Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress–All Questions
Go to: Contact Information || About the Smarter Balanced Online Summative Assessments || Test Dates || Test Time and Scheduling || Technology || Training and Information || Test Administration || Performance Tasks || Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations || California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for ELA/Mathematics/Science
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- Who do I contact if I have general questions about the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), specific questions related to uploading students and navigating the online delivery system, or questions about my school’s participation in the CAASPP assessments?
Test administrators and test examiners should contact their CAASPP test site coordinator; CAASPP test site coordinators should contact their local educational agency (LEA) CAASPP coordinator; LEA CAASPP coordinators should contact Please contact the California Technical Assistance Center (CalTAC) either by using the Chat box in the right margin of all caaspp.org pages or by telephone or e-mail:
Phone: 800-955-2954 E-mail: email@example.com
About the Smarter Balanced Online Summative Assessments
- Which grade levels participate in the Smarter Balanced assessments?
- Students in grades three through eight and grade eleven participate in the Smarter Balanced assessments for English language arts/literacy and mathematics.
- What are the components of the Smarter Balanced assessments?
- The Smarter Balanced assessments comprise two components: the computer adaptive test and the performance tasks.
- What is the difference between a test segment and a test session?
- A test segment is an allocated preset group of items. A test session is a unit of time scheduled for a group of students to be in a room for testing. One test Session ID corresponds to each test session.
- What are performance tasks (PTs)?
- The Smarter Balanced assessments comprise two components: a performance task (PT) and computer adaptive testing items. A PT is a portion of the Smarter Balanced assessment that requires students to answer a set of questions that are centered on a common theme or problem.
- When will my local educational agency (LEA) need to complete administration of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments?
- Pursuant to the California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), sections 855 (a) (1), 855 (a) (2), 855 (a) (3), 855 (b), and 855 (c), the rules for the establishment of the testing windows for CAASPP testing are as follows:
- Grades Three through Eight and Grade Eleven English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics
- The available testing window shall begin on the day in which 66 percent of a school’s or track’s annual instructional days have been completed, but no earlier than the second Tuesday in January of each year;
- Testing may continue up to and including the last day of instruction for the regular school’s or track’s annual calendar, but no later than July 15 or the next weekday following the 15th;
- A local educational agency (LEA) may establish a selected testing window of no less than 25 days within their available testing window (taking into account that the CAAs will not be available until March 20, 2017); and
- An LEA may extend a selected testing period up to an additional 10 consecutive instructional days if still within the available testing window.
- Science in Grades Five, Eight, and Either Ten, Eleven, or Twelve
- The selected testing window also must provide 25 instructional days for administering the California Science Test (CAST) and California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for Science, which will be available on March 20, 2017.
- Standards-based Tests in Spanish
- Pursuant to 5 CCR, Section 855 (a) (3), the date on which a school (including an NPS), program, or track completes 85 percent of its instructional days will determine when the STS multiple-choice tests will be administered.
- Schools must complete all regular and makeup testing within a 25-day window comprised of 12 instructional days before and 12 instructional days after the date on which 85 percent of each school’s, program’s, or track’s instructional days are completed.
- LEAs may use all or any part of the 25 days for testing but are encouraged to schedule testing over no more than a 10- to 15-day period.
- What is the effect of the March 20, 2017, test release date for certain assessments on testing windows?
- The CAAs for ELA, mathematics, and science and the CAST will be available on March 20, 2017. A testing window must provide at least 25 instructional days in which these tests may be administered. If the selected testing window does not provide 25 days in which the CAAs and CAST may be administered, contact the California Technical Assistance Center to adjust this window.
- If a local educational agency’s (LEA’s) 25-day testing window goes to the last day of instruction, does the LEA have to test students who enroll the last week of school (or even the week before the last week of school)?
- Yes. If a student did not complete one or more of the content-area assessments at his or her previous school, he or she must take the tests for which he or she is eligible at the new school as long as the selected testing window is still open in the new LEA. For example, a student who completes an ELA test at a school and then transfers to a school in an LEA where the testing window is still open must take the mathematics test at the new school before the testing window closes for the new LEA.
- Is the 25-day test window optional or required?
- The 25-day test window is required.
Test Time and Scheduling
- Are there time limits for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments?
- No; all CAASPP assessments are untimed.
- How long will the Smarter Balanced assessments take?
The estimated amount of time individual students need will depend on the grade, content area, and type of items.
Content Area Grade(s) Computer Adaptive Test items
Performance Task (PT)
English Language Arts/Literacy
3–5 1:30 2:00 3:30 6–8 1:30 2:00 3:30 11 2:00 2:00 4:00
3–5 1:30 1:00 2:30 6–8 2:00 1:00 3:00 11 2:00 1:30 3:30
3–5 3:00 3:00 6:00 6–8 3:30 3:00 6:30 11 4:00 3:30 7:30
- How long will the online California Science Test (CAST) take?
- Administration of the CAST field test is estimated to take approximately two hours. Note that the CAST is an untimed test, but almost all students should complete it within one to two hours.
- Do time estimates refer to the total computer lab time, or does that time need to be multiplied by the number of classrooms?
- The time estimates do not reflect total computer lab time (including time needed to start computers, log students on, etc.); they are only an estimate of the time students will spend testing for each content area. The total test time will need to be adjusted to include those additional activities. To determine the number of students who may test simultaneously and, therefore, the total time that labs may be occupied, school personnel can use the bandwidth checker .
- How should schools sequence and schedule the components of the Smarter Balanced assessments?
- For the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments, Smarter Balanced recommends that students take the performance task (PT) and the computer adaptive testing (CAT) portions on separate days. Smarter Balanced also recommends that students begin with the CAT portion and then the PT. Local educational agencies/Schools may opt to administer the assessments in a different order if needed.
- What advice can be provided for testing students in nonpublic, nonsectarian schools (NPSs)?
- Test administrators and test examiners at NPS schools should reach out to the LEA CAASPP coordinators who is responsible for placing the student at the NPS for information about testing windows and with their questions about CAASPP testing.
- When will the test results be populated in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS)?
- Preliminary test results are populated in the Online Reporting System and final results are provided to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools via printed Student Score Reports (SSRs). SSRs are also available for download on the Test Operations Management System (TOMS). Student assessment results are not available in CALPADS. LEAs and schools should monitor communication from the California Technical Assistance Center and/or the California Department of Education for information regarding the length of time test processing—from scoring submitted tests to the calculation of results—is expected to take.
- What is the online test settings deadline for the Test Operations Management System?
- The online test settings deadline can vary by test administration. For the current administration’s deadline, see the LEA CAASPP Coordinator Checklist, which is available separately and also as part of the Online Test Administration Manual. Both are available on the Manuals and Instructions Web page on the CAASPP Portal. Please also monitor communication from the California Technical Assistance Center and/or the California Department of Education for information regarding upcoming deadlines.
- Will the scores for the online Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments available within three weeks of completion include student performance on the performance task (PT)?
- The Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts/literacy and mathematics include both computer-scored components (scored immediately) and hand-scored components. Preliminary individual student performance data will be displayed in the Online Reporting System only after students have completed the computer-scored components and the hand-scoring portion of their results have been processed. Local educational agencies and schools should monitor communication from the California Technical Assistance Center and/or the California Department of Education for information regarding the length of time test processing—from scoring submitted tests to the calculation of results—is expected to take.
- When does the 20-day clock start for sending Student Score Reports to parents/guardians?
- Pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 863 (a) and (b), Student Score Reports must be made available to each student’s parent or guardian within 20 days of receipt of the report at the local educational agency (LEA). However, if the reports are received after the last day of the instructional year, the report must be made available within 20 working days of the next school year.
- What is the effect of the science tests on testing windows?
- [This item is reviewed in the Test Dates FAQ.]
- What are the technology requirements?
- Please refer to the Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements specifications posted on the Smarter Balanced Technology Web page for information about supported technology and technology requirements.
- Can students use their mobile devices to complete the assessments?
Yes, students may test on any tablets that meet Smarter Balanced technology requirements. Please refer to the Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements specifications located on the Smarter Balanced Technology Web page. See also the Technical Specifications Manual for Online Testing Web document. The following table lists currently supported tablets, operating systems, and browsers.
Operating System Supported Tablets Browsers for
Android 4.04 – 4.2 Google Nexus 10
Samsung Galaxy Note (10.1)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1)
Google Chrome Chrome OS 31 – 35 Chromebooks Google Chrome iOS 6.0 – 7.1 iPad 2, 3
4th generation (Retina Display)
- How do I access the secure browser for the online Smarter Balanced assessments?
- Instructions for downloading the secure browser can be found in the Secure Browser Installation Manual. Secure browsers can be downloaded directly from the Secure Browsers Web page (which is also linked on the CAASPP Portal).
- My school has already downloaded a secure browser for statewide testing. Do we need to download another secure browser?
- Yes, school personnel must annually download the secure browser for online testing.
- Are there special directions/requirements for the secure browser on Chromebooks, Android tablets, or iPads?
- Refer to the Secure Browser Installation Manual for information on downloading and using the secure browser on Chromebooks, Android tablets, and iPads.
Training and Information
- What training resources are available?
There are a variety of resources are available to help LEAs, schools, and students prepare for the 2014–15 CAASPP assessments:Online Training Modules:
Online training modules are forthcoming.The Training Test and Practice Tests:
It is highly recommended that all students access the Practice Tests and/or the Training Tests. Each resource offers students a unique opportunity to experience items similar to what they will see on the operational Smarter Balanced assessments.Manuals and User Guides:
There are a number of manuals and user guides posted on the Instructions and Manuals Web page that include topics such as Smarter Balanced policies, procedures for administering the CAASPP assessments, and step-by-step instructions on how to use the Test Operations Management System (TOMS), the Test Administrator Interface, and other features of the test delivery system.
- Are there tools available for Test Administrators (TAs) to practice monitoring student testing?
- The Test Administrator Practice and Training Site can be accessed through the CAASPP Portal. Through this Web site, TAs can practice administering Practice and Training Tests to students.
- What is the difference between Training Tests and Practice Tests?
- Training Tests are shorter, arranged by grade band, and include new item types (e.g., hot text and matching). Students are able to access and practice using all of the test tools, supports, and accommodations, which are not currently available on the Practice Tests. Training Tests do not include performance tasks (PTs). Practice Tests are longer and arranged by grade level. Practice Tests also includes PTs.
- Are rubrics available for the Practice Test?
- More information is forthcoming.
- Are there resources for parents/guardians? If so, are these resources translated into any additional languages?
- Yes; please refer to the California Department of Education (CDE) California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System Web page.
- Can test administrators and examiners review test questions while students are completing the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments?
For test administrators, the answer is no; only students should be viewing the test items. Staff who would like to become familiar with the types of items to be administered may review the Online Practice and Training Tests Site.
For test examiners, the answer is yes; because the California Alternate Assessments are administered one on one, the test examiner will see the test questions.
Note that items on the CAASPP assessments are secure test materials.
- A student begins testing in local educational agency (LEA)/School A and then moves to LEA/School B before completing the test. Can the test be moved to LEA/School B for the student to complete?
Yes; if a student starts a test event in one LEA/school and then moves to a different LEA/school, the test delivery system will retain that test for that student.
For example, if the student starts the computer adaptive testing section of the test, answers some questions, and then moves to a different LEA/school in the state, the student can begin, at the new school, where he or she left off on that section. The same situation applies for the performance task (PT)—once the student logs in and starts the test, the student can finish the test at the new LEA/school taking the same PT that was started.
Note, however, that updates to the student’s information in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) may take between 24 and 48 business hours to process in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS), and another 24 business hours to process between TOMS and the test delivery system.
- Can more than one grade level test in the same room?
- While it is recommended that students be tested with their grade-level cohorts, students in different grade levels can test in the same room in a single test session. The test administrator must remember to select each grade and test within the Test Administrator Interface that he or she intends to administer during that session.
- What are the recommendations to distribute logon information to students? Can proctors log on to the test delivery system on students’ behalf?
- Test administrators may distribute slips of paper containing a student’s Statewide Student Identifier and first and last names for logon purposes. Any such materials must be kept secure at all times. Proctors may assist students with the logon process but should not log on to the test delivery system on behalf of students.
- Can test administrators help students use the test tools during testing?
- No; the directions for administration in the Directions for Administration for the Smarter Balanced Online Summative Assessments (PDF), available on the Instructions and Manuals Web page, specify the guidance test administrators can and cannot provide to students during testing. However, students do have the ability to view tutorials that are embedded in the test delivery system at any time during testing.
- Can students return to items that were flagged for review even after the segment is complete?
- No; once a student completes a test segment, he or she cannot return to the items within that segment.
- What data in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) are necessary for students to test?
The minimum data that need to be correct in CALPADS for a student to start testing are as follows:
- School and LEA information
- CALPADS enrollment status of 10 or 30
- U.S. school entry data (if the student is an English learner)
- Parent/Guardian address (if the LEA wants the address printed on the Student Score Reports)
- Fields 3.13 (education program) and 3.21 (primary disability) (if the student is to take the California Alternate Assessments or receive designated supports, accommodations, and/or unlisted resources)
- All other demographic fields (if the LEA wants to view these fields in the final student data file that is downloadable from the Test Operations Management System [TOMS])
CALPADS documentation, including field names and field codes, and information about CALPADS support are available on the California Department of Education California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) Web page.
- Given that the mathematics components of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment for Mathematics seem to involve quite a bit of language, can English learners (ELs) also be exempt from taking mathematics?
- All students must take the mathematics assessments. However, stacked translations in Spanish are available as an embedded designated support.
- Can exempt ELs take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) components if they wish to?
- Yes, an exempt EL may take the ELA assessment upon request by the student’s parent/guardian.
- Do LEAs have to upload student information to receive Pre-ID labels for paper-pencil tests or will the information be taken from CALPADS?
CALPADS is the authoritative source for student enrollment, demographic, and program information for the student test assignment system known as TOMS. The student-level data from CALPADS will be used for the Smarter Balanced assessments (summative and interim), California Alternate Assessments, California Science Tests, and the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) paper-pencil assessments. The use of CALPADS data for these assessments underscores the importance of keeping CALPADS up to date and accurate.
CALPADS documentation, including field names and field codes, and information about CALPADS support are available on the California Department of Education California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) Web page.
- Can the Pre-ID information be printed directly on the answer documents and answer booklets rather than on labels?
- No; Pre-ID labels are used to allow LEAs the maximum amount of time to enter and update student information in CALPADS.
- Are there translated test directions for the Smarter Balanced ELA assessment?
- Yes. Translated test directions will be provided as PDFs by Smarter Balanced for both ELA and mathematics in the following languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Tagalog, Ilokano, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Russian, Dakota, French, Haitian-Creole, Hmong, Lakota, Japanese, Somali, and Yup’ik. These can be requested by an LEA CAASPP coordinator who contacts the California Technical Assistance Center.
- How long does the test administrator have between approving the students to test and having the students start the actual test?
- As a security measure, test administrators are automatically logged off of the Test Administrator Interface after 30 minutes of test administrator user inactivity and student inactivity in the test session, which will result in closing the test session. If this occurs, the test administrator will have to create a new session and the students will have to log on to the new session to resume testing. When starting a new session, the test administrators should give the students the new Session ID so they can log on and resume testing.
- What are performance tasks (PTs)?
The Smarter Balanced assessments comprise two components: a performance task (PT), which is comprised of an individually administered, computer-generated performance task; and computer adaptive testing (CAT) items. A PT is a portion of the Smarter Balanced assessment that requires students to answer a set of questions that are centered on a common theme or problem.
Universal Tools, Designated Supports, and Accommodations
- Where can I find guidelines related to Accessibility and Accommodations?
Smarter Balanced has developed a set of Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines, which applies to all students. The Guidelines provide information for classroom teachers, English development educators, special education teachers, and related services personnel to use in selecting and administering universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations for those students who need them. The guidelines are also intended for assessment staff and administrators who oversee the decisions that are made in instruction and assessment.
In addition, there is a Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines Frequently Asked Questions Web document. These frequently asked questions address common inquiries from schools and districts about the delivery of universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations. This document supports the Consortium's Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines.
- Where text-to-speech is not available, can the Test Administrator (TA) read the assessment aloud?
- Read-aloud is only permitted in the following limited circumstances: as a non-embedded designated support for mathematics items and English language arts/literacy (ELA) items, as a non-embedded accommodation for ELA passages in grades 6–8 and 11, and for students with visual impairments in grades 3–8 and 11 who do not yet have adequate braille skills. For more information see the Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines.
- Are headphones needed for this assessment?
- Yes; headphones are required for all ELA listening items and performance tasks, and for all students who require text-to-speech. Schools are responsible for ensuring that all students have headphones.
- Can the “Keyboard Commands for Students” be printed for students to use?
- Yes; the Keyboard Commands for Students Web document provides keyboard commands that students can use to navigate between test elements, features, and tools. Test Administrators (TAs) can print this document out for students to use as a tool during testing.
- May scratch paper or graph paper be retained between sessions?
Printed test items/stimuli, including embossed braille printouts, scratch paper, and graph paper must be collected and inventoried at the end of each test session and then immediately shredded. DO NOT keep printed test items/stimuli or scratch paper for future test sessions.
The only exception to this rule is when notes are used during the ELA and mathematics performance tasks. During the ELA PT, the notes on the embedded notepad (“Global Notes”) are retained from Part 1 to Part 2 so the student may go back to the notes even though the student is not able to go back to specific items in Part 1. While the embedded notepad is the preferred mode for note taking, students may use scratch paper to make notes. To ensure that students using scratch paper for notes have the same allowance as students using the online notes, TAs should ensure that students write their names (or some other personal identifier) on the scratch paper, collect students’ notes at the completion of Part 1 of the ELA PT, and then securely store the scratch paper. The scratch paper should be redistributed for students’ use during Part 2 of the ELA PT.
Similarly, the mathematics PT may extend beyond one testing session. In this situation, TAs should ensure that students have written their names (or some other personal identifier) on the scratch paper or graph paper, collect them at the end of the first session, and securely store them for students’ use in the subsequent testing session. The retention of scratch paper is only allowed for the PTs. Following the conclusion of the PT, all scratch paper and/or graph paper must be collected and securely destroyed to maintain test security.
- Why will local educational agencies (LEAs) need printers and how can LEAs determine whether that is an accommodation their students will need?
- LEAs may need printers for the students who have Print on Demand as an accommodation. This accommodation allows for paper copies of either passages/stimuli and/or items to be printed for students. Refer to the Usability, Accessibility and Accommodations Guidelines for direction on when this accommodation may be appropriate for a student.
- How soon can an LEA start uploading the accommodations and designated supports for students in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS)?
- LEAs can start uploading as soon as the students appear in TOMS. Designated supports and accommodations must be set by the responsible LEA in which the student is enrolled before the student begins testing.
- Will an LEA have to set designated supports and accommodations for late-enrolling students in TOMS?
- No; if a student’s test settings have been properly set in TOMS, they will move with the student to whichever LEA he or she is next enrolled.
- What are accessibility supports?
- Accessibility supports are not universal tools, designated supports, or accommodations. Accessibility supports shall be available if specified in the eligible pupil’s individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan. Accessibility supports may or may not have been previously identified. An LEA shall submit a request to the CDE prior to the use of any accessibility support(s). For more information, please refer to the CDE Matrix One Web page. LEA CAASPP Coordinators may request an accessibility support from the CDE by using the downloadable Accessibility Support Request Form.
- Will an ELA test still be generated for English learners (ELs) identified in TOMS?
- More information is forthcoming.
- Who is able to set designated supports and accommodations for students in TOMS?
- The LEA CAASPP Coordinator and/or test site coordinator have the ability to designate supports and accommodations for students in TOMS. Test site coordinators can only set designated supports and accommodations for students within their test site.
California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for ELA/Mathematics/Science
- What are the eligibility requirements for the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs)?
- Please refer to the California Department of Education California Alternate Assessments Web page for the definition of “eligible students” as it applies to students who take the CAAs. To be able to assign a student in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS) to take the CAAs, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) education program code (field 3.13) must be set to “special education” (value 144) and the primary disability category (field 3.21) must not be blank.
- Which grade levels participate in the CAAs?
- Eligible students in grades three through eight and grade eleven participate in the CAAs for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics. All students in grades five, eight and high school who are eligible to take the CAAs for ELA and mathematics also will take the second year of pilot for CAA for Science.
- In online training this year, will CAA test examiners be required to pass quizzes with a certain percentage and/or print a certificate of completion?
- Test examiners are required to view the test administration tutorial and/or attend a locally provided training. Upon completion of the tutorial or locally provided training, text examiners must present their resulting completion certificate to their California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test site coordinator or local educational agency CAASPP coordinator.
- Can students take the CAA in mathematics only or ELA only, or must they take the CAAs in both subjects?
- If a student is eligible for the CAAs, he or she must take both the ELA and mathematics portions. Additionally, if a student takes the CAA for ELA and mathematics in grade five or eight, then he or she must also take the CAA for Science. If a student takes the CAAs for ELA and mathematics in grade eleven, and he or she is enrolled at a high school that has been assigned to take the CAA for Science in grade eleven, then he or she must take CAA for Science. However, if eligible students in grade ten or twelve at his or her high school are assigned to take the CAA for Science, then he or she will not need to take CAA for Science.
- Does a test examiner or the computer read the CAA for ELA and mathematics questions to the student, or must the student read the questions?
- The test examiner reads the CAA for ELA and mathematics questions to the student. The script contains the exact wording that must be read aloud to the student, except when general adaptations are given. Pictures or other visual material within the test may be described as needed for students with visual impairments using the alternative text provided in the Directions for Administration (DFA) for the California Alternate Assessments, available in TOMS (for operational DFAs) or on the CAA Web page on the CAASPP Portal (for practice and training test DFAs). Students should be encouraged to answer all questions in each content area test.
- What happens if a student is logged off after 30 minutes of inactivity while taking the CAAs for ELA and/or mathematics? Will the student be able to continue the test where he or she left off or change answers?
- The CAAs for ELA and mathematics are untimed and can be administered over as many sessions and days as needed. You may pause and resume the test as many times as necessary to elicit the student’s best performance. The pause-and-resume feature can be used throughout the day, over several days, and at any time during the test administration window. Students will automatically be logged off the system after 30 minutes of inactivity. Logging back on to the test will return the student to the last unanswered question. The student will be able to return to previous questions in the stage of the test where the student last left off to change answers.
- Does a test examiner administer the CAA for Science online?
- The CAA for Science is an embedded performance task that will be available to test examiners in PDF form. The test examiner reads embedded performance tasks to students, uses a rubric to determine the student’s score for that task, and then enters a score online. While the student survey will be administered through the test delivery system, the test itself is available to the test examiner via PDF.