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Assessment Spotlight - March 5, 2020


Focusing on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System and English Language Proficiency Assessments of California (ELPAC)—and including, when timely, updates on California's other statewide assessments.

WebEx for All CAASPP and ELPAC Coordinators—Are You Registered?

Calling all local educational agency (LEA) CAASPP or ELPAC coordinators: You asked for more frequent updates from California Department of Education (CDE) staff about assessment-related activities; in response, we are pleased to announce the first CDE-hosted All Coordinators WebEx! This will take place on March 18 at 2 p.m. and will cover updates provided by the CDE as well as a question and answer segment. Register here.


The CDE is monitoring the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and working closely with agency partners. LEAs are encouraged to follow California Department of Public Health recommendations and should identify plans for communicating with families and consider learning supports for possible school closures.

Please refer to the CDE Coronavirus (COVID-19) web page for resources and a letter from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to county and district superintendents, charter school administrators, and school principals regarding COVID-19 and guidance for kindergarten through grade twelve schools and school districts.

The CDE Assessment Development and Administration Division has protocols in place should schools close just before or during CAASPP and ELPAC testing. These protocols have been used when natural disasters or emergencies have occurred. The CDE will work directly with LEAs, schools, and the US Department of Education to facilitate next steps on a case-by-case basis. If a school or district expects or experiences a school closure that significantly undermines test administration, the LEA coordinator should notify the CAASPP Office by phone at 916-445–8765 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CAST Practice and Training Test Scoring Guides Available!

We are happy to announce that the California Science Test (CAST) scoring guides for the practice and training tests—for grades five and eight and high school—have been posted on the CAASPP website! To locate these guides, select the "Practice and Training Tests" button, on the home page, and then select the middle button for the Test Administrator and Test Examiner Resources for Practice and Training Tests web page.

This web page has been recently updated with convenient expandable boxes for the various assessments. Expand the CAST box by selecting the plus sign on the left-hand side of the box. When the box expands, both the practice and training test scoring guides, sorted by test type and grade, will appear. Braille versions are available.

These scoring guides have been developed to accompany the CAST practice and training tests, offering students, parents/guardians, and teachers details about the different CAST item types, ways in which students might respond, the correct answers, and related information about the standards being assessed.

The CAST practice and training tests can be used as resources for students to help them become familiar with the types of questions they will be asked on the CAST. Please help us spread the word that these guides are now available!

CAST: Available Resources Flyer Updated!

The updated "Available Resources for the CAST" flyer is now available! This two-page flyer provides links to many helpful CAST resources—fact sheets, quick reference guides, web pages, and videos—available for testing coordinators, teachers, and parents/guardians.

CAST Performance Charts Added to CAST Results

The CAST performance charts have been added to the CAST results on the CAASPP Public Reporting website. To access them, select the CAST tile on the home page, and then select the "Performance Charts" tab, which leads to the State Performance Charts web page. Presented on this web page are results for three student groups, available at the state level by grade (i.e., grades five and eight and high school). The following student comparison groups are included:

  • Ethnicity
  • Students with disabilities
  • English learners

Please note that the average scale scores presented on the CAST performance charts are rounded to the nearest integer and may differ slightly from the average scale scores presented in the detailed test results table, which are rounded to one decimal.

This Month's Featured Digital Library Resource—"Navigating the Fundamentals of Research"

This month's featured Digital Library resource is Navigating the Fundamentals of Research (Digital Library account required), written by Michael T. Smith, a California member of the Smarter Balanced Digital Library State Network of Educators. Using this resource for high school English language arts, the teacher is guided through the steps of having students (1) practice analyzing sources to identify an idea or claim; (2) select appropriate supporting evidence; and (3) explain how evidence supports the research idea or claim as appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience.

Through the gradual-release "I do/We do/You do" teaching strategy, this lesson helps students to learn, reinforce, and refine their understanding of research, starting with an "entrance ticket"—the students answering questions about different types of sources. The students then share their responses, and the teacher guides the classroom discussion by displaying slides that ask "Why do we research?" and "What sources consist of research?" After the classroom discussion, the students work in pairs to read and analyze sources while completing a graphic organizer. The graphic organizer asks students to identify topics, claims, and evidence based on their reading and analysis of the sources.

The lesson finishes with the students working independently, using their graphic organizers as a reference to analyze other sources. The students complete an "exit ticket" that asks them to reflect on their own level of confidence in analyzing sources. The teacher can then plan further instruction or extended learning opportunities based on the evidence of student learning in the completed student work and exit-ticket reflections. Check out this resource and similar resources on the Smarter Balanced Connections Playlist: High School Research: Interpret and Integrate Information. Educators need to have a Digital Library account to access the Connections Playlists.

Age Twenty-Two and the ELPAC

Did you know that age twenty-two is a point of change in a student's not being counted toward an LEA's participation rate?

  • If a student turns twenty-two years of age before starting the first test/domain during the Summative ELPAC testing window, the student will not be counted toward the LEA's participation rate.
  • If a student turns twenty-two during or after completing the Summative ELPAC, the student will be included in LEA's participation rate. In this instance, the LEA will need to submit a Security and Test Administration Incident Reporting System case to reset all tested domains to ensure that the student does not count against LEA's participation rate.
  • If the student begins testing but does not complete all domains, it is not necessary to submit a STAIRS case, as those scores will be purged at the end of the administration window, and the student will not be counted toward the LEA's participation rate.

ELPAC Question of the Week

This week, we share with you a frequently asked question from the field:

Q: Are all students who have an individualized educational program or Section 504 plan eligible for an alternate assessment?

A: No. Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities are eligible to take an alternate assessment. For those students, LEAs must assign the alternate assessment via "Test Assignments" in the Test Operations Management System, under the Students tab. Students taking an alternate assessment will receive the lowest obtainable scale score and will be counted toward the LEA's participation rate if administered, at minimum, one domain in each composite. Note that alternate assessments administered at the local level must be scored locally and are not sent to the testing contractor.

Guidance for Analyzing CSA Results

The new "Guidance for Analyzing California Spanish Assessment (CSA) Results" is now posted on the CAASPP website as part of the CSA Communications and Outreach Toolkit. LEAs can use this document to understand the alignment between their instructional programs and the CSA.

All About Accessibility

An accessibility resource available for both CAASPP and ELPAC testing is "audio transcript." This accessibility resource, which includes braille transcript, is an embedded accommodation for which content is accessed through listening during the course of the assessment. Audio transcript includes the option of closed captioning made available in braille or on-screen as a single text presentation. This embedded accommodation improves upon the one-line-at-a-time access provided through closed captioning. More information on braille transcript can be found in Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines, available on the Smarter Balanced website.

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