The STAIRS/Appeals process must be used to report testing incidents that occur during the administration of the online and paper–pencil tests for the CAASPP, Summative ELPAC, and the Initial ELPAC.
After a STAIRS case is submitted, the submitter receives a confirmation email containing a case number; the LEA coordinator is copied if the STAIRS case is submitted by the site coordinator. MyTOMS at a Glance alerts the LEA if there are STAIRS cases in Draft status that need to be submitted.
Some incidents may require that an Appeal be submitted to reset, restore, reopen, rescore, invalidate, or request a grace period extension for a test. The type of Appeal is determined and submitted when the STAIRS case is submitted. Some incidents do not require an Appeal. STAIRS is available only during the test administration window.
If there is a breach or irregularity due to social media exposure on the part of a student or adult or to media coverage of an administration, the site coordinator must immediately inform the respective LEA coordinator, who must immediately notify CalTAC at 800-955-2954 about the breach or irregularity. In addition, the LEA must also submit a STAIRS case documenting the testing incident of breach or irregularity.
Site ELPAC Coordinator and CAASPP Test Site Coordinator Responsibilities
- Receives notification of an incident
- Reviews the information provided and verifies that an incident has occurred
- Contacts the LEA ELPAC coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator and provides all pertinent information regarding the incident (If it is the established procedure of the LEA, the site coordinator may submit a STAIRS case, which may or may not result in a request for an Appeal.)
LEA ELPAC Coordinator and LEA CAASPP Coordinator Responsibilities
- Receives notification of an incident
- Reviews the information and verifies that the occurrence is a reportable incident
- Notifies CalTAC immediately (by phone) if the breach is due to social media exposure on the part of a student or adult or to media coverage of an administration
- Reports the incident by submitting a STAIRS case
- Keeps any documentation associated with the incident for one year
The STAIRS/Appeals process requires the following information from coordinators:
- Date of the incident
- School name
- Grade affected
- Test name
- Users with designated ELPAC roles can select Initial ELPAC or Summative ELPAC.
- Users with designated CAASPP roles can select CAA, CAA for Science, CAST, CSA, and Smarter Balanced.
- Test type or domain (The selections for this drop-down list are dependent on the test name selected.)
- The ELPAC can be selected for any of the four domains of Reading, Listening, Speaking, or Writing.
- The CAA can be selected for ELA or mathematics.
- Smarter Balanced can be selected for ELA-Performance Task, ELA-Non PT, ELA-Special Version or Emergency Form, Math-PT, Math-Non PT, and Math- Special Version or Emergency Form.
- Test delivery or score entry
- Users have the option to choose either an online or paper–pencil assessment for the CAST, Smarter Balanced, and ELPAC.
- Type of testing issue, which is listed in the Testing Incident Types topic
- Total number of students involved in this incident
- SSID(s) for the student(s) involved when the testing incident type requires an SSID
- A brief description of the incident
- The description should contain additional information about the case and not just restate the testing issue selected on the previous screen(s).
Cautions When Using the STAIRS/Appeals Process
Note the following about submitting a case in STAIRS to report a testing incident:
- Coordinators can only identify one ELPAC domain per submittal and must use the STAIRS/Appeals process to file a separate incident case for each domain. Incidents cannot be combined.
- Coordinators can only identify one CAASPP or ELPAC grade level and assessment per submittal and must use the STAIRS/Appeals process to file a separate incident case for each grade level and assessment. Incidents cannot be combined.
- Check with the email administrator that the email address ca‑firstname.lastname@example.org is allowlisted and that emails can be received from this address. STAIRS email confirmations should be received within two hours of submittal.
- Refer to appendix B of the CAASPP and ELPAC Technical Specifications and Configuration Guide for Online Testing for a complete list of URLs that should be allowlisted by the network’s firewalls.
Note the following when filing an Appeal:
- If a test is reopened, a student will have 10 calendar days to complete the reopened test for the ELPAC and CAASPP.
- Delayed Appeal—The LEA CAASPP coordinator or CAASPP site coordinator can choose to start a STAIRS case in TOMS for an online assessment and save it in Draft status for submission at a later date but before the end of the testing window under the following conditions:
- In the event of student cheating that does not involve electronic devices, and where the LEA wants the student to complete the assessment (Because a student cannot finish a test that has been invalidated, the LEA may delay submitting the Appeal and save the STAIRS case in Draft mode. Once the student has completed the test, the LEA can finalize and submit the Appeal for invalidation. Invalidated summative tests will be scored, and scores will be provided on the SSR with a note that an irregularity occurred. In the calculation of the school’s participation rate for accountability purposes, the student[s] will be counted as having participated.)
- In the event of the accidental administration of a summative assessment instead of the interim or practice test, where the student(s) needs a Re-open Appeal later because the student will not be ready to finish the assessment before it expires
- Any Appeal that results in a student’s continued testing must be filed with sufficient time for the student to complete testing before the end of the testing window.
- There are various notifications in TOMS that communicate case status.
- A case in Draft status will generate a message in the [Notifications] tab on the LEA’s home page in TOMS or on the LEA’s To-Do List.
- The messages in the To-Do List and in the [Notifications] tab also remind the LEA about the submission of STAIRS cases in Draft status before the testing window ends.
Considerations Prior to Test Administration
LEA coordinators should work with site coordinators and other LEA staff to reduce the chances that student testing will be interrupted or delayed if a testing incident were to occur.
- Verify that student test settings are correct in TOMS and in the Test Administrator Interface before the student starts testing, because if a Reset Appeal is required to resolve incorrect settings, the student’s testing will be interrupted or delayed while the STAIRS case is submitted and the Reset Appeal is processed.
- The student’s embedded designated supports and non-embedded accessibility resources for the Initial ELPAC can be changed in the Test Administrator Interface before the student starts testing or while the test is paused.
- For CAASPP and the Summative ELPAC, the LEA must ensure that accommodations are correctly assigned to the student(s) in CALPADS and that correct test settings and designated supports have been selected for the student(s) in TOMS before the student(s) start testing.
- Set up an appropriate schedule with testing times that ensure all students can test in a timely manner.
- LEAs are encouraged to ensure that all tests within the CAASPP and all domains for the Summative ELPAC and the Initial ELPAC are completed before they expire. This will avoid the need to submit the STAIRS case and ask for a Re‑open Appeal.
- While planning to administer a test for the Listening domain, the LEA ELPAC coordinators and site ELPAC coordinators must check that audio arrangements are functioning accurately and eligible students have been assigned the pause or replay audio embedded designated support.
Considerations for Locking Student Records
What follows are rules about locking student grades, test settings, and test assignments:
- The student’s special education status associated with testing is locked at the student level when the first CAASPP (Smarter Balanced or CAA) or Summative ELPAC is started. The locked value is represented by the Special Education Status for Testing field.
- The Special Education Status for Testing field is not locked when the Initial ELPAC is started.
- Because student test settings are associated with the CALPADS Special Education Status field, accommodations—embedded and non-embedded—are not locked. These settings can be updated, between tests, even if the Special Education Status for Testing field is locked.
- A student is prevented from taking multiple summative assessments across multiple grades. The Grade, Alternate Assessment, Domain Exemption, Individualized Education Program (IEP), and Primary Disability fields are locked at the student level when the first CAASPP or Summative ELPAC is started. The grade lock applies to both the CAASPP and Summative ELPAC. The grade lock is not subject to the Initial ELPAC.
- Once a student starts testing, the student’s test assignment cannot be changed from a general assessment to an alternate assessment or from an alternate assessment to a general assessment. In the event that an LEA needs to change the test assignments for the student(s), the LEA ELPAC coordinator must contact the LEA CAASPP coordinator or vice-versa to reset all the tests or domains that were started or completed. Once all the tests or domains are reset, the LEA must ensure tests assignments are appropriately selected for the student.
- If any Appeal(s) for the Initial ELPAC need to be processed in STAIRS, the Summative ELPAC registration cannot be created in TOMS. Ensure all Appeal(s) for the Initial ELPAC are processed before a student starts the Summative ELPAC.
- An Initial ELPAC Appeal cannot be submitted or processed—either approved or rejected—when a student’s valid Summative ELPAC registration is available in TOMS and the student has started testing for at least one domain of the Summative ELPAC.
- Summative ELPAC registrations cannot be created in TOMS if any STAIRS Appeal(s) for the Initial ELPAC require processing. All Appeals for the Initial ELPAC must be completed before student(s) start testing for the Summative ELPAC.
- If student(s) have started testing for the Summative ELPAC and the LEA needs to submit an Appeal for an Initial ELPAC domain assessment taken by the student(s), the LEA must first submit Reset Appeal(s) in STAIRS for all the domains for the Summative ELPAC where the student(s) have started or completed testing. The Appeal(s) for the Initial ELPAC can be submitted only after all Appeals for the Summative ELPAC have been processed.
Considerations for When Not to Report an Incident
In the following circumstances, there is no need to report an incident by submitting a STAIRS case:
- If student logon information is lost or misplaced, do not report; this is a breach of a student’s personally identifiable information that should be addressed at the local level.
- Except for Speaking and Writing domains for the Summative ELPAC and the Initial ELPAC, the system ensures that students answer all questions and prevents submission of the test for that domain with unanswered questions. Therefore, a STAIRS case is not needed if the coordinator thinks that a question was not answered for the Reading or Listening domain—this scenario has been thoroughly tested and no evidence has ever been found that this happens.
- With the exception of the CAAs for ELA, mathematics, and science, the CAASPP system does not allow students to skip questions or submit a segment where any questions have not been answered. There is no reason to submit a STAIRS case if the coordinator thinks that a question was not answered—this scenario has been thoroughly tested and no evidence has ever been found that this happens.
- If a student used an electronic device after testing was completed, do not report. However, if the student was actively engaged in a test session or the student completed testing but the LEA can verify that the device was being used to help other students that were engaged in the test session, then report.
- If a student in grade ten or eleven has already started testing in any CAASPP content-area assessment and the student is not required to take the science test this year after all, do not administer the test and do not submit a STAIRS case.
- If an English learner is enrolled in a U.S. school for less than 12 months as of April 15 of the test administration year and accidentally took a CAASPP ELA assessment, do not report, as this student’s score will not be used for accountability purposes.
- If an SSID has an existing Invalidate Appeal for the CAASPP, the system does not allow a test to be reopened.
STAIRS sends an automated email to verify a submission, approval, rejection, withdrawal, and addition of case notes. When a site ELPAC coordinator or CAASPP test site coordinator has submitted the case, the LEA ELPAC coordinator or LEA CAASPP coordinator is also copied as a receiver of the same email.
Notes and Comments
The Notes feature can be used to communicate about STAIRS cases irrespective of whether the case involves an Appeal. LEA site users can use the Notes feature to communicate with the CDE or CalTAC for that particular STAIRS case only. However, only LEA coordinator can contact CalTAC by phone regarding a breach. The Notes feature permits secure communication with the CDE and CalTAC about a STAIRS case.
Some testing incidents for the ELPAC may require that an irregularity notation be included in reports related to STAIRS, on the STAIRS Confirmation screen, on the STAIRS Summary screen, and in the [Score Status] tab of the Student Profile in TOMS. The irregularity notation is applicable to the Initial ELPAC and the Summative ELPAC only. An Appeal may or may not be accompanied with an irregularity notation. The student(s) with this notation will be included in the calculation of the school’s participation rate and the irregularity will not affect the student’s scores.
Nonappealable ELPAC STAIRS Incidents with an Irregularity Notation—Manual Approval
Scenarios are dependent on certain thresholds. Test completion limits are different between ELPAC types.
CalTAC may approve a STAIRS case that does not need an Appeal but would result in an irregularity notation to be included in reports related to STAIRS, in the STAIRS user interface in TOMS, and at a domain in the [Score Status] tab of the Student Profile if any of the following occurred:
A student without an IEP or Section 504 plan received an incorrect designated support and the following test completion threshold is true for the Initial ELPAC:
- The student has completed more than three questions in the Listening domain.
- The student has completed more than six questions in the Speaking domain.
- The student has completed more than two questions in the Reading domain.
- The student has completed more than one question in the Writing domain.
The test completion threshold at the domain level for the Summative ELPAC is as follows:
- The student has completed more than six questions in the Listening domain.
- The student has completed more than three questions in the Speaking domain.
- The student has completed more than six questions in the Reading domain.
- The student has completed more than two questions in the Writing domain.
- Administrative errors occurred, such as related instructional materials left on the walls in the testing room; failure to ensure administration and supervision of the assessment(s) by qualified, trained personnel; incorrect instructions given and not corrected prior to testing; or a test examiner or coordinator sharing a username and password occurred for the ELPAC.
- A test examiner, teacher, or a parent coached or provided some assistance to students that may affect their responses.
- The test examiner provided students with nonallowable materials or devices or nonprescribed accommodation during test administration.
- A test examiner or coordinator modified student responses at any time.
The CDE may approve a STAIRS case that does not need an Appeal but would result in an irregularity notation to be included in reports related to STAIRS, in the STAIRS user interface in TOMS, and at a domain or test level in the [Score Status] tab of the Student Profile if any of the following occurred:
A student copied, discussed, or otherwise retained test items, stimuli, reading passages, writing prompts, or answers for any reason.
- A student retained scratch paper and had it during the same test in a subsequent test session.
- A student cheated or accessed unauthorized devices such as a cell phone, tablet, or smartwatch during testing. Student(s) cheated or provided answers to each other, including passing notes and giving help to other students during testing.
- A student accessed the internet or used unauthorized software or applications during the student’s testing event.
- A student disrupted the test session by making distracting gestures or talking during the test session.
- The description of the testing incident is not included in either of the testing incidents available in the STAIRS/Appeals process, and the STAIRS case that the LEA wants to submit requires an irregularity notation to be included in reports related to STAIRS, in the STAIRS user interface in TOMS and at a domain or test level in the [Score Status] page of the Student Profile.
Nonappealable ELPAC STAIRS Incidents with No Irregularity Notation—Manual Approval
Certain testing incidents in STAIRS for the ELPAC do not result in an Appeal or an irregularity notation; however, CalTAC approval is needed when a STAIRS case is submitted for the following testing incidents:
- A student received a domain exemption or an alternate assessment that was not prescribed by the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan. This is applicable for online and paper–pencil tests for the Summative ELPAC and the Initial ELPAC.
- A student who registered for a paper–pencil test for the Summative ELPAC or the Initial ELPAC did not receive a domain exemption or an alternate assessment as prescribed by the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.
- An administrative error during an Initial ELPAC assessment resulted in the change in ELAS status of the student and so a correction is required.
A nonappealable STAIRS case that does not need an irregularity notation may require approval from the CDE in the following instances:
- The description of the testing incident is not included in either of the testing incident options available in the STAIRS/Appeals process and the STAIRS case that the LEA wants to submit does not require an irregularity notation to be included in reports related to STAIRS, in the STAIRS user interface in TOMS, and at the domain level in the [Score Status] tab of the Student Profile.
- An Appeal submitted earlier had an incorrect irregularity flag that needs to be revoked.
ELPAC Plan of Action
Some testing incidents for the Initial ELPAC and the Summative ELPAC require that a corrective plan of action be provided by the LEA within the case description at the time of submitting the STAIRS case. The submission of STAIRS incidents for certain testing issues for the ELPAC require the LEA ELPAC coordinator or the site ELPAC coordinator to provide a corrective plan of action within the case description describing the resolution the LEA intends to implement to avoid such irregularities or breaches in the future. The corrective plan of action may include, but is not limited to, a description of specific training or communication measures.
The testing incident types that require a plan are as follows:
- Accessibility Issue
- Administration Error
- Administered Incorrect Assessment
- Technical Issue (only includes the scenario for the Listening domain that results in a Reset Appeal)
- Exposing Secure Materials
- Incorrect SSID Switch
- Student Cheating or Accessing Unauthorized Devices
- Student Disruption
- Validity Issue