Statewide Testing

Updated July 2018

The purpose of this section is to clarify the legal requirements for the inclusion of students with disabilities in state and district-wide assessments. Specific information regarding test administration dates and general assessment information for California public schools can be found at:
Statewide assessments have the following purposes: 1) to show how much a student has learned, 2) to reveal how successfully a school has educated its students, and 3) to help guide instructional improvement strategies. Since instructional and policy decisions are based on data from standards-based assessments, students with disabilities need to be included to the maximum extent possible.

The 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), similar amendments to California law, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) require the inclusion of students with disabilities in general state and district-wide assessment programs with appropriate accommodations, where required. All states must establish performance goals for students with disabilities that are consistent, to the maximum extent appropriate, with other goals and standards for non-disabled students. All states must establish performance indicators to assess progress toward achieving those goals that at a minimum address the performance of students with disabilities on assessments, dropout rates, and graduation rates.

The above regulations require that states also do the following:

  • Make available to the public, and report to the public with the same frequency and in the same detail as it reports on the assessment of non-disabled children
  • Report the number of children with disabilities participating in regular assessments
  • Report disaggregated data obtained from assessments
  • Develop and administer alternate assessments for children with disabilities who cannot participate in regular assessments with accommodations
  • Report the number of children participating in alternate assessments
  • Report the performance of children on alternate assessments

California's new accountability and continuous improvement system provides information about how local educational agencies and schools are meeting the needs of California's diverse student population based on a concise set of measures. Based on the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which was passed in 2013, California has a new accountability system that is based on multiple measures. These measures are used to determine local educational agency (LEA) and school progress toward meeting the needs of their students. The measures are based on factors that contribute to a quality education, including high school graduation rates, college/career readiness, student test scores, English learner (EL) progress, students with disabilities progress, suspension rates, and parent engagement.

Statewide Assessment
On January 1, 2014, California Education Code Section 60640 established the CAASPP System of assessments. The CAASPP System includes the following required assessments and additional resources:

Smarter Balanced Assessments - The Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments, Interim Assessments, and Digital Library are all part of the CAASPP System.

The California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics are given in grades three through eight and grade eleven. The CAA for science is given in grades five and eight and one time in high school. For the pilot test, all eligible grade twelve students will take the CAA for science, and LEAs have the option to test any grade ten or eleven student who has finished their last year of science instruction. Only eligible students may participate in the administration of the CAAs.

Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to take the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments even with accessibility supports and whose individualized education program (IEP) indicates assessment with an alternate test can participate in the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for ELA and mathematics in grades three through and grade eleven.

The content of the alternate assessment are based on alternate achievement standards derived from the Common Core State Standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The CAAs are a computer-based two-stage adaptive test. The CAAs are administer to students in a one-on-one environment with a testing examiner that is familiar with the student. More information about the alternate assessments and the alternate achievement standards can be found on the CDE CAASPP California Alternate Assessments Web page.

California Science Tests (CAST) will be field-tested in spring 2018. Students will be administered the CAST field test in grades five and eight and once in high school. All grade twelve students will be administered the field test, and local educational agencies (LEAs) can elect to administer the field test to any students in grade ten or eleven who have completed their science coursework. The CAST is aligned with the California Next Generation Science Standards.

Assessing Students in Nonpublic Schools, Alternative Education Programs, or State Operated Programs
The school district responsible for the IEP of a student placed in a nonpublic school must ensure that the student is appropriately included in state and district-wide testing programs. It is expected that these students will have the same access to the core curriculum and state and district-wide assessment as students have on the regular school campus.

State regulations state, "no test may be administered in a private home or location unless the test is administered by an employee of the school district with credential status and the employee signs a security affidavit." Nonpublic schools may administer the any state or district mandated assessment at the school site, provided that a credentialed employee of an affiliated school district who signs a security affidavit administers it. No test can be administered to a pupil by the parent or guardian of that pupil.

State-operated programs, such as the California Schools for the Deaf, the California School for the Blind, and alternative and correctional facilities are responsible for including their students in the State mandated testing programs.

Participation Guidelines for Students with Disabilities
The following resources will assist individualized education program (IEP) teams in making informed decisions about student participation in the CAASPP System and about the assignment of accessibility resources that will allow students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do during classroom instruction and on the assessments.

Identifying the Correct Assessment for Students
The first consideration for an IEP team is to evaluate which assessment is most appropriate for the student based on the student's individual learning needs.

Just as students with disabilities should be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE), the student has a right to participate in the assessment program at the "least restrictive" level. If the testing level is too easy for a student, a perfect score does not provide information about the student's knowledge and skills. If a student taking CAPA Level 1 scores in the advanced performance level the IEP team may want to consider having the student take the standard CST assessments. This should not be an automatic decision, but should be considered carefully by the IEP team.

California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)
The California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), formerly a graduation requirement for students in California public schools, was suspended effective January 1, 2016.

Other State Assessment Programs
Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) is an observational rating scale used in state funded preschool programs, including special education programs. Staff members who are familiar with the students rate their skills in four areas: personal and social competence, effective learning, physical and motor competence, and safety and health. Ratings are conducted twice per school year. Results are submitted electronically to the State Department of Education and are used for program efficacy reviews. They are available to parents upon request, but are not reported in a format that allows comparison with other children.

Participation in and Exemption from General and Alternate Assessment
We expect all students to participate in state mandated testing however, schools or districts may inform parents or guardians of their right to exempt their child from participation in statewide testing, but may not solicit such requests. Whether the parent chooses to exempt the child from the statewide testing program is not an IEP team decision, and should not be discussed at the IEP meeting. Even if the parents indicate that they will seek exemption for their child, the IEP team must still determine what assessments and what adaptations the child will require. Do not check the box "Exempt from assessment due to age or grade level" when a parents indicate that they will seek exemption for their child.

CELDT and the IEP
Most students with disabilities will take the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) with all other students under standard conditions. Students with disabilities may require test adaptations, or may take alternate assessments. Test adaptations are allowed for any student who regularly uses them in the classroom. Accommodations, modifications, and/or alternate assessments must be specified in each student's IEP. Before any adaptation is used, the following activities must be considered when preparing or updating the IEP:

  • The IEP team determines if the student's disability would preclude him/her from taking any or all domains of the CELDT (with or without adaptations).
  • IEP teams review the Matrix of Test Adaptations for Administration of California Statewide Assessments.

Resource Link

Alternate Assessments to CELDT
Some English Learners with an IEP may need to take an alternate assessment aligned with the state ELP standards, if the IEP team determines that the student cannot participate in the regular ELP assessment with or without accommodations. If the IEP team determines that the student's disability would preclude him/her from taking any or all domains of the CELDT (with or without adaptations) they must determine which alternate assessments(s) may be needed for the domain(s) of the CELDT that the student is unable to take. The IEP team must also note how the student's disability precludes the student from taking any or all sections of the CELDT.

The ED guidance can be found at:

Results from a modified or alternate assessment should be used for instructional guidance, initial designation and reclassification decisions of English language acquisition.


Click here to download and print "Procedures Guide-Statewide Testing"