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CAASPP Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions and answers to help California educators communicate about the Smarter Balanced Assessment System with students, parents, the media, local school boards, and the general public.

Back to California's New Testing Program

Part of a Comprehensive Plan for Student Success

California students in grades three through eight and eleven will take a new test this spring that is part of a comprehensive plan for high-quality teaching and learning in every school to prepare our students for the challenges of the future. The plan includes higher academic standards, more decision-making in the hands of schools and communities, and more resources dedicated to schools and to students with the greatest needs.

Gradually, we're providing more support for teachers, more resources for students, and more access to technology. As a result, exciting changes have begun to take place inside our classrooms. Along with reading to follow a story, students are learning to read to cite evidence and draw logical conclusions. They are learning to use math to solve real-world problems rather than merely pick out the right multiple-choice answer.

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What are the Smarter Balanced Assessments?
  • The Smarter Balanced assessments are new computer-based tests that measure student knowledge of California's English language arts/literacy and mathematics standards. These new assessments replace the former paper-based, multiple-choice assessments for students in grades three through eight and eleven. The first statewide administration of these assessments will take place in spring 2015. Smarter Balanced Assessments are part of a new testing program called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), which replaces the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program that expired on July 1, 2013.
Why are new assessments needed in California?
  • Because what students need to know and be able to do has changed, our tests must change as well.
  • California has adopted more rigorous academic standards that emphasize not only subject knowledge, but also the critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem-solving skills students need to be successful in college and career. These standards set a higher bar for California students to help ensure they are prepared to succeed in the future.
  • California's new assessment system represents the next step in a comprehensive plan to promote high-quality teaching and learning, and improve student outcomes. This plan recognizes that assessments can play an important role in promoting and modeling high-quality instruction.
How were these new assessments developed?
  • California worked with 21 other states as part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to develop these new assessments, as well as the professional and instructional resources provided to help students, teachers, and schools throughout the year.
  • Educators—from K–12 to higher education—were deeply involved in the design, testing, and scoring of these new assessments. California conducted both pilot and statewide field tests of Smarter Balanced assessments over the last two years.
  • Last year, California suspended its use of existing assessments in English language arts/literacy and math to give teachers time to focus on refining instruction of California's more rigorous standards, to give students time to begin deeper learning, and to give schools time to prepare to administer these computer-based tests effectively.
How are Smarter Balanced Assessments an improvement over previous statewide tests?
  • The Smarter Balanced assessment system uses both computer-based and computer-adaptive tests, providing students with a wider range of questions tailored to more accurately identify the knowledge and skills individual students have mastered.
  • The tests include performance tasks that challenge students to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving, and to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems.
  • The tests measure standards that our K–12 and higher education systems all agree address appropriate expectations for the preparation of high school graduates for success in careers and college.
  • The tests are taken online, and results are available to teachers, schools, and school districts much more quickly than results from previous tests.
  • The new computer-based tests include supports for English learners and students with special needs, allowing these students the ability to effectively demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  • The new assessment system is designed to measure student growth over time, which was not possible in California's previous system, and will provide teachers and schools important information to guide learning.
What will the Smarter Balanced tests measure?
  • Smarter Balanced tests provide one measure of student knowledge of the subject matter, critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving skills they need to prepare for and succeed in today's world.
  • These assessments provide important information as to whether students are on track to pursue college and career by the time they graduate from high school. The tests provide timely and actionable student information so that teachers and schools can adjust and improve teaching.
What results can we expect from the Smarter Balanced Tests?
  • The new tests are too fundamentally different from the old exams to make any reliable comparisons between old scores and new. This year's results will establish a new baseline for the progress we expect students to make over time.
  • Based on trial runs of the new assessments in California and other states, many if not most students will need to make significant progress to reach the standards set for math and literacy that accompany college and career readiness.
  • Over time, as students experience multiple years of instruction related to the skills tested by the new assessments, California's results will show improved achievement. (In 2002, California's new STAR tests also set a new baseline for achievement and student results improved quickly over time.)
  • Parents will receive a report of their child's scores. But no student, parent or teacher should be discouraged by these scores, which will not be used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade. Rather, the scores will represent an opportunity to focus on the needs of students and support teachers and schools in their work to achieve college and career readiness.
How will this system help improve teaching and learning?
  • The Smarter Balanced assessments are an academic check-up, designed to give teachers the feedback they need to improve instruction. The tests measure critical thinking, analytical writing, problem solving, and subject area knowledge, providing teachers with multiple sources of actionable information about student strengths and areas where students need additional support.
  • The system provides two types of interim assessments that teachers and schools can use to assess student learning at key points in the instructional year and to measure student preparedness for year-end summative tests. Both of these tests provide information for teachers to adjust and differentiate teaching in response to the results.
  • The system provides a Digital Library of professional learning and instructional resources to help teachers assess individual student learning during instruction, provide feedback to students in a timely manner, and adjust teaching and learning as needed.
When exactly will parents get the mailed results sheets for their children?
  • Individual student reports will be provided to districts no more than eight weeks after that district completes its summative assessments. It will be up to districts to mail the results to parents.
When will teachers/schools get their results?
  • Districts will receive results no more than four weeks after a school completes its assessments. Districts will have the ability to aggregate results by subgroup, school, and grade level.
When will the state post its official results?
  • The state will publicly release statewide results after all testing has completed and all results have been tabulated. The timing of this release and the specific information this release will contain has not yet been determined.
Questions: Communications Division | communications@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0818 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 22, 2016
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