Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

California Alternate Assessments

California’s statewide alternate assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

The California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for English language arts/literacy (ELA), mathematics, and science are part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress system. The goals of the CAAs are to ensure that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities achieve increasingly higher academic outcomes and leave high school ready for postsecondary options.

The CAAs for ELA and mathematics are aligned with alternate achievement standards—called the Core Content Connectors (CCCs)—and linked to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Eligible Students

Only eligible students may participate in the administration of the CAAs. Any student identified for alternate testing takes the alternate versions of all tests. Individualized education program (IEP) teams “shall determine when a child with a significant cognitive disability shall participate in an alternate assessment aligned with the alternate academic achievement standards.” (Title 1, Part A, Subpart 1, Sec. 1111(b)(2)(D)(ii)(I)—Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015)

The 1 Percent Threshold on Alternate Assessments

Local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to notify the California Department of Education if they believe that they will exceed 1 percent of its total assessed student population taking California Alternate Assessments; however, there are no repercussions to LEAs for exceeding this threshold.

Administration of the CAAs

Each CAA is administered in a one-to-one setting by the student’s teacher. Teachers and students have an opportunity to use the CAA training tests to gain experience with different types of questions and performance tasks. New grade-specific practice tests are now available for ELA and mathematics which will allow parents, teachers, and students to become familiar with using the various embedded and non-embedded resources to establish the best possible setting for the student’s testing experience.

ELA and Mathematics

The CAAs for ELA and mathematics are given in grades three through eight and grade eleven. The ELA and mathematics tests are delivered online and are stage adaptive, adjusting to the student’s performance at selected points with the administration.

CAA Fact Sheet for ELA and mathematics (PDF) – Which provides answers to those who, what, where, when, why, and how questions you might have about the CAA for ELA and mathematics.

CAA Quick Reference Guide (PDF) – How to start a summative test session for the CAA ELA and mathematics.

Science Pilot Test

The CAA for Science is for eligible students in grades five, eight, and once in high school, whose individualized education program (IEP) indicates the use of an alternate assessment should take the CAA for Science. For additional guidance, please refer to guidance for IEP teams. The CAA for Science is based on the core content connectors (PDF) and essential understandings that are aligned with CA NGSS.

The new CAA for Science pilot test is a performance task assessment designed to be administered closer to the student’s instructional activity. For this pilot test student scores will not be collected or reported.

CAA for Science – Assessment Fact Sheet (PDF) – Which provides answers to those who, what, where, when, why, and how questions you might have about the CAA for Science.

CAA for Science video – A seven-minute informational video about the CAA for Science new embedded performance task. (Posted; 30-Mar-2017)

The implementation of the test is under way, as shown below:

Year CAA for Science Available Testing Window
2016–17
Pilot test
March 20, 2017, to the local educational agency’s (LEA’s) within the selected testing window or last day of instruction
2017–18
Pilot test
Spring 2018
2018–19
Field test
September 2018 through September 2019
2019–20
Operational test
September 2019 through September 2020

Core Content Connectors for ELA and Mathematics

The National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) developed the Core Content Connectors (CCCs) for ELA and mathematics. These CCCs are content targets linked to the CCSS. The CCCs are less complex than the CCSS, focusing on the main academic content in each subject and grade. The CCCs illustrate the necessary knowledge and skills needed to reach the learning targets within the CCSS and the knowledge and skills needed in each grade. The CCCs identify priorities in each content area to guide the instruction for students in this population and for the alternate assessment.

Preliminary California Next Generation Science Standards Core Content Connectors

For the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) alternate summative assessments, Educational Testing Service, in collaboration with their subcontractor edCount (the developers of the National Center and State Collaborative Connectors for ELA and mathematics), developed the preliminary CA NGSS alternate summative assessment Content Core Connectors (Connectors). The Connectors provide learning goals aligned appropriately with the needs of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and serve as the basis for the state’s CA NGSS alternate summative assessments for eligible students.

CAA Blueprints

The CAA blueprints address the basic core content domains, the CCSS, the CCCs, and the essential understanding for each standard.

Performance Level Descriptors for ELA and Mathematics

The CAA Performance level descriptors (PLDs) are descriptions of what students at each performance level know and what they are able to do.

Optional Resources

For Coordinators, Administrators, and Teachers
For Parents/Guardians and Students
Questions:   California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Office | CalAlt@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-8765
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Recently Posted in Testing
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 228 (added 19-Oct-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, October 18, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 227 (added 11-Oct-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, October 11, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 226 (added 05-Oct-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, October 4, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 225 (added 04-Oct-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 29, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 224 (added 25-Sep-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 20, 2017.

  • CAASPP Update, Issue 223 (added 15-Sep-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 13, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 222 (added 08-Sep-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, September 7, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 221 (added 31-Aug-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, August 30, 2017.
  • Matrix Four: ELPAC (added 28-Aug-2017)
    Matrix Four displays the universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations (non-embedded) allowed as part of the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California beginning October 1, 2017.
  • CAASPP Update, Issue 219 (added 28-Aug-2017)
    California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) e-mail update, August 16, 2017.