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State Testing Q&A



State Testing: Questions and Answers for Parents

The Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program is an important part of the California assessment system.  The purpose of the STAR is to measure how well students are learning the knowledge and skills in the California content standards.  All students must participate in the STAR Program unless their parents or guardians have submitted written requests to excuse them. 

NOTE:  It is very important that all students participate in STAR testing as each and every school in California is to have a 95% participation rate in its statewide assessments to meet federal accountability requirements.
The test components that make up the STAR can be used for different purposes, such as:

  1. As a tool to help parents, guardians and teachers work together to improve student learning.
  2. As a tool to help schools and districts identify their strengths and areas that need improvement in their educational programs.
  3. To better enable the public and policyholders to hold public schools accountable for student learning.

What are the parts to the STAR and to which students do they apply?

The STAR Program consists of four parts, but some parts are only for certain children:

    The California Standards Tests (CSTs): This portion of the STAR program is based on California State Standards which describe what students at each grade
    level should be able to do in English-language arts, mathematics, history-social
    science, and science. The CSTs measure how much students know about the
    content standards for their grade.  Includes:  Multiple Choice (grades 2-11) and Writing (grades 4 and 7 only).

    The California Achievement Test/6th Edition (CAT/6) (grades 3 and 7 only):
    This portion of the STAR is a multiple choice test that assesses the knowledge of students in key subjects that are commonly taught in schools throughout the nation.
    The scores produced by the CAT/6 are compared with how well students
    performed on the same test nationally.

    The California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) (students with disabilities only):  This test is only given to students with severe cognitive disabilities who are not able to take the regular CSTs.  It measures how well the students can perform on tests that are based on alternate standards. Only students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that state that the CAPA is the appropriate form of STAR assessment may take the CAPA.

The Aprenda 3 (English Learners only)
This version of the STAR is given in Spanish and tests general knowledge in key subject areas.  The Aprenda 3 is given only to students who have been in a U.S. public school for a year or less. 

What about students with special needs?

Some students with disabilities and English learners may need assistance when taking the tests.

1.  Students with disabilities:
     Assistance may include test variations, accommodations, and modifications.

a) Test variations:  these changes are considered Level I variations and may be used by any student if regularly used in their everyday classroom.  This might include special lighting or being tested separately.  Level 1 variations do not change what the test was meant to assess.

b) Test accommodations:  eligible students are permitted to take the STAR test with Level 2 accommodations if the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan specifies their use on the CSTs or other tests.  Level 2 accommodations change the way the test is given but do not change what is tested.  Examples might include using Braille or large print for students who are visually impaired.

c) Test modifications:  Level 3 modifications change what is being tested, and can only be used by students who have the modifications specified in their IEP or Section 504 Plan for use in their daily classroom experience.  Examples of modifications include having a story read to a student, when he/she was to read it without assistance.

2.  English Learners

English learners may have certain test variations if these variations are regularly used by them in the classroom.  A translation glossary or word list would be examples of what an English Learner might be able to use to help them take the STAR test. 

For a complete explanation of testing variations, accommodations and modifications, please refer to the following web address:  If, as a parent or guardian, you are not sure how your child should or will participate in the STAR testing, it is best to contact your child’s teacher for further information

Where can I find sample of questions that might be on the STAR Test?

Although this year’s test questions are strictly held securely until the test is given, the state has outlined the numbers and types of  CST questions that your child will be given when taking the STAR test. This information can be found at:

In addition, the state has released sample questions from previous year’s STAR test administrations, if you or your child would like to review them prior to testing. The released questions can be found at:

Suggestions to help your child in school:

  • Make sure your child is in school on time—everyday.
  • Let your child know how important their work at school is.
  • Provide a quiet place for your child to do homework.
  •  Listen to your child read and read to and with him or her.
  • Ask about what homework is due the next day.
  • Encourage your child to write—lists, notes, letters, journals.
  • Set a limit on television watching.
  • Show your child how you use mathematics on a daily basis.
  • Help your child read charts and graphs in newspapers and magazines.

How can parents help their child do better on tests?

  • Find out and post the testing dates at home.
  • Encourage your child to do well on tests.
  • Ask your child’s teacher about the tests he/she will take and discuss the upcoming
    tests with your child to try to reduce anxiety.
  • Make sure your child attends school on testing days after a good night’s sleep and a breakfast.

For more information specifically related to the STAR testing program at your child’s school, contact your child’s teacher, or your school’s principal.