Fiscal, Demographic, and Performance Data on California’s K-12 Schools

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Changes to California's K-12 Education System

A quick update on the convergence of reforms dramatically altering California’s public K-12 education landscape.


California’s K-12 public school system is undergoing significant changes, including a shift to new standards, an overhaul of its testing and accountability systems, and a new system for funding schools. 

New academic standards, new tests

In 2010, the California State Board of Education adopted new Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. The Board adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in September 2013. These new standards require new tests to measure how well students are learning. School districts across the state are in various stages of implementing the new standards.

In 2013, the passage of Assembly Bill 484 introduced a new statewide assessment system, aligned to the new standards, to replace the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system and eliminate the California Standards Tests (CSTs) that had been in use since 1997. The new assessment system, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), includes English language arts and mathematics tests aligned to the new standards. These assessments were created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. After field testing the assessments the year before, California first administered the new tests in spring 2015. 

The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which had been a graduation requirement for almost all high school students since 2006, has been discontinued. Lawmakers suspended the exam as a graduation requirement in 2015 and directed school districts to retroactively issue high school diplomas to students who met all other graduation requirements but did not pass the exit exam.

The State Board also approved new standards for English Language Development in November 2012, which will require a new test of English language proficiency for students classified as English learners. Until that test is developed, no sooner than 2018, schools must continue administering the current California English Language Development Test (CELDT).

New accountability system

California is also changing the accountability system it uses to measure how well schools serve their students.

The Academic Performance Index (API), which was in place for 15 years, measured schools’ growth in academic achievement based on statewide assessment results. In 2014, the California State Board of Education suspended the API and is now in the process of creating a new school and district accountability system including measurements of academic achievement, school climate, parent involvement, implementation of academic standards and other indicators of school conditions and student performance.

Some of the metrics that the State Board selected – high school graduation rates, scores on standardized tests in science, math and English language arts, and the success of English language learners in becoming proficient in English – also will satisfy federal requirements for testing and accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Congress passed in 2015. The new law, the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, will take effect in 2017-18. The state’s new accountability system also must be in place by that time.

Additional metrics will include student suspension and chronic absentee rates and  multiple measures of students' readiness for college and careers. The first school and district report cards, grading performance on all of the indicators, are expected to be released early in 2017.

Once the new accountability system is in place, we will develop charts to display this information on Ed-Data. Until then, you can find performance data including California High School Examination passage rates*, graduation and dropout data, physical fitness test results and data for Advanced Placement (AP), SAT, and ACT exams on the performance tab at the school, district, county, and state levels.

Reforming the School Finance System

On July 1, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that overhauls how California funds its K-12 schools.

The new funding law ended the old system of “revenue-limits”—general-purpose funding from the state, which was based on complex historical formulas and made up approximately 70% of a district’s budget. It replaces it with a per-student base grant that varies by grade span, with additional funds for high-needs students, based on unduplicated counts of low-income, English learner, and foster youth students. Schools with large concentrations of these populations receive dollars in addition to their base funding to help support the educational needs of those students.

The new system also eliminates most state “categorical” programs, which came with restrictions on how the money could be spent, and shifts decision making related to the spending of all dollars to local school districts and the communities they serve.

In addition, LCFF institutes new accountability measures requiring districts to demonstrate whether they have achieved the desired results for all students and for student subgroups receiving additional dollars. A Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) must be created by every school district, charter school and county office of education in California. It must address the educational needs of all students and be directly connected to the school/district budget.

See Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula for more information.

What this means for the information on Ed-Data

Since the redesign of the Ed-Data website coincided with these changes to the testing and accountability systems, the new Ed-Data website does not include data from the state’s previous California Standards Tests (also known as STAR), which are not comparable with the new Smarter Balanced assessments. The new site also does not include data for the old Academic Performance Index (API). Data for the CSTs and the old API can be found on the Classic Ed-Data website.

We are currently working to develop graphs to present data from the new Smarter Balanced Assessments/California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests on Ed-Data and will add data on the new accountability system once it is in place.

If you have questions about the information on Ed-Data, please don't hesitate to contact us.


*Because the California High School Exit Exam is no longer being administered, CAHSEE data will not be available beyond the 2014-15 academic year.