Assessment of Student Achievement

The assessment system adopted by the San Diego Unified School District serves several interrelated purposes.

  • It provides classroom- and school-level information to guide instruction, monitor student performance, and document progress toward meeting academic standards.
  • It provides information to guide decisions related to student progress through school?decisions about student support, promotion/retention, graduation, and college admission.
  • It provides information needed to evaluate the effectiveness of a variety of programs, policies, and practices.
  • It allows the district to determine the extent to which the school district?s students are meeting state standards and to satisfy all federal, state, and local testing mandates.
  • It provides multiple audiences (e.g., parents, business and community members, higher education personnel) with the information necessary to make decisions about the effectiveness of the system and the kinds of support needed to improve student achievement.

The assessment system, which incorporates national, state, district, and voluntary assessments, provides for the assessment of all district students, including English learners and students receiving special education services. The system's elements are described below. A chart displaying all assessments for grades K through 6 is available here. A similar chart for grades 6 through 12 is available here.

National Assessments

At the national level, assessment is used to sample student performance across states and regions in order to monitor the knowledge and skills of the country’s children. The school district participates in this assessment process by administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The NAEP is the only ongoing, nationally representative assessment designed to evaluate what America's students know and can do in a variety of subjects, such as reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Also known as the Nation's Report Card, NAEP was established by Congress in 1969 and is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Schools are selected to participate each year based on a representative demographic sample nationwide.

NAEP includes operational assessments in reading and mathematics for grades 4, 8, and 12. Results are provided at the state and national levels for grades 4 and 8 and at the national level only for grade 12. The San Diego Unified School district also participates the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) program.

Results from all of the latest state NAEP assessments are available on the CDE NAEP webpage. NAEP results for all states and the nation, as well as a schedule of all NAEP assessments, are available on the ED’s NAEP webpage. [return to top]

State-mandated Assessments

State-mandated assessments show how well students throughout California are meeting the state academic content standards as well as how they perform in relation to national samples of students. Comparisons may be made across schools and districts and across student populations. The San Diego Unified School District participates in four such programs.

  • California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. California’s student assessment system is known as California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). The primary purpose of CAASPP is to assist teachers, administrators, and pupils and their parents by promoting high-quality teaching and learning through the use of a variety of assessment approaches and item types.

    For the 2018–19 school year, CAASPP comprises of the following:
    • Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts and mathematics in grades 3 through 8, and grade 11. The Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments, which are delivered by computer, consist of two sections: a computer-adaptive test and a performance task (PT) based on the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. The computer-adaptive section includes a range of items types such as selected response, constructed response, table, fill-in, graphing, etc. The PT are extended activities that measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key component of college and career readiness. For students in grade 11, the Early Assessment Program (EAP) will use the Smarter Balanced summative assessments.
    • The California Alternate Assessments (CAA) for English language arts and mathematics are to be administered to students in grades 3–8, and grade 11.The CAA is administered via a web browser to students whose individualized education program (IEP) teams have determined that the student's cognitive disabilities prevent him or her from taking the online CAASPP Smarter Balanced assessments. This population of students has, in previous years, been assigned to take the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) for ELA and mathematics. As with the CAPA, the CAA are delivered one-on-one by a qualified CAA Test Examiner familiar to the student.
    • The California Science Test (CAST). The California Science Test (CAST) is a new online test based on the California Next Generation Science Standards. The CAST will be administered to all students in grades 5, 8, and 11 and to selected students in grade 12 (those not previously tested).
  • English Language Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC). The ELPAC is used to measure how well students in kindergarten through grade 12 understand English when it is not their primary language. Identifying students who need help learning English is important so these students can get the extra help they need to do well in school and access the full curriculum.

    Students take the ELPAC Initial Assessment if they have a primary language other than English, have not taken the CELDT or ELPAC before, and have not been classified as English learners. The Initial Assessment identifies students as either English learners or proficient in English. Students are given the Initial Assessment within 30 days of enrollment.
    The ELPAC Summative Assessment is given to students who are identified as English learners on the Initial Assessment or have been previously identified via the CELDT. The Summative Assessment measures the skills of English learners, and the results help schools or districts determine if the student is ready to be reclassified as proficient in English. Students who are English learners are given the Summative Assessment every spring between February and May until they are reclassified as English proficient.

  • FITNESSGRAM®. California Education Code section 60800 requires that each school district administer a state-designated physical fitness test to all students in grades 5, 7, and 9. The test designated for this purpose by the State Board of Education is the FITNESSGRAM, developed by The Cooper Institute, which provides criterion-referenced standards to evaluate fitness. These standards represent minimum levels of fitness known to be associated with those health and physical characteristics that offer protection against diseases resulting from physical inactivity. Achievement of the fitness standards is based upon a score falling in the Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) for each of six fitness areas. The HFZ represents minimal levels of satisfactory achievement on the tasks. The goal is for students to achieve the HFZ for all six fitness areas of the physical fitness test. [return to top]

District-Mandated Assessments

Districtwide assessments provide a mechanism for the evaluation of student academic achievement within and across schools, grade levels, and student populations. These assessments provide information about student performance in relation to standards. The district assessments support the use of data at the district, school site, and classroom levels to inform instructional and programmatic decision making. For 2016–17 district-mandated assessments are limited to:

  • Honors End-of-Course Exams (EOCEs). These exams are district-developed, standards-based assessments for students in the second semester of designated honors-level courses. The purpose of the EOCEs is to establish the effectiveness of curriculum in each subject; ensure that course content is focused on state standards; establish a common level of expected performance; ensure that evaluation of student performance is consistent across classrooms and schools; and help to identify students who need additional help to meet graduation requirements.

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Voluntary Assessments

In addition to the state- and district-mandated assessments, secondary students have opportunities to participate in several voluntary assessments that provide recognition and that inform the college entrance process.

  • Early Assessment Program (EAP). The EAP is a joint program of the California Department of Education, the California State University (CSU) system, and participating California Community Colleges (CCCs). Early Assessments of Readiness for College English and Mathematics were first administered in the spring of 2004. These assessments augment the grade 11 CAASPPs. A student's score on the EAP in English and/or mathematics may result in exemption from taking placement tests that CSU and/or the CCCs requires for entering college freshmen.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Examinations. AP and IB tests are end-of-course examinations for students enrolled in designated courses in English language arts, mathematics, science, history–social science, foreign languages, and other subject areas. Students may meet college entrance requirements and receive college course credit by receiving passing scores on AP or IB exams.
  • PSAT, SAT Reasoning Test, and American College Test (ACT). The SAT or ACT examinations are required for entrance at many colleges and universities. The PSAT helps students prepare for the SAT and also serves as the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program.

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Assessment of Student Achievement, 2019–2020: Grades TK–6

  Assessment Indicators TK K 1 2 3 4 5 6
National National Assessment of Educational Progress           X    
State CAASPP: Smarter Balanced in ELA and Math         X X X X
CAASPP: CAST             X  
CAASPP: CAA in ELA and Math         X X X X
California English Language Development Test X X X X X X X X
FITNESSGRAM             X  

Assessment of Student Achievement, 2019–2020: Grades 6–12



Assessment Indicators 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
National National Assessment of Educational Progress     X       X
State CAASPP: Smarter Balanced in ELA and Math X X X     X  
CAASPP: CAST Pilot     X   X X X
CAASPP: CAA in ELA and Math X X X     X  
California English Language Development Test X X X X X X X
District Honors EOCEs         X X X
Voluntary Early Assessment Program           X  
AP Exams         X X X
IB Exams           X X
PSAT, SAT, ACT       X X X X