What Is a Proficiency Level?
Proficiency levels are performance levels (tied to assessments) that indicate the degree to which students have mastered material (e.g., state content standards). They are used for local and state assessments to indicate what a score (e.g., 27, 359, 68%, etc.) actually means (e.g, Proficient, Advanced, etc.). Typically, performance on an assessment is divided into 5 proficiency levels. Each proficiency level has a range of numbers associated with it so that if a student's score falls within that range, he or she earns that proficiency level. These levels are communicated as numbers or as text; for example, Far Below Basic is 1, Below Basic is 2, Basic is 3, Proficient is 4, and Advanced is 5.
When a student takes a CAPA, CMA, CST, or STS (all STAR tests), he or she receives a raw score for the test as a whole. The raw score for the overall test is transformed into a scale score (also called scaled score) through an equating process that allows a test (same subject, same grade level, etc.) to represent the same level of difficulty from one year to the next. Scale scores then translate into proficiency levels (Far Below Basic, Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced), which also represent the same level of difficulty for the same test from one year to the next. Scale scores and proficiency levels are only available for the test as a whole, and not for content clusters.
The scale score ranges (e.g., 300-249) are essentially performance bands that equate to particular proficiency levels. A student must score at least 350 (scale score), which equals a proficiency level of 4 (Proficient), in order to demonstrate mastery of grade level standards on a CMA, CST, or STS. A student must score at least 35 (scale score), which equals a proficiency level of 4 (Proficient), in order to demonstrate mastery of grade level standards on a CAPA.
See the "Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR)" lessons for appropriate data analysis details.
Visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/resources.asp for more information on STAR tests, blueprints (featuring how questions and standards relate to strands), and released test questions (featuring how standards relate to clusters). Reference Chapter 1 of the California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Post-Test Guide available at http://www.startest.org/archive.html and California Technical Reports available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/technicalrpts.asp for more information on analyzing results.
Abbreviations and Terms
CAPA - California Alternate Performance Assessment (alternative to CST for students with severe cognitive disabilities; must easier than CST)
CMA - California Modified Assessment (alternative to CST for qualifying Special Education students; much harder than CAPA but easier than CST)
CST - California Standards Test (for all students who do not qualify for the CAPA or CMA)
STAR - Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR Program includes CAPA, CMA, CST, and STS and orchestrates EAP testing)
STS - Standards-based Tests in Spanish (required for Spanish-speaking English Learners receiving instruction in Spanish or in U.S. < 1 year)