California's Student Testing Program: STAR
Toward the end of each school year, the state requires its public schools to give a set of tests to all students in grades 2-11. These tests are part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. While some of the test questions measure students’ mastery of basic skills, their main purpose is to see how well schools are teaching and students are learning the state’s academic content standards in four core subjects: English language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social science.
What tests are included in the STAR program?
STAR encompasses three different kinds of tests:
- CSTs (California Standards Tests), which are based on the state’s standards—what students are supposed to know and be able to do at each grade level;
- CAT/6 (California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition), a test of basic skills;
- SABE/2 (Spanish Assessment of Basic Education, Second Edition), an additional test that native Spanish speakers take during their first year in California public schools. State leaders have put the greatest emphasis on CSTs because they are intended to measure how well students have learned the state’s academic content standards. (See: www.cde.ca.gov/standards) Students in grades 2–11 are tested in English language arts and mathematics. Students in grades 8, 10, and 11 also take history/social science CSTs. High school students take science CSTs, and the state plans to add a 5th-grade science test in 2004. CSTs are primarily multiple-choice, but 4th and 7th graders also take a writing test.
CAT/6 tests basic skills. Because it is a national test, CAT/6 was not designed to align with California’s standards. It includes multiple-choice questions in reading, English language arts, and mathematics for grades 2–11; spelling for grades 2–8; and science for high school students. California uses the “survey” form of the test, which is shorter than the full test. State leaders are considering offering CAT/6 to only one elementary and one middle school grade.
SABE/2 is a multiple-choice test in Spanish that measures students’ knowledge of reading, language arts, and mathematics. Like the CAT/6, the SABE/2 is used by a number of states and is not designed to align with California’s standards. The state uses SABE/2 to test native Spanish speakers who are not fluent in English during their first year in California schools. (Students whose home language is not English and who are not yet proficient in English take an additional test that is not the STAR program. The California English Language Development Test, or CELDT, measures their English proficiency and helps determine placement in classes.)
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