Science is assessed in the state's STAR testing program at 5th grade
and in grades 8, 9, 10, and 11. The tests—CSTs, or California
Standards Tests (CSTs)—are based on the California science
content standards. The test results from the grade 5, grade
8, and grade 10 life science tests are reported to the federal
government under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. (Information
on NCLB Tests.)
The 5th grade test covers grade 4 and 5 science content standards; the 5th
grade test was field tested in 2003, and the test which was administered in the
spring, 2004, is now operational and is included in a district's API. The 5th
grade test is comprised of approximately 40% grade 4 standards and 60% grade 5
standards. The Investigation and Experimentation standards comprise 10% of the
test items. The 5th grade STAR test meets the requirements of NCLB so is used
to assess science achievement for NCLB purposes.
At the high school level, science is assessed by discipline rather than grade
level. Students enrolled in a standards-based science course in 9th, 10th, and
11th grade take whichever STAR test corresponds to the course they are taking --
biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, or integrated science 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Legislation signed by the Governor (SB 1448) eliminated all
norm-referenced testing in content areas, with the exception
of language arts and math in grades 3 and 7. All STAR test
items are now aligned to the state's content standards.
The STAR Testing program is set to sunset in 2014.
Weighting on API
The State Board of Education establishes the weight that will
be given to the various administered tests to arrive at a
district's overall API. Since at the elementary level the
science test is given only in 5th grade while the math and
language arts tests are given in every grade, assigning the
same weighting to science as math and language arts in a K-5
school would overemphasize the results of the science test.
Presented with the problem of how to incorporate the new science
scores, as well as the new 8th grade history-social science
scores, into the API without skewing a district's results,
the board adopted a new method for calculating the API, based
upon the number of students taking each test: Each subject
tested is assigned a weight, and the weight is then multiplied
by the number of tests administered in a school. For the 5th
grade science test, the board set an initial weight of .20
(out of 1.40) but once the number of students taking the test,
i.e., only fifth grade students, is calculated, science represents
approximately 6 percent of a district's overall API.
The board also increased the weighting for the high school science
tests from 8 percent to 23 percent. Students who are not enrolled
in a CST science course, and so would not be required to take
a CST science test, are assigned a score of 200, the lowest
possible score. CSTA, along with many district officials,
feel this assignment unfairly penalizes districts which do
not require three years of science; the State Board of Education
recently reauthorized the assignment of 200 penalty.
The 8th grade science test, which covers the grade 6-8 physical
science standards, carries a weight of 7 percent.
The 10th grade life science test includes items drawn from the grade 6-8 life
science standards and the grade 9-12 biology standards. The 10th grade test carries
a weight of 10 percent.
The Department of Education has prepared a document which
gives an overview of the state's accountability system. It
is updated from time to time. For the most recent version
and scoll to find the "Overview of Accountability"
The California Department of Education (CDE) has prepared blueprints which give
guidance on the standards which will be assessed on upcoming STAR tests. Blueprints
can be found on the CDE website at
For a thorough explanation of the testing scheme, visit the
CDE website at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/. For a complete testing
schedule, see http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/0910testdates.asp.
For more information about science assessment, visit the CDE website at
or contact Diane Hernandez at CDE, firstname.lastname@example.org, (916) 651-8624.