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Understanding State and District Assessments, Standardized and Non - Standardized Accommodations and Alternate Assessment, and the CAHSEE


General Topic Brief for OSEP, about the state and district assessments

The OSERS has published guidance about provisions in IDEA related to students with disabilities and state and district-wide assessments.

Scribe Guidelines (PDF; 178KB; 6pp.)
Scribe and Manually Coded English and American Sign Language Guidelines

   Accommodations and Modifications 
   Special Education Accommodations/Modifications for California Statewide Assessments.

   Form for Review Process (PDF; 177KB; 3pp.)
   Proposed CAHSEE Variations

What if my child cannot participate in the standardized testing?


All children should participate in state and district assessments. If your child cannot participate in the standardized testing, then your child should be assessed by an alternate assessment method and it should be written in to your child’s IEP. Alternate Assessment 

   California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) Info  

STAR Testing in California:
Test Results Reporting Site    Results for all Tests in the STAR Program.

For information about the California High School Exit Exam:

Frequently Asked Questions
Questions and Answers for Administrators and Facts About the CAHSEE.


California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) Results

For more information, please contact CDE's CAHSEE Office at (916) 445-9449 or

The Office of Civil Rights list of accommodations for special education students with disabilities:

Appendix C: Accommodations Used by States Table

This Appendix lists many of the accommodations used in large-scale testing for limited English proficient students and students with disabilities. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, and its use in this document should not be seen as an endorsement of any specific accommodations. Rather, the Appendix is meant to provide examples of the types of accommodations that are being used with limited English proficient students and students with disabilities.



Table 1-  Accommodations for Limited English Proficient Students



Translation of directions into native language
Translation of test into native language
Bilingual version of test (English and native language)
Further explanation of directions
Plain language editing
Use of word lists/ dictionaries
Bilingual dictionary
Large print



Oral reading in English
Oral reading in native language
Person familiar to students administers test
Clarification of directions
Use of technology
Alone, in study carrel
Separate room
With small group
Extended testing time
More breaks
Extending sessions over multiple days



Allow student to respond in writing in native language
Allow student to orally respond in native language
Allow student to orally respond in English
Use of technology



Out-of-level testing
Alternate scoring of writing test


Adapted from: Council of Chief State School Officers, Annual Survey: State Student Assessment Programs, Washington D.C., 1999


Table 2 - Accommodations for Students with Disabilities


Braille edition
Large-print editions
Templates to reduce visual field
Short-segment testing booklets
Key words highlighted in directions
Reordering of items
Use of spell checker
Use of word lists/dictionaries
Translated into sign language


Mark responses in booklet
Use template for recording
Point to response
Lined paper
Use sign language
Use typewriter/computer/ word processor
Use Braille writer
Oral response, use of scribe
Alternative response methods, use of scribe
Answers recorded on audiotape
Administrator checks to ensure that student is placing responses in correct area
Lined paper for large script printing
Communication board


Out-of level testing



Oral reading of questions
Use of magnifying glass
Explanation of directions
Audiotape directions or test items
Repeating of directions
Interpretation of directions
Videotape in American Sign Language
Interpreter signs test in front of classroom/student
Signing of directions
Amplification equipment
Enhanced lighting
Special acoustics
Alone in study carrel
Individual administration
In small groups
At home with appropriate supervision
In special education classes separate room
Off campus
Interpreter with teacher facing student; student in front of classroom
Adaptive furniture
Use place marker
Hearing aids
Student wears noise buffers
Administrator faces student
Specialized table
Auditory trainers
Read questions aloud to self
Colored transparency
Assist student in tracking by placing students finger on item
Typewriter device to screen out sounds
Extended testing time
More breaks
Extending sessions over multiple days
Altered time of day that test is administered

Adapted from: Council of Chief State School Officers, Annual Survey: State Student Assessment Programs, Washington D.C., 1999

A Parent Guide to Achievement Testing

California is committed to accountability for the achievement of all students. This guide answers questions about tests that students take in school to measure achievement. These are not tests to determine eligibility for special services, but tests that all students take.

What is achievement testing?

Assessment involves collecting information about student knowledge, skills, or abilities. Teachers collect information about students to make decisions about how and what to teach. Watching a child solve a problem or play with others are informal assessments. Giving an achievement test is a formal assessment.

What are typical kinds of tests?

Schools give various types of tests. Achievement tests measure what a child has learned. Performance tests may require students to carry out a task, for example a science experiment, or class project. Aptitude tests examine potential for future academic work.

Why are tests given?

There are several reasons for testing your child. One reason is to show how much a student has learned. Another purpose is to reveal how successfully a school has educated students.

Tests tell the teacher about student progress. Results help teachers improve instruction by customizing it to fit the child’s needs. School results allow the public to compare schools or districts.

Hasn’t my son or daughter been tested enough already?

Much information was collected to see whether your child was eligible for special education services. To continue meeting your child’s needs, on-going testing is needed.

How can more testing help my son or daughter?

Teachers use tests to plan instruction for your child. Without test results, teachers have less information to make decisions.

Doesn’t testing take time away from instruction?

It takes time to assess student learning and to make decisions. Tests help teachers judge whether their standards are high enough and whether students are learning what they need to succeed.

Where tests show weakness, teachers can provide the needed instruction. Teachers can build on strengths identified by tests. Time spent on testing can improve instruction. Time spent on assessment is time well spent.

What is statewide testing?

The state can require testing. For example, California’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program requires that all students in grades 2 – 11 take the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth Edition each year in the Spring. This test has various uses, including:

·         comparing a child’s or school’s score to some group (for example, a nationally representative group)

·         showing how well the child or school has mastered the skills expected of all students

·         showing how well the child or school has attained proficiency

Why should my child take part in the statewide test?

If your child does not take the test, then teachers will not receive his or her scores, and the results will not count for the school. Without test results, teachers are less able to make good decisions about the instruction that your child needs.

But won’t my child be at a disadvantage?

Students with disabilities can be appropriately included in statewide tests. Many students with disabilities can take tests under the same conditions as their non-disabled classmates. Some students with disabilities should take tests with accommodations. A small number of students with significant disabilities will not be able to take the same tests as other students, even with accommodations. An alternate test is needed to include these students in the school accountability system.

Accommodations used in the classroom should be used during testing, if appropriate. The goal is to level the playing field. Accommodations should help students with disabilities show what they can do. Students with disabilities can take the STAR test with appropriate accommodations, as described in his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Certain types of accommodations are sometimes provided to students with special needs. These accommodations are listed below:

·         Braille Test. A visually impaired student may complete a Braille version of the test.

·         Flexible Scheduling. The test can be administered with changes in the standard schedule for testing. These changes include extending the testing time or extending the testing over more sessions.

·         Flexible Setting. Tests can be administered in small groups, in a separate location, or using special lighting.

·         Large Print Test. The test can be printed in a larger print size than standard.

·         Out of Level Testing. The test may at a different level than the student’s grade.

·         Revised Test Format. The test booklet can be changed by increasing the space between questions or reducing the number of questions on a page.

·         Revised Test Directions. The directions for administering the test can be changed by emphasizing key words or simplifying the language.

·         Aids and/or Aides. The student can have help or special equipment to enhance vision or hearing, masks to cover a portion of the test, markers to maintain a place, readers to repeat questions, reading or signing passages, cues to maintain on-task behavior, equipment to record responses, pointers, or communication boards.

Are all accommodations that are used during instruction allowed for testing?

Accommodations used in testing should not give students with special needs an unfair advantage. For example, it may not be appropriate to read a reading test to a student. Decisions about accommodations depend on the type of test.

An accommodation should be considered if it:
·         is based on the child’s need
·         is already provided in the child’s instruction
·         does not give an unfair advantage, and
·         does not change the nature of what is being tested.

Who decides whether accommodations are used and if so, which one(s)?

Persons familiar with the test and with the student should make decisions about accommodations. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) team made up of parents, the classroom teacher, program or school administrator and specialists is in the best position to make these decisions.

How do I learn more about test accommodations?

For more information, contact your child’s teacher, counselor, or principal or California's guidelines for participation of students with disabilities in the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program



Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002

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