Volume 4, Issue 8
April 2019

Each spring, students across California take a series of achievement tests to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they’ve been working hard to develop during the school year. As teachers prepare to administer these important tests, we thought we’d take this opportunity to answer some frequently asked questions about the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and what parents can do at home to support their child’s success.

Anne Silavs, Superintendent
What will my child be tested on?
CAASPP is a series of computer adaptive tests and performance tasks that measure student performance and progress toward mastery of grade-level state content standards. In the Cypress School District, students in grades three through six take the Smarter Balanced summative assessments in English/language arts and math. Additionally, students in grade five are administered the California Science Test (CAST). 
What are computer adaptive tests (CAT)?
Computer adaptive tests are customized to every student. When a student answers a question correctly, the next question will be a little more challenging. If a student answers a question incorrectly, the next question will be a little easier. As a result, this test format often shortens the length of the test and is much more accurate in measuring what a student knows than the old paper/pencil tests of the past.

What kinds of questions are on the test?
Computer adaptive questions come in a wide variety of formats including selected response in which students select an answer from a list of choices, constructed response in which students are presented with an open-ended question and must write an answer, fill-in-the-blank, and graphing. Students must also complete performance tasks for English/language arts, math, and science (grade five).

What are performance tasks?
Simply stated, performance tasks require students to put together all the pieces of their learning. They are extended activities that measure a student’s ability to integrate the knowledge and skills of multiple content standards. They measure a student’s depth of understanding as well as critical thinking and research skills which cannot be adequately assessed with computer adaptive test questions.

Do English Learners and students with special needs take these tests?
For the most part, the answer is yes. English Learners who are in their first 12 months of attending school in the United States are exempt from the English/language arts test but required to take the math test. Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take the California Alternate Assessment (CAA).

Are there any testing supports or accommodations for English Learners and students with special needs?
Yes. In fact, there are a variety of testing resources available to students. Universal tools, including the use of English glossaries and digital notepads as well as highlighting or striking text, marking questions for later review, and taking breaks, are available to all students. Designated supports, such as use of color contrast for text and background or customizing the size and color of the mouse pointer, are available to all students when determined appropriate by an educator or team of educators with parent/guardian and student input. Accommodations specified in a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan must be provided. 
Are there sample test questions available for teachers, students, and parents?
Yes. CAASPP provides both a practice and training test for each grade level and content area, including the California Alternate Assessment. Both tests are accessible to the public on the CAASPP website . You can also try out several of the universal tools and designated supports when you log into the practice and training tests.

What can I do at home to support my child during testing?
First and foremost, parents should reassure their child that tests are just one part of his or her academic “wellness” checkup. The results give teachers a good sense of the areas where each student is doing well and areas where he or she might benefit from some extra help. It is also important to note that state test results do not raise or lower your child’s report card grades.  

Furthermore, making sure your child gets a good night’s sleep, eats a nutritionally balanced breakfast in the morning, and gets to school on time are all great ways to support your child’s school success every day and especially during testing. Also, any way in which you can reduce morning stress before school is helpful, such as laying out clothes and packing school lunches the night before.

Where can I get more information about CAASPP?
The California Department of Education has developed a number of parent resources to help families learn more about the assessments that are part of CAASPP . Many of these resources can be downloaded and save for future reference.
Candi Kern - Sandra Lee - Brian Nakamura -  Bonnie Peat -  Lydia Sondhi, Ph.D. 
Anne Silavs