decisions made by State
  5. How much input the community has – Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)
  6. Lastly, how student learning is assessed

The CAASPP replaces the STAR testing and the assessment is based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) (which is comprised of over a dozen states including California that gave input on the content of the test).  The SBAC are new year-end tests in the area of Mathematics and English/Language Arts/Literacy.  The SBAC is a summative assessment test given at the end of year as a device to check up on what the student has learned.  The test itself was first introduced in Spring of 2013 as a Practice field test.  In 2014, some school districts in California participated in a test of a test to gauge the readiness in terms of infrastructure and content.  The tests in 2015 marks the year when the full implementation.  Only grades 3 – 8, and 11 grade students are taking the SBAC tests.

The test themselves are a new format:

  • Computer-based and is taken online so the computers do have to have access to internet
  • Computer adaptive – the best analogy is for those who may have taken a graduate entrance exam like the GMAT for Business School where the first question is “easy” and the test taker will be given more difficult questions each time the answer is correct or easier if the the answer is wrong.
  • The tests are un-time- students have as much time as needed to complete each part of the test.

What are some of the types of questions on the test?

  • Selected Response – includes traditional multiple choice (and in some cases more than one answer can be selected) as well as multi-part questions
  • Constructed Response – Short answer questions, these are computer adaptive
  • Performance task which is an application of student’s knowledge and skills.  Uses a range of information sources, not computer adaptive, and is hand scored.

How will the scores be used?

The scores will not be sued for grades.  Student grades will be given based on classroom assignments, quizzes, and tests used at the school site, etc.  Scores will not be used to determine if the student should be held back a grade or moved up a grade.  The scores can not be compared to the STAR test as there is a new scoring scale.  The Smarter balanced summative scores in Math and English/Language Arts are in the range of 2000 – 3000.

The Smarter Balanced summative test scores do replace the Early Assement Program for teh California State University system and some community colleges.  The score reports for 11th grade students will have an added section.  The important thing to rememer is that the scores are just one measure of how your child is doing.  Scores should help improve learning for your child.  With Parent/Teacher conferences coming up, this is a good time to ask questions with your child’s teacher.  California State PTA does have handouts available on their website to help you understand the assessments and what questions to ask about the test scores for:

  • Your child
  • Your child’s teacher
  • School Principal
  • and for the Superintendent of the School District

The 2015 test scores are a starting point.  There is video by the California Department of Education to help you understand how to read the scores mailed to you about your student.

To access information about test scores by districts or by schools go to:

For resources on the new CAASPP from California State PTA go to:

  • 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!
  • Check out two fliers from California State PTA on what the assessment scores mean and what questions parents should ask:
  • Download new parent guides from the California Department of Education and California State PTA:
  • And parents of high-school students — be sure to review this flier on assessments and college placement from California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California:  DOWNLOAD

  • and the 3-minute video explaining the score reports in English/Spanish

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