How to Make Sense of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Testing

  • Pieces In the spring of 2015, Menlo Park City School District schools administered new summative assessments, designed to measure a student's mastery of the California Common Core State Standards. For the first time since the standards were adopted, schools and families are getting the results of the assessment. Your results, along with a letter from the district office, were sent to you on September 21.

    This page is a resource that will attempt to answer some Frequently Asked Questions that families may have about the assessment and what to make of the results.

    Q: What tests were administered as part of the CAASPP?

    A: The CAASPP consisted of four separate tests: An English Language Arts (ELA) computer adaptive test, a Math computer adaptive test, an ELA performance task, and a Math performance task. Students who were in 5th or 8th grade in 2014-15 also took a fifth science test.

    Q: What is the difference between a computer adaptive test and a performance task?

    A: A computer adaptive test is a more traditional assessment that includes multiple choice, short answer, drag and drop, selectable text, and other short question formats. In addition, the test is adaptive, meaning that successfully answering a question increases the difficulty level of the subsequent question, and missing a question decreases the difficulty level of the subsequent question. A performance task gives students a real world problem and asks them to solve it using their research, writing, and mathematical skills.

    Q: My report is titled a "CAASPP" report. What does this have to do with the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

    A: CAASPP stands for "California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress." Among the assessment tools CAASPP uses are ELA and Math tests created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, sometimes referred to as "SBAC." CAASPP also uses the California Standards Test to measure 5th and 8th grade achievement levels in science.

    Q: What scores will my student receive?

    A: Students receive a "scale score" between 2,000 and 3,000 for both the ELA and Math assessments. This score will correspond to one of 4 achievement levels. Each score also has a margin of error to indicate how a student may have scored were they to have taken the test on another day. Click HERE to see a sample score report. For a link to the state website page that details Scale Score Ranges, click HERE. For the Science California Standards Test, students receive a scale score between 150 and 600.

    Q: What are the achievement levels for each subject?

    A: The four achievement levels for both the ELA and Math assessments are as follows: Standard Exceeded, Standard Met, Standard Nearly Met, and Standard Not Met. The Science test has five achievement levels: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic, and Far Below Basic.

    Q: Do English Language Arts and Math have additional "sub-categories" that help me understand what areas of each subject are strengths or need improvement for my child?

    A: Yes, each subject has several sub-categories, also called "claims." ELA has four claims. These are Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking, and Research. Math has three claims: Concepts and Procedures, Problem Solving and Modeling and Data Analysis, and Communicating Reasoning.

    Q: Do the claims have the same number of achievement levels as the overall subjects (four)?

    A: No, they do not. Claims have three achievement levels: Above Standard, At or Near Standard, or Below Standard. There are only three levels, as opposed to four for the overall subject, because there are fewer questions for each claim, and it is therefore more difficult to precisely determine a student's mastery level. This resulted in the category "At or Near Standard," which seems to combine "Standard Met" and "Standard Nearly Met."

    Q: How do the claim levels combine to create the Scale Score and overall achievement level?

    A: Great question! We are still learning so much about the assessment results. At this point, the state has not published any formula that helps us understand how the three or four claims combine to create the overall scores. 

    Q: How do I interpret the results?

    A: In your your mailer, you received a "QuickGuide" from MPCSD that explained how to interpret the scores. In addition, the State of California has published a guide to help you understand what the scores mean. If you have questions about the assessment, please contact MPCSD's Coordinator of Data and Assessment, Sandy Pugliano, at or by phone at 650.321.7140

    Q: How do I compare these scores with scores my student received in the past under the STAR testing system?

    A: Not only is the Smarter Balanced Assessment a different kind of test than the STAR test, both in terms of its format and interface, but it also measures a completely new set of standards. Therefore, the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment should not be compared to prior STAR test results.

    Q: Do Hillview and my child's teachers know what scores he or she received?

    A: Yes, Hillview has all the score results. We are excited to analyze them on two levels. On a "macro" level, student performance will inform our curriculum mapping. We will be able to tell what claims were relative strengths, and where we have opportunities to improve. On a student level, we will know what students may require additional support to improve their mastery of California Common Core State Standards in the future.

    Q: Should I be discouraged or alarmed if my student is at a "Standard Nearly Met" or Standard Not Met" level?

    A: You should be neither discouraged nor alarmed. We understand that all parents want their students to reach their potential. These results give us helpful information on how we can support your child and you. These scores are only one part of a bigger picture of your student's academic progress.

    For more information on the, please visit the "State Assessments" page under "Student Assessment and Research" on the MPCSD website.