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STAR Assessment Program

Testing and Assessment


General Overview
The state-mandated STAR program consists of two parts: the California Standards Tests and the short version (survey version) of the California Achievement Tests, 6th edition (abbreviated as CAT/6). The California Standards Tests in grades 2 through 8 cover language arts and mathematics. At grade 5, a science test is included, and at grade 8, a history/social science test is included. The CAT/6 in grades 2 through 8 covers reading, language, spelling and mathematics. The state of California uses scores from the California Standards Tests and the CAT/6 to compute the annual state Academic Performance Index (API) and the federally required No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), both of which are assigned each California public school by the state Department of Education. The state Department of Education website for its STAR program is:

For more information on the California state curriculum standards on which the STAR program is based, please Click Here. State/District Curriculum Standards

The State API and Federal AYP Components to the STAR Program
The California Department of Education on October 24 released results of spring 2003 testing data for the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), the benchmark used by the CDE to measure public school improvement statewide. For every school, targets included school-wide student academic growth as well as growth in applicable ethnic/racial and socioeconomic student subgroups for public school students, grades 2-11. The state established the API in 1999 as the cornerstone of its public school accountability called STAR. It measures academic performance, sets academic growth targets and monitors the growth over time school-wide and for a school’s ethnic/racial subgroups of students. The API for 2003 is based on the California Standards Tests that measure math and English skills which students are expected to learn at each grade level, and on the California Achievement Tests 6 (CAT/6), a measure that allows the state to compare California students against their peers nationwide. The state reported on API growth for schools between 2002 and 2003, which it calculated by comparing spring 2003 and spring 2002 testing results. There are no API scores calculated for students. The growth target for each school is the amount of improvement that the school is expected to make beyond its 2001 API base score, which is computed on an index ranging from 200 to 1000. The state has set an index score of 800 to represent a high-performing school. Until a school reaches 800, it is given an annual target to increase its score by at least 5% of the difference between the base score and the 800 level.

Earlier, in August 2003, the state issued data that was tailored to show whether a school or district met the goals for being judged as proficient in English-language arts and in mathematics under the new federal No Child Left Behind Act, an accountability system known as Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and separate to the existing state API accountability system. This data was reconfigured by the state to show school and district educational achievement growth under API.

There may well be confusion among parents and the community regarding the dual systems of measuring educational performance. The state system calls for schools to show steady progress in improving student achievement over a 20-year period, using the Academic Performance Index (API). The federal law, which took effect in 2002, requires all students to master reading and mathematics within 12 years under what is called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP).

Under the state API system, a district or school is considered on track if it shows consistent annual academic progress on state academic standards tests. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, a district or school does not meet the Annual Yearly Progress goal (AYP) unless it satisfies up to 44 testing benchmark standards annually.

The data issued for districts and schools in August was formatted to show the AYP performance of districts and schools, based on the spring 2003 testing.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools must consistently increase the percentage of students proficient in English-language arts and math. For the 2003 AYP, the state set the proficiency standard for English-language arts at 13.6% of elementary and middle school students. The math proficiency standard was set at 16% of elementary and middle school students. The percentages will increase annually; in 12 years, 100% of students will be required to be proficient in all categories.

To satisfy the annual AYP goals, a district and school must:

  • Meet the academic proficiency targets in both English-language arts and math, both for students as a school-wide group and for all numerically significant student subgroups.
  • Show a 95% participation rate on the tests, both for students as a school-wide group and for all numerically significant student subgroups.

The subgroups include major ethnic/racial groups, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and English learners. Numerically significant subgroups in these categories are those whose numbers of students comprise 15% of a school’s enrollment, with a minimum number of 50 students, or which comprise 100 students no matter the subgroup’s percentage of a school’s enrollment. If even one of these subgroups does not meet any one AYP requirement, including 95% test participation, then the school or district fails to satisfy the AYP goal.

The 44 benchmarks under AYP encompass all of these major categories of participation and achievement standards.