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Assessment and Accountability

Information regarding English Language Arts/Literacy in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which includes summative, interim, and formative assessment, and California's new accountability systems.

The following brief overview of California’s assessment system provides a context for better understanding California’s English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA/Literacy) required and optional assessments.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)

California’s new statewide student assessment system, the CAASPP, was established January 1, 2014. As of 2014–15, the CAASPP System includes the following assessments and tools:

Smarter Balanced Assessment System (Smarter Balanced)
California joined Smarter Balanced as a governing state on June 9, 2011 to lead the development and implementation of an assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy and mathematics. The Summative Assessments, Interim Assessments, and Digital Library are all part of the CAASPP System.

  • Summative Assessments – Designed to allow students to show what they know and are able to do in grades 3 through 8 and 11, the Summative Assessments are required as part of the CAASPP System.
  • Interim Assessments – Designed to inform and promote teaching and learning by providing information that can be used to monitor student progress toward mastery of the CCSS, these optional resources are available to all kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) teachers.
  • Tools for Teachers – the new formative assessment component of the Smarter Balanced assessment system (PDF). It is an online collection of resources aligned with the CCSS that supports K–12 teachers in their use of the formative assessment process to adjust teaching to improve student learning.

Alternative Assessments for ELA/Literacy and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and 11 are required as per Individualized Education Programs. All California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) eligible students will participate in a field test of the California Alternate Assessment developed by the National Center and State Collaborative External link opens in new window or tab. . The CAPA for science in grades 5, 8, and 10 will continue to be administered until a replacement assessment is available.

Science Assessments in grades 5, 8, and 10 are required (i.e., California Standards Tests, California Modified Assessments, and CAPA).

Standards-based Tests in Spanish for ELA/Literacy are optional for grades 2 through 11, as they had been in California’s previous testing system.

California English Language Development Test (CELDT)

Students in kindergarten through grade twelve whose primary language is not English are required by federal law to be assessed in English language proficiency (ELP). In California, the current ELP assessment is the CELDT while a new one, the English Language Proficiency Assessment for California, is under development to fully align to the 2012 English Language Development Standards.

California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE)

The California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), formerly a graduation requirement for students in California public schools, was suspended effective January 1, 2016. For more information see the CDE CAHSEE Web page.


California’s accountability policies are shifting in new directions as educators, policy makers, students and parents have become active during the recent confluence of changes: adoption of the CA Standards in 2010, the increase of funding due to the passage of 2012’s Proposition 30 External link opens in new window or tab. , implementing 2014’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and rolling out Smarter Balanced assessments in 2015.

California Accountability’s New Directions

California Education Code sections 52052 through 52052.9 External link opens in new window or tab. specify the development of a new accountability system. To illustrate the direction the California Department of Education (CDE) is going, the Public Schools Accountability Act Advisory Committee’s [Note: the preceding link is no longer valid.] recommendations to the State Board of Education’s meeting (Agenda Item 03 on January 15, 2015) [Note: the preceding link is no longer valid.] include:

  • Providing options for moving the state accountability system from using a single index to using multiple measures to parallel the state priorities.
  • Multiple measures could include college-entrance exam scores, accelerated coursework, performance assessments, California State Seal of Biliteracy, course-taking behaviors (such as taking A–G requirements), career preparedness assessments, and applying cutting-edge concepts around the use of multiple measures for accountability.
  • The college and career indicator should include multiple pathways (i.e., measures) for students, but combine them into one indicator to contribute to the API to provide the most advantages.

For more information about current and future state accountability goals, please view the CDE’s information on the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999 Web page.

Overall, a desire to shift from over-dependence on test scores is evident. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson summed up this sentiment well in the following excerpt from his letter to Governor Brown and Members of the California Legislature in 2013’s Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System.

We must always be mindful that time spent testing generally comes at the expense of time our students would otherwise have spent gaining the very knowledge and skills that are the goal of education. It is noteworthy that many of the countries leading the world in achievement place little or no emphasis on standardized testing. Where they do test, they use more open-minded measures, sparingly and strategically, and often sample students rather than testing every child.

In the absence of current federal requirements, these recommendations offered in this report would no doubt be substantially different. Indeed, the clear failure of No Child Left Behind to meet its objectives should long ago have spurred federal policymakers to re-examine their requirements that every student be tested in English-language arts and mathematics nearly every year. In the absence of federal action, these recommendations strike a balance – continuing to provide an individual student score each year in the grades and subjects required by federal mandates while providing more thoughtful and flexible alternatives for students in other grades and subjects.

CDE Support with Formative Assessment

The CDE’s shift in accountability places more emphasis on assessments that provide useful information based on teachers’ careful analyses of students’ classroom work and responses, as well as students’ self-reflections and goal-setting.

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Questions: Jennifer Howerter | | 916-323-4630 
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 20, 2022