What is STAR testing?

Spotlight on STAR 2012

Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program

What Is STAR? When Does It Happen?

Students at our school will participate again this spring in the California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program.  The STAR Program, an important part of the state assessment system for education from kindergarten through grade twelve, was authorized by state law (Senate Bill 376) in 1997.

The purpose of the STAR Program is to measure how well students are learning the knowledge and skills identified in the California academic standards. The academic standards addressed in the STAR Program describe what students at each grade level should know and be able to do in English-language arts, mathematics, history-social science, and science. 

Students in grades two through eleven participate in the STAR Program in the spring of each year. The STAR Program is made up of sub tests that students at our school will take May 4-13.  In grades two through six, students will be tested in mathematics and language arts.  Additionally, students in grade five will be tested in science, and students in grade four will be tested in writing.

How Are STAR Results Used?

 The tests that make up the STAR Program provide results that are used for different purposes. Three major purposes include communications with parents/guardians, evaluation of school programs, and state and federal accountability for schools.

Parent/Guardian Communications

First, STAR Program results provide parents/guardians with information about their children’s progress. The results are a tool for increasing communication and collaboration between parents/guardians and teachers to improve student learning. Along with teacher report cards and information from classroom tests, the STAR Student Report can be used by parents/guardians to talk with teachers about ways to improve student achievement in meeting the California academic standards. Any discrepancies between report cards and the scores reported on the STAR Student Report also should be discussed.

 Program Evaluation

Second, STAR Program results help school districts and schools identify strengths and weaknesses in their educational programs.  Each year, school district and school staff thoroughly examine STAR Program test results for groups and individual students for each grade level and subject tested. Their findings are used to help determine:

The extent to which students are learning the academic standards

Instructional areas that can be improved for better student achievement 

Teaching strategies that can be developed to address needs of students

Decisions about how to use funds to ensure that students achieve the standards 


Third, the results are used for state and federal accountability programs that monitor each school’s progress toward achieving established goals.

STAR Program results are used to calculate each school’s Academic Performance Index (API). The API is a major component of California’s Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) and is used to rank the academic performance of schools, compare schools with similar characteristics (i.e., size and ethnic make up), identify low-performing and high priority schools, and set yearly targets for academic growth.

The STAR Program results also are used to comply with federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation that requires all schools to meet specific academic goals. The progress of each school toward achieving these goals is provided annually in an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report. Each year, California schools must meet AYP goals or show that a specified percent of students, district wide and at each school, are performing at or above the proficient level on the English-language arts and mathematics California Standards Tests (CSTs) and the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA). At the high school level, the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) results are used in place of the CSTs to make this determination.

Finally, school districts may use the STAR Program results along with other information about student achievement to:

Make decisions about student promotion or retention

Identify students who may be eligible for special programs, including Title I, Gifted and Talented Education Program (GATE), or intervention/remediation programs

STAR results, however, should never be used in isolation as the basis for such important decisions.

Clearly, the information provided on different STAR reports is very important for school districts and school administrators, teachers, and parents/guardians. By having more than one test, the STAR Program is able to provide the kind of results that are needed for these different purposes.