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STAR Tests - Now CAASPP - California Assessment of Performance and Progress

Last updated: March 13, 2014

Spring 2014 Smarter Balanced Field Test Information

In spring 2014, California will administer the Smarter Balanced Field Test in English-language arts and mathematics. CDE has created a web page with information categorized by target audience: Teachers, Administrators, Students/Parents, Technology, and Community Partners. The site is located at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/smarterfieldtest.asp.

This Just In (March 13, 2014):

Local educational agency (LEA) assignments for performance task topics and classroom activity materials for are now available on the California Smarter Balanced Field Test Classroom Activity and Content Area Assignments Web page at http://californiatac.org/administration/instructions/assignments/. The Web page provides two critical pieces of information:

To download the assignments, LEAs can select their county from the list to open the County Assignments Web page, then select their LEA from the list of LEAs.

LEAs will need to download the classroom activity and distribute it to test administrators at least two or three days in advance of administering the activity to students. The Classroom Activity and Performance Task Administration Guidelines that is available at http://sbac.portal.airast.org/field-test/resources/explains how to administer the classroom activity and performance task.

State Board Suspends Base and Growth API Calculations for 2014 and Growth API Calculation for 2015

On March 13, 2014 the California State Board of Education acted on the authority granted to them in AB 484 and voted to authorize CDE to NOT calculate the following API numbers:

  • 2014 Base API
  • 2014 Growth API
  • 2015 Growth API

At this time it is expected that the results from the Smarter Balanced tests administered in the spring of 2015 will be used as a part of the calculation of the 2015 Base API along with other measures. Recent legislation requires that the API consist of measures other than test scores.

There are several programs, such as the Open Enrollment Act, that rely exclusively on API scores. In order to accommodate a need for an API score, LEAs have options on how to generate an API score for 2014. Per AB 484 districts shall use one of the following to calculate an API:

  • The most recent API calculation.
  • An average of the three most recent annual API calculations (CDE will be producing those for use by a district that so chooses).
  • Alternative measures that show increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils school wide and among significant subgroups.

AB 484 - The Legislation That Sets the Course for California's Future Assessment System

CDE has posted a Question and Answer page for AB 484.

With the signing of AB 484 by Governor Jerry Brown, the assessment system in California will be undergoing a significant overhaul. The page will be updated in the coming months as information is available.

AB 484 replaced the existing STAR Program with CalMAPP – the California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress. Per information provided at the January 2014 State Board of Education meeting, the assessment system will now be referred to as the California Assessment of Performance and Progress (CAASPP). Click here for the most current information on CAASPP.

Specifically for science:

  • Science (CSTs, CAPA, and CMA) in grades 5, 8, and 10 (the results from these assessments will be reported as per usual, individual, school, and district level reports)

Please note that districts will have the option to pay for and provide the old STAR assessments not included in the list above in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 should they choose to do so. Please check with your local district on their assessment plans.

API and Accountability

This bill for the 2013–14 and 2014–15 school years, upon approval of the state board, authorizes the Superintendent to not provide an API score to a school or school district due to a determination by the Superintendent that a transition to new standards-based assessments would compromise comparability of results across schools or school districts. On Marcy 13, 2014 the state board approved the recommendation to not calculate a Base and Growth API for 2014 and Growth API for 2015. The results from the science assessments delivered in the spring of 2014 will be reported as per usual, individual, school, and district level reports.

Future Science Assessments Based on NGSS for CA

CAASPP creates a framework for future assessments for 2014/2015 and beyond. However there are many items without deadlines and it is not completely clear at this time which assessment will be in place for the spring of 2015. CSTA will continue to follow this and keep you posted. The good news is that the bill does call for new assessments based on the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards (no deadline) at least once in grades 3 – 5, inclusive; grades 6 – 9, inclusive; and grades 10-12, inclusive. As far as non-federally required assessments in science are concerned, there is language in the bill that calls for a plan to be proposed for assessing science (and other subjects) in a variety of innovative ways. The deadline for this plan is March 1, 2016.


Pre-October 2, 2013 Information:

Science is assessed in the state's STAR testing program at 5th grade and in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11. The tests—CSTs, or California Standards Tests (CSTs)—are based on the California science content standards. The test results from the grade 5, grade 8, and grade 10 life science tests are reported to the federal government under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. (Information on NCLB Tests.)

The 5th grade test covers grade 4 and 5 science content standards; the 5th grade test was field tested in 2003, and the test which was administered in the spring, 2004, is now operational and is included in a district's API. The 5th grade test is comprised of approximately 40% grade 4 standards and 60% grade 5 standards. The Investigation and Experimentation standards comprise 10% of the test items. The 5th grade STAR test meets the requirements of NCLB so is used to assess science achievement for NCLB purposes.

At the high school level, science is assessed by discipline rather than grade level. Students enrolled in a standards-based science course in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade take whichever STAR test corresponds to the course they are taking -- biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, or integrated science 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Legislation signed by the Governor (SB 1448) eliminated all norm-referenced testing in content areas, with the exception of language arts and math in grades 3 and 7. All STAR test items are now aligned to the state's content standards.

The STAR Testing program is set to sunset in 2014.

Weighting on API
The State Board of Education establishes the weight that will be given to the various administered tests to arrive at a district's overall API. Since at the elementary level the science test is given only in 5th grade while the math and language arts tests are given in every grade, assigning the same weighting to science as math and language arts in a K-5 school would overemphasize the results of the science test. Presented with the problem of how to incorporate the new science scores, as well as the new 8th grade history-social science scores, into the API without skewing a district's results, the board adopted a new method for calculating the API, based upon the number of students taking each test: Each subject tested is assigned a weight, and the weight is then multiplied by the number of tests administered in a school. For the 5th grade science test, the board set an initial weight of .20 (out of 1.40) but once the number of students taking the test, i.e., only fifth grade students, is calculated, science represents approximately 6 percent of a district's overall API.

The board also increased the weighting for the high school science tests from 8 percent to 23 percent. Students who are not enrolled in a CST science course, and so would not be required to take a CST science test, are assigned a score of 200, the lowest possible score. CSTA, along with many district officials, feel this assignment unfairly penalizes districts which do not require three years of science; the State Board of Education recently reauthorized the assignment of 200 penalty.

The 8th grade science test, which covers the grade 6-8 physical science standards, carries a weight of 7 percent.

The 10th grade life science test includes items drawn from the grade 6-8 life science standards and the grade 9-12 biology standards. The 10th grade test carries a weight of 10 percent.

The Department of Education has prepared a document which gives an overview of the state's accountability system. It is updated from time to time. For the most recent version visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/index.asp and scroll to find the "Overview of Accountability" document.

The California Department of Education (CDE) has prepared blueprints which give guidance on the standards which will be assessed on upcoming STAR tests. Blueprints can be found on the CDE website at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/blueprints.asp.

For a thorough explanation of the testing scheme, visit the CDE website at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/. For a complete testing schedule, see http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/0910testdates.asp.

For more information about science assessment, visit the CDE website at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/ or contact Diane Hernandez at CDE, dhernand@cde.ca.gov.