CAASPP California Professional Development

CAASPP professional development

In comparison to the California Standards Test (CST), the CAASPP presents a wider variety of challenges for students and educators to overcome. In order to address the unique CAASPP stressors, it is vital that teachers are able to recognize the Strategic Thinking skills required within any assessment question and clearly articulate them to their students. This is why we’ve created a path to CAASPP success with our “Countdown to the CAASPP” program. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what makes the CAASPP particularly challenging and how we train educators to navigate these difficulties. 

The Unique CAASPP Math Challenges in California


The California Standards Test (CST) was replaced by the CAASPP in 2013. The CST showed a steady increase in student performance for over a decade while the CAASPP California results from the 2021-2022 school year are still lagging behind: only 47.06% of students in California met or exceeded the standard for ELA and 22.38% of students met or exceeded the standards for Math. The main reason for this is that the CAASPP contains more cognitive stressors than the CST. In addition to content mastery and vocabulary students must prepare for, the CAASPP introduces more enhanced tech types and higher levels of Strategic Thinking which offer more space for simple mistakes even when students understand the content on the exam.

Addressing the CAASPP Math Cognitive Stressors

Now that we’ve established how the CAASPP is more challenging for students, let’s discuss how educators and administrators can equip students with the right tools to master this test.

The 3 keys to CAASPP improvement are:

  1. Teachers and students understand the kind of thinking the questions are asking for and engage in strategies that develop this thinking.
  2. Students have the opportunity to practice with technology similar to the kind they will see on the CAASPP and preferably be able to receive feedback on their performance.
  3. Teachers know how to develop performance tasks and scaffold how to do them with their students.

First, it is vital that teachers understand how to identify the types of strategic thinking in each assessment problem and the common mistakes that students make on the different tech-enhanced question types.

Then, educators must be able to modify their lessons to address the CAASPP question types and Strategic Thinking within their daily and weekly curriculum. For this, it’s important that educators know what types of Strategic Thinking best connect to the topics they are currently teaching so they can apply them to their instruction. 

Finally, educators need to be able to analyze data to determine which skills students are proficient in and which they still need help with. The ability to be able to clearly and quickly identify if students have a content problem, or if their struggle is related to tech or Strategic Thinking, is a game-changer for CAASPP practice. 

CAASPP Math California: Century Community Charter School

CAASPP California Training

In our Countdown to the CAASPP training at Century Community Charter School, we first walked through the different types of Strategic Thinking including Visual and Situational Analysis, Graphing and Item Interaction, and Recognizing Operations. 

Next, we took educators through a breakdown of real data that demonstrated the common mistakes students make on CAASPP question types like checkboxes, hotspots, and free texts. 

Then, we analyzed actual CAASPP test-released questions by identifying the type of thinking found in each question and suggested personalized strategies to target these kinds of questions in ongoing instruction. 

Strategic Thinking Types
CAASPP Question Analysis #1

An example of how we do this in our training is by breaking down an assessment question by the type of content students must understand, the type of tech that is being used, and the kinds of strategic thinking needed to effectively answer the question.

CAASPP Question Analysis

Content: The problem above requires students to find the percentage of a number. For example, they specifically need to clearly understand how to find 20 percent of 50. 

Tech: For example, a checkbox question. Students commonly miss this question because when they see a checkbox question they answer it like a multiple-choice question – and only select one right answer.

Strategic Thinking: For example, a question requires Situational Analysis because it offers students multiple options for the answer. The best strategy to teach students here is to try each option separately from one another, and – even once they’ve found one answer that works – they must continue down the options and try each one. On the previous California Standards Test, Situational Analysis was never required: the test would directly ask “What is 20% of 50?”.

The most common reason students miss this question is that they aren’t familiar with the tech type and they don’t understand the Strategic Thinking needed. When teachers get the data back from the CAASPP and students missed this question, the common assumption is that students need more training on percentages – when in fact, many know the content. What they actually need is more help understanding the Strategic Thinking so they better grasp what is being asked of them. 

The CAASPP is a monster of an exam and our ultimate goal is to equip students, teachers, and administrators with the right weapons to fight it. The most important weapons needed are quick, real-time data analysis and a deep understanding of strategic thinking. If teachers don’t focus on incorporating these aspects into their ongoing instruction and only rely on textbooks, CAASPP scores will continue to remain the same. 

Learn more about how to provide your students with the tools to conquer CAASPP Math with our CAASPP math program for California school districts: 

CAASPP Professional Development

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