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STAR Exams: Standardized Testing and Reporting

A series of standardized tests are taken by students in California every spring which comprise the state's STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) Program. The primary aim of this program is to enhance academic achievements of young students. STAR exams began in 1998 and the pattern of assessment and terms of the program have evolved over a period of time. The STAR Program forms the cornerstone of the California Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999 (PSAA).

The assessments that make up the STAR program include:

Students from grade 2 to grade 11 participate in the STAR exams. English language learners and students with disabilities also take STAR Exams. A particular student may not be tested if the parents request for the same in writing to the principal. The Individual Education Programs (IEPs) allow students (pursuing special education) to avoid testing. Some others under IEP are eligible for testing accommodations based on the specifications made. English language learners are required to take STAR exams unless their parents request against it.

A student is not required to take every test. Certain CSTs are either subject-based or grade level-based. Students with disabilities take CAPA and CMA tests. CAT/6 can be taken by students only in grades 3 and 7. Spanish speaking English learners take Aprenda 3 and STS assessments.

California Standard Tests

The California Standards Tests (CSTs) measure the achievement of California students in grades 2 to 11 in the fields of:

English Language Arts Grades 2-11 Includes writing in grades 4 and 7
Mathematics For grades 2-7, students take the same grade-level math test For grades 8-11, the test depends upon the particular math course in which the student is enrolled California State standards require Algebra I in 8th grade, continue with geometry in grade 9, Algebra 2 in 10th grade, and complete the Summative High School Math CST in grade 11 A small portion of local districts use an Integrated Mathematics curriculum, an approach that combines algebra, geometry, statistics, and other mathematical knowledge
Science Tests are based on both subject and grade-level Students in grades 5, 8, and 10 take the same science test Subject options include earth science, biology, chemistry and physics
History Social Science Grade-level assessments for students in grades 8 and 11 and an "end-of-course" test in World History for those who have taken the course Grade 8 test assesses cumulative social science knowledge from grades 6-8 Grade 11 test focuses on U.S. History Students who take World History in grades 9-11 take an end-of-course test

Students in kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 12 do not participate in the STAR program.


Students from grade 3-7 take California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition Survey (CAT/6) in addition to the CSTs. The CAT/6 covers:

  • Reading
  • Language
  • Spelling
  • Math

The CAT/6 Survey is nationally norm-referenced and evaluates the performance of students in California in comparison with students across the nation in the same grade.


California Alternative Performance Assessment is designed for students with severe cognitive disabilities who cannot take CSTs even with a number of incorporated accommodations. CAPA measures academic standards in:

  • English language arts
  • Math
  • Science

CAPA is designed to be conducted at 5 levels. A student takes CAPA test representing his/her grade. However, in cases of severe cognitive disabilities students take CAPA level 1 irrespective of their enrollment grade.


California Modified Assessment test is taken by students with disability who meet the required eligibility criteria laid by State Board of Education. CMA is taken in the following subjects:

  • English language arts
  • Math
  • Science


Spanish-speaking English learners take Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS) and the Aprenda.  They either receive instructions in Spanish or they are students enrolled (prior to finishing 12 months) in schools in United States of America.

STS is taken by students in grades 2-7 and Aprenda 3 is taken by students in grades 8-11. Education department is trying to shift all exams in Aprenda 3 to STS format.


State Board of Education has defined performance of students in 5 different classes depending upon the number of marks scored. These classes are following:

  • Advanced
  • Proficient
  • Basic
  • Below Basic
  • Far Below Basic

The cutoff marks for basic is 300 every year while the same for proficient is 350. The other cutoffs vary with grades and are different every year.

California Department of Education reports the STAR results at the state, county, district, and school levels. Results are not made public and individual results can be seen by parents, teachers and other district authorities.