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CAST Range Achievement Level Descriptors

Achievement level descriptors describe a student’s performance on a standardized test by expressing the goals and rigor for the standards.

Overview of Achievement Level Descriptors

Achievement level descriptors (ALDs) are created during separate development phases of a new assessment. These descriptors can vary in terms of how general or specific they are, depending on their particular purpose. Typically, four types of ALDs are created for an assessment, each type serving a different purpose:

  • General ALDs are broad descriptors of student performance level expectations. They provide the range of measurement for an assessment and characterize results about the defined standards. General ALDs apply across grade levels and are the starting point for the development of the range ALDs.

  • Range ALDs are detailed descriptions of observable evidence of student performance by grade level and content. Range ALDs are developed to provide evidence of how a student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities change and become more advanced across the achievement levels.

  • Threshold ALDs are a subset of the range ALDs and are defined and used by educators during the standard setting process. These threshold ALDs are used to focus the educators on a student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities at the borderline between achievement levels throughout the standard setting process.

  • Reporting ALDs are the final ALDs, which are developed after the standard setting process is complete. These ALDs provide a description of a student’s overall performance based upon performance on the assessment for public reporting purposes.

ALDs are not intended to provide guidance to classroom teachers for curriculum or individual student decisions. Such guidance is provided through multiple measures.

CAST ALDs

As is typical in assessment development, four types of ALDs were created for the CAST—general, range, threshold, and reporting.

CAST General ALDs

The CAST general ALDs describe a student’s performance in terms of four achievement levels in the four CAST achievement levels (i.e., standard exceeded, standard met, standard nearly met, and standard not met). The general ALDs are presented in the table below.

California State Board of Education – Approved CAST General ALDs
Level Achievement Level Description
4
The student has exceeded the performance expectations of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the CA NGSS and a thorough ability to apply his or her knowledge and skills through the CA NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.
3
The student has met the performance expectations of the CA NGSS by demonstrating an adequate understanding of the CA NGSS and an adequate ability to apply his or her knowledge and skills through the CA NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.
2
The student has nearly met the performance expectations of the CA NGSS by demonstrating a partial understanding of the CA NGSS and a partial ability to apply his or her knowledge and skills through the CA NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.
1
The student has not met the performance expectations of the CA NGSS by demonstrating a minimal understanding of the CA NGSS and a minimal ability to apply his or her knowledge and skills through the CA NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.
CAST Range ALDs

The range ALDs are detailed descriptions of observable evidence of student performance by grade level and content. Range ALDs are developed to provide evidence of how a student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities change and become more advanced across the achievement levels.

The Introduction to the Range ALDs (PDF) provides a brief summary of the four types of ALDs.

The grade-specific range ALDs can be found in the documents listed below.

CAST Threshold ALDs

For the threshold ALDs, it is important to understand that they reflect the cumulative skills of the range ALDs; that is, the student who has achieved the threshold Level 3 is assumed to have the knowledge, skills, and processes of the both achievement levels 1 and 2 ALDs. The CAST threshold ALDs can be found in the CAST Standard Setting Technical Report (Appendix 1, Attachment B) (PDF).

CAST Reporting ALDs

CAST Reporting Achievement Level Descriptors (PDF) document provides descriptions of the four levels possible for a student’s overall performance on the CAST for public reporting purposes on the Test Results for California’s Assessments website External link opens in new window or tab.. Students are provided with an overall score and an achievement level (i.e., Level 4—Standard Exceeded, Level 3—Standard Met, Level 2—Standard Nearly Met, or Level 1—Standard Not Met). In addition, the students receive information on how they performed in each science domain (i.e., Earth and Space Sciences, Life Science, and Physical Sciences). These science domain results describe a student’s performance in relationship to meeting the standard (i.e., Standard Met); therefore, one of three levels (i.e., above standard the standard, at or near standard, or below standard) are possible for a student’s performance by science domain.

Questions:   California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress | caaspp@cde.ca.gov | 916-445-8765
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 17, 2021
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