New California School Accountability System

Submitted by Lindi Dreibelbis

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California has a new accountability system upon which the quality of schools will be judged. This system, under development since 2013, focuses not only on accountability, but also on continuous improvement and replaces the retired Academic Performance Index (API).

The former API rated each school and district with a number between 200 and 1,000 derived only from student test scores. By contrast, seven state indicators are woven into what is called the “California School Dashboard,” the name coined by the California Department of Education for this new online tool. Local indicators in each school district are also being developed. The State Board of Education believes this new system defines school performance more comprehensively than a single test score. The seven state indicators in the California School Dashboard are:

  • Academic Indicators
  • English Language Arts, grades 3-8 
  • Mathematics, grades 3-8 
  • English Learner Progress Indicator
  • Suspension Rate Indicator
  • Graduation Rate Indicator 
  • Chronic Absenteeism Indicator
  • College/Career Preparedness Indicator

Additionally, each school and district will be adding local indicators next school year. The local indicators will be in the areas of:

  • Basic Conditions (teacher qualifications, textbooks, safe and clean buildings) 
  • Implementation of Academic Standards
  • Parent Involvement and Engagement
  • Local Climate Survey

The new system is based on performance and improvement. Status from one or more school years will be compared with change over time to determine if a school or district is “very high” to “very low” as measured against increases, maintenance or decreases in these categories. 

The state released the first Dashboard profile data in February 2017. The state is currently reporting five state indicators with 25 potential outcomes. La Cañada Unified School District received the highest designation possible in English language arts and mathematics. Both of these academic indicators were “very high” and increased in 2015-2016. The district also was awarded a “very high” performance rating in graduation rate. The graduation rate has increased over three years of cohort data since the 2011-2012 school year. English learner progress also received a “very high” ranking. Their progress was maintained over three years beginning in 2012-2013. Over 90% of English learners districtwide showed improvement.

The only area where LCUSD received less than the highest mark was in suspension rate. The data for this indicator was the 2014-15 suspension rate minus the 2013-2014 suspension rate. While the suspension rate was low at 1.3%, that was an increase from the previous year of 0.3%.

There are two other indicators which are not yet operational in the Dashboard. They are chronic absenteeism and college/career readiness. Performance on these two measures will be added to the Dashboard in the 2017-2018 school year.

For the first time at the end of this year, all public school districts will report student attendance to the state. Chronic absenteeism is defined in Ed Code as a pupil who is absent on 10% or more of the school days in which he/she is enrolled. It is important to note that the absences counted are for any reason. In La Cañada, a student with 18 or more absences in the entire school year may be counted by the state as a chronic absentee.

College and career readiness will be measured by the Early Assessment Program (EAP) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) results for juniors, Advanced Placement test results, number of students completing the University of California admission (a-g) requirements, Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathway completion and dual enrollment completion.

The new system encourages districts and schools to compare student performance with themselves over time rather than comparing one district’s performance to another’s. Striving for local continuous improvement is the foundation of this new accountability model. The data provided helps administrators and teachers target certain student groups and areas for improvement.  

The Dashboard results will also be used to guide the development of the Local Control Accountability Plan, which allows school districts flexibility in using state funding in the areas of most need as determined by a large stakeholder group.  

For more information about the new CA Dashboard, please visit:

The California School Dashboard Reports for every public school and district in the state can be found at: