The purpose of this section is to clarify the legal requirements for the
inclusion of students with disabilities in state and district-wide assessments.
Additionally, the section reflects the California Department of Education's
considered response to implementation issues that have arisen as the state
and local school districts implement the STAR (Statewide Testing and Reporting)
program and follow assessment guidelines proposed by No Child Left Behind
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 Federal No
Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) require the inclusion of students with disabilities
in general state and district-wide assessment programs with appropriate
accommodations, where necessary. 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 or modifications
- Report the number of children participating
in alternate assessments
- Report the performance of children on alternate
- Reflect the performance of all students with
disabilities in performance goals and indicators that are used to guide
State Improvement Plans
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act
(NCLB) in 2002, the participation of students with disabilities has become
more critical. Not only must schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
for all students, but particular subgroups of students must also show
yearly progress. NCLB requires that 95% of each subgroup participate in
the state's assessment and be included in the state's accountability system.
Students with disabilities comprise one of the subgroups. States are required
to comply with a 95% subgroup participation rate within each content area
and grade level. Participation includes taking the standard assessment
with or without accommodations or modifications or taking the California
Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA). NCLB requires that schools show
progress toward student proficiency on grade level state standards. The
federal regulations allow for a differential learning standard for a small
percentage of students with significant cognitive disabilities who take
the alternate assessment.
The State Board of Education (SBE) has determined
how NCLB Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) criteria will be integrated into
California's current accountability system, the Academic Performance Index
(API). The SBE has examined the accommodation policies and made changes
in order to ensure students with disabilities have access to the state
The IDEA 2004 assessment requirements clearly apply to California's Standardized
Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program enacted by SB 376 (Chapter 828, Statutes
of 1997). The State Board of Education has currently selected the California
Achievement Test, 6th edition (CAT-6), the California Standards Test (CST),
the California Modified Assessment (CMA) and the California Alternate
Performance Assessment (CAPA), to be administered during the spring testing
window to all students in grades 2 through 11 participating in this program.
California Education Code requires that all students shall be tested,
including students in special education programs and students subject
to Section 504 plans under federal law.
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 the STAR
program. Students placed in nonpublic schools, alternative education programs,
or state-operated programs are part of ALL students included in the STAR
program. It is expected that these students will have the same access
to the core curriculum and statewide assessment as students have on the
regular school campus.
STAR 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 STAR examination
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 STAR program.
Test Preparation for Students with Disabilities
The regulations for the STAR program restrict the materials that can be
used to prepare examinees: "no program or materials shall be used
by any school district or employee of a school district that are specifically
formulated or intended to prepare pupils for the designated achievement
test." However, "practice tests provided by the publisher as
part of the designated achievement for the limited purpose of familiarizing
pupils with the use of scanable test booklets or answer sheets and the
format of test items are not subject to the prohibition."
The CDE recommends that students be made aware
of when the spring testing window will take place. A classroom discussion
of what group standardized assessment is and its purpose may be helpful
to some students. Students should be encouraged to get plenty of sleep
and eat a good breakfast. Teachers may wish to familiarize students with
different testing formats such as multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks.
It may also be beneficial for students (especially younger ones) to have
practice in "bubbling-in" answers. Many test publishers offer
practice activities and tests for use with students before a group standardized
Determining How Students with Disabilities
Participate in STAR
The student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team is responsible
for determining how a student will participate in the Standardized Testing
and Reporting (STAR) program. The IEP team should consider the student's
day-to-day need for adaptations. The IEP team will make the decision each
year on how the student should participate in statewide testing. Many
students with special needs can take tests under the same conditions as
their non-disabled classmates. Only adaptations used in the classroom
should be used in testing, and then only to give the student access to
the test. The goal is to "level the playing field" and not give
an unfair advantage to the student with disabilities.
Individuals who know the student's strengths and
weaknesses should make decisions about any adaptations. The student and
his/her parent should be comfortable with the adaptations proposed for
the State Testing. The student's assessment participation should be reviewed
annually, and if necessary changed. Information about the student's test
behavior can guide future use of testing adaptations.
The State Department of Education defines 3 types of adaptations:
Variation: Test variations are adaptations
that are available to all students to assure that they are physically
able to take the tests. They include the use of assistive equipment, visual
supports and magnification, audio amplification, sensory supports (including
adjusted lighting and sound reduction), simplified directions, use of
alternative communication systems, and testing in small groups. They do
not alter the content or the validity of the tests.
Accommodations: The term "accommodation"
is commonly used to define changes in format, response, timing, or scheduling
that do not alter in any significant way what the test measures or the
comparability of scores. They are available to students with special needs,
including students who have 504 plans, if the accommodations are written
in their plans. Accommodations include flexible setting for tests, extended
time, revised or enlarged test materials, assistive devices used independently,
oral or signed responses on written tests, and Braille tests or materials.
Accommodations may require early planning in order to have materials available
to the student during the testing "window." The scores of students
who use these accommodations will be reported to the State as scores "with
Accommodations" and will be counted in the districts participation
rate and in the calculation of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rate.
Modifications: When adaptations in the assessment
alter what the test is supposed to measure or the comparability of scores,
they may be referred to as "modifications". Test modifications
are available only to students with disabilities who have the modification
documented in the IEP. Modifications are not available to students with
504 plans. The IEP team should be well informed about the possible consequences
of using test modifications. Modifications should only be used when other
accommodations have been considered and determined that they do not allow
sufficient access to the test. The student who uses modification on the
State Testing Program will be reported as "not proficient" in
the calculation of the district's AYP, but will be counted in the district's
participation rate. Some test modifications include use of a calculator
or math manipulatives, use of a dictionary, reader services on the reading
portions of the test, use of oral or signed responses on the writing portions
of the tests. Out of level testing is not allowed as a modification.
California Modified Assessment
Federal regulations approved in 2007 allowed states to assess students
with IEPs based upon modified achievement standards. The California
Modified Assessment (CMA) became available in the spring of 2008 for
a small number of students for whom the STAR tests, even with accommodations
or modifications do not yield valid scores. The test will not be fully
implemented until 2010 but is available at more grade levels each
year until full implementation. The CMA is a measure of the same content
as the CST, but in a different format. The questions do not span the
same breadth and depth of the content standards, but cover the same
skills. There are fewer questions on a page and fewer total questions.
The recording of responses is simplified. The IEP team may decide
that the student with disabilities may require the CMA format if:
The student has taken the
CST in a previous year and scored "Below Basic" or "Far
Below Basic," or, the student has taken the CAPA on 2 previous
years and scored "Proficient" or "Advanced,"
The student has IEP goals
that address core curriculum standards in CMA content areas, and
The student is exposed to
grade level core curriculum in the classroom, and
The IEP team has determined
that the student will not receive a proficient score on the CST
The CMA may be taken with accommodations, if the IEP team determines
they are appropriate.
- The total number of test questions
has been reduced
- The language of test questions has
- Fewer multiple choice options are
- Pictures are used to aid understanding
- More white space is provided on the
California Alternate Performance Assessment
IDEA 2004 and No Child Left Behind require participation by students
with severe disabilities in the State assessment program. The rationale
for this requirement is the belief that including all students in
the assessment programs will help to create a more accurate picture
of education at the school, district and state levels, and will lead
to greater accountability for the educational outcomes of all students.
It was anticipated that severely disabled students, whose instructional
program primarily covers functional, non-academic content, and for
whom no appropriate testing accommodations can be devised will participate
in alternate assessment
The IEP team should
- whether the student participates in
an academic or functional curriculum;
- the types of instructional moifications
employed with the student;
- whether the student is working toward
a standard high school diploma;
- the preference of the parent, where
applicable the preference of the student, input from other
The CAPA consists of English/Language Arts
and Mathematics sections. A Science section will be added to each
level as it becomes available. There is an extensive materials list
for the CAPA. Districts should assemble the required materials well
in advance of the testing date.
The CAPA is organized into five levels, representing
specific grade spans. Most students eligible for the CAPA take the
level corresponding to their grade placement. These students are expected
to move through the CAPA levels as they progress from grade to grade.
Some students with complex, profound disabilities may be eligible
for Level 1 throughout their school careers.
Level I Criteria
- Students are between the ages of 7-16,
equivalent to grades 2-11
- Students have severe, pervasive disabilities
- Students are exposed to core curriculum
at or below the 1st grade level
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.
A district may only administer the
CMA and the CAPA to a total of
THREE PERCENT (3%)
of their enrolled students!
California Alternate Performance Assessment
California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)
The California Education Code has established minimum requirements
for graduation from California high schools. One of these requirements
is for students to pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).
The purpose of the California High School Exit Exam is to assure that
students who graduate from high school have demonstrated the achievement
and knowledge embodied in the state standards in reading, writing,
The CAHSEE is administered to all California
high school students beginning in grade 10. Students with IEPs may
use any variations, accommodations or modifications listed in their
IEPs during testing. Students with 504 plans may use any accommodations
listed in their 504 plans.
Students who do not pass the CAHSEE in 10th
grade have seven additional opportunities to retake the exam. Only
the part(s) not passed must be taken again. In addition, school districts
are required by law to provide supplemental instruction aligned to
state academic content standards for students who do not pass the
A school board may waive the requirement to
successfully pass one or both parts of the CAHSEE for a student with
a disability if the High School Principal certifies that the student
has all of the following:
An IEP that requires the accommodations
or modifications to be provided to the student when taking the high
school exit exam
Sufficient coursework in a
high school curriculum to have attained the skills needed to pass
A passing score on the CAHSEE
while using a modification
Other State Assessment Programs
IDEA '97 refers to "general State and district-wide assessment
programs." California operates several large-scale statewide
assessment programs and requires school districts to administer proficiency
testing in selected grades These programs should include students
with disabilities, with appropriate accommodations, if needed. Because
participation in these programs is not mandated for all students,
the requirement for an alternate assessment of students with severe
disabilities does not apply. . In addition to the STAR program, California's
other statewide assessment programs currently include the following:
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. Students with
IEP's can be rated on an alternate form, the DRDP Access, if the
IEP team determines that is more appropriate than the standard version.
The IEP team can also determine which variations may be used by
the rater. Ratings are conducted twice per school year when the
students are 3, 4 and 5 years old. 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.
The California High School
Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) certifies competency in basic skills
taught in public high schools. The State Board of Education awards
a certificate of proficiency to individuals who pass the CHSPE.
The certificate is equivalent to a high school diploma.
The Assessments in Career
Education (ACE) program offers voluntary end-of-course examinations
for high school students in five career-vocational education areas:
agricultural core, computer science and information systems, health
care (level 1), food services and hospitality, and technology core.
Results identify students who have demonstrated outstanding achievement.
Students who demonstrate high levels of achievement receive a notation
on their diploma.
Participation in and Exemption from General
and Alternate Assessment
California Education Code 60615 states with regard to statewide assessment
in general: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent's
or guardian's written request to school officials to excuse his or
her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant
to this chapter shall be granted." Schools or districts may inform
parents or guardians of this right, 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 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.
Since modifications and alternate assessments fundamentally alter
what the test measures, students receive the lowest obtainable scale
score (LOSS) on each domain affected and Overall. The LOSS will be
used for Title III accountability purposes. Results from a modified
or alternate assessment should be used for instructional, initial
designation and reclassification decisions, since the LOSS does not
reflect the student's English proficiency level.
Alternate Assessments to CELDT
Some English Learners with an IEP may need to take an alternate assessment
to CELDT for initial or follow-up annual language proficiency testing.
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.
Click here to download and print "Procedures Guide-Statewide