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 and now a pandemic that have dramatically altered California’s public K-12 education landscape.


Over the past decade, California’s K-12 public school system has undergone significant changes, including a shift to new standards, an overhaul of its testing and accountability systems, and a new system for funding schools.   

The coronavirus pandemic, which hit California in March 2020, has caused even more seismic shifts, as schools rapidly closed and shifted to distance learning. To ease the transition, the state suspended requirements for taking daily attendance and the administration of the CAASPP/Smarter Balanced tests, and universities stopped requiring the SAT/ACT college admission tests, among a great many other changes and waivers. The implications of how the pandemic will affect data collection and reporting are still not known, but we do know there will be no CAASPP data for 2019-20.

Below is more information on some of the reforms and changes that California has implemented over the past decade. 

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 required new tests to measure how well students are learning. 

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 states participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. After field testing the assessments the year before, California first administered the new tests in spring 2015. (The science test is currently being field tested.)

You can now find results for the CAASPP English Language Arts/Literacy and math tests in the Performance section of the Student Profile. 

The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), which had been a graduation requirement for almost all high school students since 2006, was discontinued in 2015. Lawmakers suspended the exam as a graduation requirement 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 English language development standards for English learners in November 2012, and the California Department of Education is transitioning from the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) to the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) as the state English language proficiency assessment in 2018.  

New accountability system

California has also changed 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 began work on a new accountability system that includes measurements of academic achievement, school climate, parent involvement, implementation of academic standards and other indicators of school conditions and student performance. In March 2017, state education officials released the California School Dashboard, a website that evaluates school and district performance on a variety of state and local indicators. The dashboard combines performance, such as test scores, with growth, i.e. improvement in those scores over time. Unlike the API, the new Dashboard does not provide an overall ranking of a school or district.

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 2018-19. 

Additional metrics will include student suspension and chronic absentee rates and multiple measures of students' readiness for college and careers.

Click here to visit the California School Dashboard.

Click here for more information about the Dashboard.

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  based on unduplicated counts of low-income, English learner, and foster youth/homeless students. Schools with large concentrations of these high-needs students receive further 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 on spending 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. 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

Results for the CAASPP/Smarter Balanced assessments are now available at the school, district, county, and state level in the Performance section of the Student tab. You can also compare schools or districts using CAASPP data.

The 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 Ed-Data archive.

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.