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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #16-57
August 24, 2016
Contact: Peter Tira
E-mail: communications@cde.ca.gov
Phone: 916-319-0818

Schools Chief Torlakson Reports Across-the-Board Progress Toward Career and College Readiness in CAASPP Results

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that California students made significant progress in the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) online tests, with the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increasing at every grade and in every student group.

Nearly half the students tested met or exceeded standards in English language arts, and nearly four in ten met or exceeded standards in mathematics (see Table 1). These online tests, based on California’s challenging academic standards, ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, just as they will need to do in college and on the job.

“The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work, and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees, and administrators are paying off. Together we are making progress towards upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century,” Torlakson said.

“Of course there’s more work to do, but our system has momentum. I am confident that business, political and community leaders will join parents and educators to help continue supporting increased standards and resources for schools.”

More than 3.2 million students took part in CAASPP, which includes a number of different assessments. The most widely tested are the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments in mathematics and English language arts/literacy, which are given in grades three through eight and grade 11.

Preliminary figures indicate that less than 1 percent of eligible California students did not take part in the assessment due to a parental exemption, a figure far lower than in many other states (see Table 2).

“This low rate of parental exemption indicates that our parents and students see the value of measuring the skills of all students against the same standards the same way, using one common yardstick, and one shared goal: learning,” Torlakson said.

In addition, he said, it shows a strong commitment to the state’s comprehensive program of transforming our schools with higher academic standards, more local control over spending, more funding for those with the greatest needs, and a new system of evaluating schools and districts.

“These positive results are based on a new college and career readiness assessment that is online, and expects students to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills unlike the old, multiple choice tests they replace,” said State Board of Education President Mike Kirst.

Smarter Balanced tests consist of two parts. First, students take a computer adaptive assessment, which bases follow-up questions on a student’s answers in real time and gives a more accurate picture of a student’s progress than the paper and pencil test.

Here’s how it works: If a student answers a question correctly, she gets a more difficult question. If she answers it incorrectly, she gets an easier question.

Students also complete a performance task that challenges their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to problems in a real-world setting. The two parts measure depth of understanding, writing, research and problem-solving skills more thoroughly than the multiple-choice, paper-based tests they replaced.

Scores on the assessments fall into one of four achievement levels: standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met. The state also computes the average scores of all tested students, called mean scale scores, which reflects the progress of all students rather than only those who changed achievement levels from one year to the next.

This year average scale scores rose statewide. Statewide in all tested grades, 49 percent of students met or exceeded the English language arts/literacy standard, an increase of 5 percentage points from last year. In mathematics, 37 percent of students met or exceeded standards, also an increase of 4 percentage points from last year.

In English language arts/literacy, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increased by at least 4 percentage points in all grades except grades eight and eleven, which increased by 3 points (see Table 3).

In mathematics, the largest gains were seen among third-graders, with 46 percent meeting or exceeding standards, an increase of 6 points from last year. Other grades posted gains of 2 or 3 percentage points (see Table 4).

California State Universities and many community colleges consider high marks on these tests among 11th-grade students a reliable sign of readiness for college-level work. This year’s results indicate 59 percent of grade eleven students are ready or conditionally ready for college work in English language arts, with 33 percent ready or conditionally ready for college work in mathematics.

Torlakson said a number of factors may have helped scores rise this year, including an extra year of teaching the California state standards in English and math, more familiarity with taking an online test, continued improvements in technology, and the use of interim tests, he said.

Torlakson noted that schools are still working to make the transition to new standards and assessments, and said patience and persistence will contribute to the ongoing effort to improve California’s schools.

One concern remains with the continuing achievement gap, with significantly lower scores among students from low-income families, English learners and some ethnic groups compared to other students.

Statewide scores for all student groups rose in both subjects tested (see Table 5 and Table 6). For example, average scores for Latino students in English language arts increased 5 percent, while scores for African Americans and Whites rose 3 percent.

But the achievement gap continues with just 37 percent of Latinos and 31 percent of African American students meeting or exceeding standards in English language arts compared with 64 percent of White students.

“The achievement gap is pernicious and persistent and we all need to work together to find solutions that help all groups rise, while narrowing the gap,” said Torlakson, who has proposed an office within the California Department of Education devoted to coordinating and promoting efforts to address the achievement gap.

Individual student scores are reported to parents by mail. In addition, California provides a dedicated CAASPP Results Web site, where parents and the public can view and compare aggregated results among schools, districts, and counties along with statewide results.

The California Department of Education provides a wide range of tools to help parents, teachers and schools understand and use CAASPP results.

These resources include a new understanding student CAASPP scores Web site External link opens in new window or tab. that provides parents with grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject information at all levels of achievement; detailed online guides for parents and teachers to use in analyzing results; and practice tests at every grade level in English.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress—2016 Annual Release Summary Results Tables of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics

Table 1: 2014–15 and 2015–16 Smarter Balanced Number and Percentage Point Change of All California Students Who Exceeded or Met Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics1

Content Area

Number of Students Tested with Scores 20152

Number of Students Tested with Scores 20162

Percent Students who Met or Exceeded Standards 2015

Percent Students who Met or Exceeded Standards 2016

Percentage Point Change of Students who Met or Exceeded Standards 2015–2016

English Language Arts/Literacy3

3,173,079

3,188,014

44

49

+5

Mathematics

3,179,246

3,196,382

33

37

+4

1 Results for other achievement levels including 2015 are located on the CDE CAASPP Results Web site.
2 The number of valid scores includes count of students statewide who were enrolled and responded to enough questions on both the Performance Task and the Computer Adaptive portions of the test to generate a score.
Recently arrived English Learners who are in his or her first 12 months of attending a school in the United States are exempted from taking the assessment in English language arts.

Table 2: 2015–16 Number and Percentage of Students Receiving Smarter Balanced Assessment Parental Exemption for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics

Content Area

Number of Students Receiving Parental Exemption in 2016

Percent of Parental Exemptions in 20161

English Language Arts/Literacy

22,376

0.69

Mathematics

22,763

0.70

1 Percent of parental exemptions equals the number of students with exemption divided by the sum of the number of students tested and the number of students with an exemption.

Table 3: 2015–16 Smarter Balanced for English Language Arts/Literacy Statewide Numbers, Percentage of Students, and Percentage Point Change from 2015 by Grade and Achievement Level1, 2

Grade

Number of Students Tested with Scores3

Percent of Students who Exceeded Standards

Percent of Students who Met Standards

Percent of Students who Nearly Met Standards

Percent of Students who Did Not Meet Standards

Percentage Point Change who Met or Exceeded Standards 2015–2016

Grade 3

455,796

22

21

25

32

+5

Grade 4

470,823

23

21

20

36

+4

Grade 5

462,277

21

28

21

31

+5

Grade 6

458,667

17

31

26

26

+6

Grade 7

456,591

15

33

24

28

+4

Grade 8

449,940

14

34

27

25

+3

Grade 11

433,920

26

33

22

19

+3

All California Students

3,188,014

20

29

24

28

+5

1  Additional results including 2015 are located on the CDE CAASPP Results Web site.
2  Percent achievement levels by grade may not equal 100 due to rounding.
3 The number of valid scores includes count of students statewide who were enrolled and responded to enough questions on both the Performance Task and the Computer Adaptive portions of the test to generate a score.

Table 4: 2015–16 Smarter Balanced for Mathematics Statewide Numbers and Percentage of Students and Percentage Point Change from 2015 by Grade and Achievement Level1, 2

Grade

Number of Students Tested with Scores3

Percent of Students who Exceeded Standards

Percent of Students who Met Standards

Percent of Students who Nearly Met Standards

Percent of Students who Did Not Meet Standards

Percentage Point Change who Met or Exceeded Standards 2015–2016

Grade 3

457,540

18

28

26

29

+6

Grade 4

473,184

15

23

33

28

+3

Grade 5

464,150

17

16

28

39

+3

Grade 6

460,064

17

18

30

35

+2

Grade 7

458,138

17

19

30

34

+2

Grade 8

451,198

19

17

25

39

+3

Grade 11

432,108

13

20

25

43

+4

All California Students

3,196,382

17

20

28

35

+4

1  Additional results including 2015 are located on the CDE CAASPP Results Web site.
2  Percent achievement levels by grade may not equal 100 due to rounding.
3 The number of valid scores includes count of students statewide who were enrolled and responded to enough questions on both the Performance Task and the Computer Adaptive portions of the test to generate a score.

Table 5: 2015–16 Smarter Balanced for English Language Arts/Literacy Statewide Numbers, Percentage of Students Achievement Level, and Percentage Point Change from 20151

Student Groups2

Number of Students Tested with Scores3

Percent of Students who Exceeded Standards

Percent of Students who Met Standards

Percent of Students who Nearly Met Standards

Percent of Students who Did Not Meet Standards

Percentage Point Change who Met or Exceeded Standards
2015–2016

All Students

3,188,014

20

29

24

28

+5

Gender

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male

1,626,536

16

26

24

33

+4

Female

1,561,478

23

31

23

23

+5

Race/Ethnicity

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian

287,372

45

31

14

11

+4

Black or African American

178,551

9

22

25

44

+3

Hispanic or Latino

1,707,944

11

26

27

36

+5

White
761,540
30
34
20
16
+3
Student Subgroups
           
English Learner (EL)4
580,720
3
10
25
62
+2
Economically Disadvantaged
1,889,074
10
25
27
38
+4
Students with Disabilities
333,681
4
10
18
68
+2

1  Percent achievement levels by student group may not equal 100 due to rounding.
2  Other subgroups including results from 2015 are located on the CDE CAASPP Results Web site.
3  The number of valid scores includes count of students who were enrolled and responded to enough questions on both the Performance Task and the Computer Adaptive portions of the test to generate a score.
Subgroup of students who were considered English learners at the time of the assessment.

Table 6: 2015–16 Smarter Balanced for Mathematics Statewide Numbers, Percentage of Students Achievement Level, and Percentage Point Change from 20151

Student Groups2

Number of Students Tested with Scores3

Percent of Students who Exceeded Standards

Percent of Students who Met Standards

Percent of Students who Nearly Met Standards

Percent of Students who Did Not Meet Standards

Percentage Point Change who Met or Exceeded Standards
2015–2016

All Students

3,196,382

17

20

28

35

+4

Gender

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male

1,631,107

17

20

27

36

+3

Female

1,565,275

16

21

29

34

+3

Race/Ethnicity

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asian

290,692

48

24

17

11

+3

Black or African American

178,039

5

13

27

54

+2

Hispanic or Latino

1,710,844

7

17

31

45

+3

White
761,255
26
27
27
21
+4
Student Subgroups
           
English Learner (EL)4
590,158
3
9
25
63
+1
Economically Disadvantaged
1,892,864
7
16
30
46
+2
Students with Disabilities
332,076
4
7
16
73
+2

1  Percent achievement levels by student group may not equal 100 due to rounding.
2  Other subgroups including results from 2015 are located on the CDE CAASPP Results Web site.
3  The number of valid scores includes count of students who were enrolled and responded to enough questions on both the Performance Task and the Computer Adaptive portions of the test to generate a score.
Subgroup of students who were considered English learners at the time of the assessment.


# # # #

Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Wednesday, August 24, 2016
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