Student assessment & school accountability

The California State PTA believes assessment must be an integral part of the instructional process without distracting from time allotted for delivery of required curriculum. The overall goal of any student assessment program should be to identify what students know and how well they can apply that knowledge. A statewide assessment program linked to established curriculum standards provides information on the effectiveness of instructional delivery and curriculum support materials. Assessment should be used to increase the opportunities for students, rather than deny opportunities through such practices as tracking or discrimination by gender, ethnicity, culture or diversity. Assessment tied to standards can provide important information to students, families, and communities about how students are progressing in their learning and can be used to identify and address inequalities in access to learning opportunities.

PTA Positions:


Position Statement


  • Educational Testing and Test Scores (1971)
  • Student Assessment, Achievement and Accountability (2000)
  • Longitudinal Integrated Statewide Data System (2008)


2011/12 Testing Dates for California Students

Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR)

Each spring, California students in grades two through eleven take a STAR test. The STAR Program looks at how well schools and students are performing. Students take tests in math, reading, writing, science, and history. Teachers and parents can use test results to improve student learning. The STAR Program includes four tests: the California Standards Tests, the California Modified Assessment, the California Alternate Performance Assessment, and the Standards-based Tests in Spanish.

California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)

In California, all high school students must pass a test to earn a high school diploma. The test is called the CAHSEE. Some students with disabilities do not have to pass this test. California created the test to improve student achievement in high schools. The test helps to ensure that students graduate from high school with grade level skills in reading, writing, and math.

Students first take this test in grade ten. If they do not pass the test in grade ten, they have more chances to take the test. In grade eleven, they can take the test two times. In grade twelve, they have up to five times to take the test.

Physical Fitness Testing (PFT)

The physical fitness test (PFT) for students in California schools is the FITNESSGRAM®. The main goal of the test is to help students in starting life-long habits of regular physical activity. Students in grades five, seven, and nine take the fitness test. The test has six parts that show a level of fitness that offer a degree of defense against diseases that come from inactivity. The test results can be used by students, teachers, and parents

California English Language Development Test (CELDT)

Students in kindergarten through grade twelve whose home language is not English are required by law to take an English skills test. In California, the test is called the CELDT. This test helps schools identify students who need to improve their skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English. Schools also give the test each year to students who are still learning English.

California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE)

CHSPE is a test for students who need to verify high school level skills. In some cases, students take the test and leave high school early to work or attend college. Those who pass the test receive a Certificate of Proficiency from the State Board of Education, which is equal by law to a California high school diploma.

People who are 16 years of age or older may take the test. Younger people who meet other criteria can also take the test. This test is given three times each year at many sites in California. The test covers three subjects: reading, writing and math. There is a fee to take the test.

General Educational Development Test (GED®)

The GED test is for adults who do not have a high school diploma. Those who pass the test receive a California High School Equivalency Certificate. In California, persons who are 18 years of age or older may take the GED test. Some 17-year-olds who meet specific criteria for testing may also take the test. Testing centers throughout California give the test many times during the year. The GED test covers five subjects: reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. There is a fee to take the test.


National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a measure of student achievement that allows you to compare the performance of students in the State with that of students across the nation or in other states. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The NAEP tests students in grades four, eight, and twelve in subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. Most school districts are required to take part in NAEP, but it is voluntary at the student level. A small number of schools are required to take part in the test.


Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

On June 9, 2011 California joined the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) as a governing state. The SBAC is a national consortium of 29 states that have been working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned to a common core of academic content standards. Of those, California is one of 19 governing states, which allows decision-making participation. The remaining 10 are advisory states. The SBAC focus is on assessing students annually in grades three through eight in English-language arts and mathematics and once in grades ten through twelve under current federal requirements.


School Accountability Report Card (SARC)

California public schools annually provide information about themselves to the community allowing the public to evaluate and compare schools for student achievement, environment, resources and demographics. Click on the link above to find out more and to locate the SARC for a particular school.

Accountability Progress Reporting (APR)

California's integrated accountability system that reports both the state Academic Performance Index (API), and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Program Improvement (PI). Click on the link above to find out more information about your school's performance.

Sources for additional information:

Educational Testing Service (ETS)