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Frequently Asked Questions


California Alternate Assessment for Science

  1. Who takes the California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for Science?
    Only eligible students may participate in the administration of the CAA for Science. To be eligible to take the CAA for Science, a student’s individualized education program (IEP) must identify the use of an alternate assessment. The CAA for Science is administered to students in grades five and eight and once in high school (i.e., grade ten, eleven, or twelve). All eligible grade twelve students are automatically registered in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS) to take the California Science Test (CAST) unless they previously met the science requirement. Therefore, local educational agencies (LEAs) are responsible for logging on to TOMS and registering their eligible students for the CAA for Science. LEAs have the option to test any or all grade ten or eleven students. Find more information on administering the CAA for Science to high school students on the Science Test Administration for High School Students flyer (PDF).

Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

  1. Why did local educational agencies (LEAs) receive preliminary indicators again for students who took the CAA for Science during the 2020–21 administration?

    The CAA for Science is administered one on one and in person by the test examiner. During the 2020–21 administration, the California Department of Education (CDE) informed LEAs that, due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, if it was not viable to follow the health and safety guidelines in place and administer this test in person, they should not give the test. With this restriction, there were a low number of students who submitted all four of the CAA for Science performance tasks during the 2020–21 school year. Therefore, the CDE provided LEAs again with preliminary indicators (i.e., percent correct and indicator category). These preliminary indicators are the same as those used for reporting results for the 2017–18 field test through the 2019–2020 administration.

  2. If a student in grade ten or eleven did not submit all four of the 2020–21 CAA for Science performance tasks, will the student need to complete the remainder in the fall, or was that the student’s sole opportunity to take the assessment?

    Students in grades ten or eleven who did not submit all four 2020–21 CAA for Science performance tasks have not met the federal and state science requirement and will need to take the CAA for Science by the end of grade twelve (i.e., all four performance tasks). All four performance tasks must be completed within the same administration year.

  3. If a student is in grade twelve and was registered for the 2020–21 CAA for Science, has the student met the science participation requirement? What if the student did not submit all four performance tasks during the 2020–21 administration?

    Grade twelve students who were registered for the 2020–21 CAA for Science have met the federal and state science participation requirement irrespective of whether they tested. Therefore, if a student repeats grade twelve during the 2021–22 administration, that student will be ineligible to take the CAA for Science during the 2021–22 school year or in any subsequent administration year.

  4. What if students have a parent and guardian or medical exemption for the 2020–21 CAA for Science administration?

    Any grade five students who received a parent and guardian or medical exemption will not be eligible to take the CAA for Science again until they reach grade eight. Any grade eight students who received a parent and guardian or medical exemption will not be eligible to take the CAA for Science until they reach high school. All high school students who received a parent and guardian exemption or a medical exemption for the CAA for Science during the 2020–21 administration year will be ineligible for the assessment during the 2021–22 administration or in any subsequent administration year.

Preliminary Indicators

  1. What are preliminary indicators?

    Preliminary Indicators offer a general indication of students’ content knowledge. They include a percent of items answered correctly and an indicator category. They are not scale scores and are not achievement levels, which are more precise measures of student achievement. The CDE recommends using caution when interpreting the 2020–21 CAA for Science preliminary results, given that the results reflect an assessment that was not yet operational. Comparisons should not be made between the preliminary indicator results of the 2018–19 field test and the 2020–21 administration. These tests are not equated; therefore, they are not comparable. The first operational CAA for Science administration began on September 7, 2021.

  2. What are the preliminary indicator categories?
    Category Description
    3
    Student performance suggests a considerable understanding of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS).
    2
    Student performance suggests a moderate understanding of the CA NGSS.
    1
    Student performance suggests a limited understanding of the CA NGSS.
  3. What was the development process for the preliminary indicators?

    Preliminary indicators were created by assessment experts and vetted by California educators and the CDE.

  1. Why were the preliminary indicators created?

    In 2016–17, the CDE applied for and received a one-time testing waiver from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). This waiver allowed the CDE to stop administering the outdated science assessments and administer pilot tests aligned with the new CA NGSS. The ED informed the CDE that this waiver was only valid for the 2016–17 science administration and that the CDE must provide a plan on how the results from testing would be communicated to the LEAs, parents and guardians, and the public. The preliminary indicators (i.e., percent correct and indicator category) are the results that were approved by the ED.

  2. Why are the preliminary indicators still being used?

    Due to the statewide suspension of testing in 2019–2020, the CDE and its testing contractor were unable to complete the final steps to operationalize the CAA for Science. The CAA for Science is administered to students one on one and in-person by a test examiner. However, during the 2020–21 administration, the CDE informed LEAs that, due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, if it was not viable to follow the health and safety guidelines in place and administer this test in-person, and they should not administer the test. With this restriction, there were a low number of students who submitted all four of the embedded CAA for Science performance tasks during the 2020–21 school year, and the final steps to operationalize the CAA for Science were not completed. As a result, the CDE provided LEAs with preliminary indicators (i.e., percent correct and indicator category) for students. These preliminary indicators are the same as those used for reporting results for the 2017–18 field test through the 2018–19 administration. The first operational CAA for Science administration began on September 7, 2021.

  1. How are preliminary indicators different from typical scale scores and achievement levels?

    Preliminary indicators offer general information about student content knowledge, while scale scores or achievement levels are a precise measure of student achievement. Further, unlike scale scores or achievement levels, preliminary indicators do not make judgments about whether a given performance meets standards. The CDE will use the 2021–22 administration data, along with the educator panel recommendations from standard setting, to inform the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s recommended threshold scores. In September 2022, the CDE will ask the California State Board of Education for approval of these recommended threshold scores. If approved, California will then report scale scores and achievement levels in November 2022. Find more information on the CAA for Science Transition to Operational Timeline web page.

Student Score Reports (SSR)

  1. Will the preliminary indicator results for the CAA for Science be provided on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Student Score Report (SSR)?

    No. For the CAAs, the 2020–21 CAASPP SSR will contain only results from the CAAs for English language arts and mathematics. Information regarding the CAA for Science SSR can be found on the Reporting the CAA for Science Results Timeline web page.

  2. When will students receive a scale score and an achievement level for the CAA for Science?

    The CDE will provide the CAA for Science scale scores and achievement levels after the 2021–22 administration is complete. For more information, see the CAA for Science Transition to Operational Timeline web page.

  1. Who will provide students' preliminary indicators for the CAA for Science to LEAs, and when will they be provided?

    The CDE will provide LEAs with the preliminary indicators (i.e., percent correct and category level) for the CAA for Science in the downloadable student score extract file found in the Test Operations and Management System. Find more information about this on the Reporting the CAA for Science Results Timeline web page.

    LEAs must provide student results to parents and guardians. LEAs may determine how best to report student results in accordance with local needs. For sample letters to use in reporting student preliminary indicators to parents and guardians, refer to the CAA for Science letter templates, which are available in both English and Spanish on the Preliminary Indicator Communication Toolkit web page: California Alternate Assessment for Science—Optional Letter Template for Parent and Guardian (DOCX) and Evaluaciones Alternas de California (CAAs) para Ciencias—Un modelo opcional de la carta para padres (DOCX).

Reporting Results

  1. To whom must LEAs communicate individual student 2020–21 preliminary indicator information?

    LEAs are encouraged to communicate the individual student preliminary indicator results (i.e., percent correct and indicator category) for the CAA for Science to parents and guardians in a manner that works best locally. For sample parent and guardian letters, refer to the CAA for Science letter templates, which are available in both English and Spanish on the Preliminary Indicator Communication Toolkit web page: California Alternate Assessment for Science—Optional Letter Template for Parent/Guardian (DOCX) and Evaluaciones Alternas de California (CAAs) para Ciencias—Un modelo opcional de la carta para padres (DOCX).

  2. What are some of the methods that LEAs can use to disseminate the individual student results for the CAA for Science?

    LEAs may use the following resources to report preliminary indicators to parents and guardians:

      1. Distribute letters (using the provided template), either electronically or by paper.
      2. Incorporate the reporting into the regular parent-teacher conferences.
      3. Incorporate the reporting into the annual individualized education program team meetings.
      4. Set up a personalized automated phone distribution for individual student results.
      5. Use a secure online portal.

    Note that this is not an exhaustive list. LEAs may choose an approach that works best for them.

  3. Are downloadable student score extract files for the CAA for Science scores available to LEAs?

    Yes, CAA for Science results, in the form of preliminary indicators (i.e., percent correct and category level), are available to LEAs in the downloadable student extract data file in the Test Operations and Management System. LEAs must report individual student results to parents and guardians. For sample parent and guardian letters, refer to the CAA for Science letter templates that are available in both English and Spanish on the Preliminary Indicator Communication Toolkit web page. California Alternate Assessment for Science—Optional Letter Template for Parent/Guardian (DOCX) and Evaluaciones Alternas de California (CAAs) para Ciencias—Un modelo opcional de la carta para padres (DOCX).

  4. Must local educational agencies import a student’s CAA for Science preliminary indicators into a student information system?

    It is a local decision whether to use a student information system to store student results. Note that, because the tests were not equated, the preliminary indicator results reported for the 2017–18 field test through the 2019–2020 administrations are not comparable, nor will they be comparable to the operational scale scores and achievement levels.

Accountability

  1. Will the 2020–21 CAA for Science preliminary indicators be used for accountability?

    No, the CAA for Science preliminary indicators will not be reported on the California School Dashboard. Once the CAA for Science is operational, and doing so is appropriate, the scores will be used for statewide accountability.

  2. For the CAA for Science, which grades will the CDE report participation to the ED?

    The CDE will be reporting to the ED participation rates for students who are currently enrolled in grades five, eight, and twelve. In addition, participation rates for grade ten and eleven students who tested in 2017–18 or after stored until those students are first time enrollees in grade twelve.

  3. Are all students required to participate in the science assessments?

    California Education Code Section 60642.5 (a) states that California students shall be administered a science assessment. In addition, Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Section 1111(b)(3)(A) requires that California “implement for students yearly academic assessments, including science, that will be used as the primary means of determining the yearly performance of the state, local educational agency (LEA), and school.” Therefore, in order for California to remain in compliance with ESEA Section 1111(b)(3)(A), all California students will be administered a science assessment in grades five and eight and once in high school.

Questions:   California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Office | caaspp@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-8765
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, October 6, 2021
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