• March, 2016

    Dear Parent/Guardian:

    Each spring, most students in California participate in the statewide testing program, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System.


    Who takes the assessments?
    11th grade students in ELA and math
    10th graders in science

    How long do the assessments last?

    11th graders: 2 days of testing, approximately 4-4.5 hours per day, in 2 groups
    10th graders:  1 day of testing, approximately 90 minutes

    Where and When?

    The 11th-grade assessments will take the test by US history class in various classrooms according to the attached schedule on April 20 and 22, or April 21 and 25.

    The 10th-grade assessment will take place in the Integrated Science 4  (IS 4) classrooms on April 27 and 28. If your student does not take IS 4, we will find a location for him or her.

    Some Background Information:

    The implementation of Common Core State Standards began in 2014 in classrooms across the state and nation.  In response to the curricular shifts outlined in the Common Core, there have been changes to state testing approaches and regulations.  The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), has replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR), as the new state academic testing program.  TUHSD has been preparing for the implementation of these standards for several years, and continues to remain committed to providing rigorous and relevant learning experiences for all students.

    About the Assessments:

    The CAASPP includes computer adaptive tests and performance tasks (i.e. Smarter Balanced Assessments), as well as paper-based tests for science.  These tests provide information to teachers, parents/guardians, and students about students’ progress and readiness for college and career.  The 11th grade assessments are aligned to Common Core State Standards in math and English Language Arts (ELA).  For eleventh graders, these tests may have a direct impact on the California State University’s (CSU’s) Early Assessment Program (EAP), if families choose to release scores to these colleges. This means the CSU and participating California community colleges can use student results from the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments to measure readiness in English and mathematics.  Additionally, 10th grade students take a California Standards Test in science.

    Parental Support:

    We urge you to discuss the importance of these assessments with your child, and to encourage them to do their best on testing day.  If your child is absent due to illness or other unavoidable issues, please contact the school and we will work to schedule an alternative testing date.  Please ensure your student arrives at school for testing on time and reports to their assigned testing location.  Please note, student participation in state assessments is essential.  Per state and federal regulations, each school in California must ensure and report 95% participation rates on these exams.  Thank you for your support in making this a successful experience for your child and our school.


    The California Department of Education (CDE) has developed several resources to help parents and students understand the grade expectations of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments:

    The Parent Guides to the Smarter Balanced Assessments (in English and Spanish) are posted on the CDE’s CAASPP Web page, under the Students and Parents Tab, at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/index.asp?tabsection=3#ssr.  Each guide explains the grade-level expectations for students in ELA and mathematics and provides sample test items.

    The practice and training tests, which can be found on the CDE’s Smarter Balanced Practice and Training Tests Web page at
    http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/practicetest.asp, can help parents and students experience the type of test items that students will encounter on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. Answers to the practice test and scoring rubrics for the performance tests are posted on the Test Administrator (TA) Resources for the Smarter Balanced Practice and Training Tests Web page at http://www.caaspp.org/ta-resources/practice-training.html.

    For more detailed information about Common Core State Standards and/or the Smarter Balanced assessments, please reference the Parent/Student tab of the CDE CAASPP Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/index.asp?tabsection=3#ssr or refer to the Frequently Asked Questions Fact-Sheets on the district’s website.  If you still have questions, please contact Katy Foster, the Smarter Balanced Test Coordinator, at 415-945-3622 or email cclinton@tamdistrict.org.

    David Sondheim


    Frequently Asked Questions – Common Core State Standards

    Tamalpais Union High School District 2015-2016

    The following fact sheet is designed to provide parents and students information about the implementation of Common Core State Standards in the Tamalpais Union High School District.

    Q:  What are educational standards?

    A:  These are academic expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

    Q:  What are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

    A:  The Common Core State Standards establish expectations for the knowledge and skills students need at each grade level in order to be prepared for college and career in the 21st century. More than 40 states voluntarily adopted these standards as a replacement to previous state standards and implementation began in 2014.

    Q: Which grade levels and subject areas are impacted?

    A:  Kindergarten through grade 12 in math and English language arts.  Also note, Common Core calls for literacy standards to span across other subject areas including history, science and technical subjects.

    Q:  What do the CCSS provide?

    A:  These standards provide academic expectations that are clear and consistent across states (as opposed to each state setting its own standards).  The standards are internationally benchmarked so teachers and students can compare their learning to students across the globe.  These standards ask students to go deeper in their learning key concepts and promote critical thinking and problem solving skills, which are expectations of today’s colleges, workforce training programs and employers.

    Q:  How were the CCSS developed?

    A:  Theses standards were developed by building on the best state standards in the United States, examining the expectations of other high-performing countries around the world, and carefully studying the research and literature available on what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in college, career, and life.

    Q:  How has TUHSD prepared our students and teachers for implementation of these standards?

    A:  TUHSD has been preparing for the implementation of CCSS for several years by providing targeted professional development and time for teachers to collaborate to align curriculum and instruction to these standards.  Furthermore, TUHSD works collaboratively with middle schools to ensure a smooth transition from 8th to 9th grade.  Students will learn key outcomes in their regularly scheduled classes.

    Q: Where can I learn more about CCSS?

    A:  The Common Core State Standards website:  www.corestandards.org, or contact your site principal.

     Frequently Asked Questions - California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)                                                                                 
    Tamalpais Union High School District  2015-2016

    The following fact sheet is designed to provide parents and students information about the implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments in the Tamalpais Union High School District.

    Q:  What is CAASPP?

    A:  The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System is the new statewide testing program in California.  This replaced the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) tests, and are required for all students in California public schools.

    Q:  What is Smarter Balanced?

    A:  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is a state-led consortium working collaboratively to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, called the Smarter Balanced assessments.  

    Q:  Who takes the test?  In which subject areas?

    A:  In high schools, all 11th graders will take the Smarter Balanced assessment in math and English language arts.  Note: 10th graders will also take a Life Science test very similar to the previous STAR test, as outlined by California.  

    Q:  Is participation required?

    A:  Yes.  Federal regulations require schools to report 95% participation rates. We are held accountable to this by the state and federal government.

    Q:  When will this test be administered?

    A:  Tests occur annually in April-May.  Each school site will communicate testing dates and timelines directly to families.

    Q:  How long will the test take?

    A:  The state of California mandates that the test be untimed, meaning students can take as long as they need.  Each student will complete 2 days of testing and the tests will last approximately 4 hours each.  This time is not all spent testing, but allows some time for computer set-up and breaks.

    Q:  What should parents and students know about the test questions?

    A:  These assessments are computer-based and adaptive, including a bank of test questions aligned to standards, and free-response performance tasks.  The questions are more open-ended (as compared to STAR) and require students to explain how they arrived at their answers, support their responses with evidence and solve real world problems.  The questions are designed to provide information for how well students know the content and skills outlined in the Common Core.

    Q:  What does an adaptive test do?

    A:  Each student takes the same assessment and the questions are customized to each student’s response during the exam. The benefit to this type of test is that it very personalized to each individual student and provides more accurate information about what each student knows and can do.

    Q:  What is a performance task?

    A:  Performance tasks are multiple step problems or scenarios that require a student to think critically and apply understanding.  Sample tasks can be viewed on the Smarter Balanced website:  http://www.smarterbalanced.org/sample-items-and-performance-tasks/

    Q:  What should my child do to prepare?

    A:  Because TUHSD has invested ample time over the past several years on the implementation of Common Core standards, all students should be adequately prepared in their English and math classes to take the Smarter Balanced assessments.  TUHSD also encourages all students to eat a balanced meal and come to school well rested on exam days.  Practice and training tests are available online to help students prepare, and are entirely optional.  http://www.smarterbalanced.org/practice-test/

    Q:  What happens with the results?

    A:  They will be reported to students, teachers, counselors and parents.  Scores will not impact college eligibility for individual students, however California State Universities and participating community college do use scores to measure college and career readiness through the Early Assessment Program (EAP) (see below).  The results will be used to calculate API (academic performance index) and AYP (adequate yearly progress).  Results will be analyzed for trends over time and each year’s results considered as only one data point to monitor for continuous improvement process at the classroom, school and systems level(s).

    Q:  What is the EAP?

    A:  The California State University system (CSU) and participating California community colleges will use student results from the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments to determine college readiness.  Students who score at the highest performance level (“Standard Exceeded”) are considered ready for college-level coursework in English and/or mathematics and exempt from taking the CSU placement exams in that subject area (ELA or math).  Students who score at the “Standard Met” performance level are considered conditionally ready and will be exempt from taking the CSU placement exams if they earn a C or better in an approved English or math course during their senior year.   Students that do not meet the conditional requirement will need to participate in the CSU’s Early Start Program.  For more information, please see the CSU’s Early Assessment Program Web page, at http://www.csusuccess.org/caaspp.  

    Q:  Where can I learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

    A:  The Smarter Balanced website:  www.smarterbalanced.org or contact your site principal.