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Academic Performance Index (API)

The cornerstone of California's Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, the API measured the academic performance and improvement of schools based on statewide assessment results. From 1999 through 2012, traditional schools received a state rank and a “similar schools” rank by school type (elementary, middle, or high school). However, the 2013–14 Budget Bill repealed the portion of the Education Code that authorized the production of the ranks. As a result, beginning in 2014, schools will no longer receive ranks. Note: In 2014, the California State Board of Education decided not to produce the Growth API for two years during the transition to the state’s new Common Core standards and Smarter Balanced assessments. Instead, the California Department of Education has calculated a 3-year-average API for federal accountability purposes. 

Actual v. Funded ADA

The actual (total) Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for the current year versus the greater (funded) of current or prior year ADA. These numbers are the same in districts with growing numbers of students. Districts with decreasing numbers of students are funded on the prior year's ADA rather than the current year, in part to cushion the impact of declining enrollment.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)

A goal of the 2001 federal law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that requires schools and districts to measure and report students' annual progress toward proficiency in English/language arts and mathematics by 2013-14. Progress is based on whether the school or district met its Annual Measurable Objectives and demonstrated 95% participation on standardized tests, achieved its target on the Academic Performance Index, and for high schools, met target graduation rates.

Alternative Schools

A type of district school or program that provides a variety of educational options to match different student needs, interests, and learning styles.

Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM)

An alternative way of measuring student performance in schools with mostly high-risk students, such as continuation schools or opportunity schools. Prior to the 2010 Base Academic Performance Index (API), ASAM schools did not receive API targets or ranks. Starting with the 2010 Base API, ASAM schools receive API targets but no ranks.

Annual Measurable Objective (AMO)

The annual target for the percentage of students whose test scores must be proficient or above in English/language arts and mathematics. Meeting the AMO is the first step toward demonstrating Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal law No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Average Class Size

The number of students in classes H3ided by the number of classes. When calculating the "filtered" version of average class size, certain counts are excluded such as Special Education and classes with more than 50 students. Since some teachers have assignments outside regular classrooms or work part-time, the average class size is usually larger than the pupil-teacher ratio.

Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

The total number of days of student attendance H3ided by the total number of days taught. A student attending every school day would equal one ADA. Generally, ADA is lower than enrollment due to such factors as transience, dropouts, and illness. A school district's general purpose funding is based on its ADA. The state collects ADA counts at the district but not the school level.

Basic Aid

School districts that do not receive an apportionment of state funds under the LCFF (except for certain minimum state aid) because local property tax revenues equal or exceed their LCFF entitlement. These districts keep the excess taxes.

Bond Measure

Authorization by the voters for a school district or the state to issue general obligation bonds to support capital investment. Prior to 2001, local bonds required a two-thirds vote to pass. In 2001, an alternative was provided to districts to have bonds pass with a 55% vote tied to additional accountability requirements. The principal and interest are repaid through a local property special tax. A simple majority is required for approval of state bonds, with repayment made through the state General Fund.

Budget Act

A one-year statute that contains the state’s budget appropriations. It must be passed by a two-thirds vote of each house by June 15 and sent to the governor, who may not increase in H3idual items but may reduce or delete them. This deadline is not always met.

Building Fund

A school district or county office of education fund consisting of revenue from general obligation bonds and the sale, rental, or lease of property when authorized by the governing board. The money may be used only for capital outlay purposes.

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)

California's new assessment system, which in 2014 replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR). The new Smarter Balanced assessments, which are aligned to the state's new Common Core standards, will be the cornerstone of this system. 

California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS)

An annual data collection administered in October. CBEDS data are reported through an Online Reporting Application called CBEDS-ORA. Data collected include number of classified staff, estimated number of teacher hires, high school graduation requirements, number of classified staff, select educational options enrollment, technology, education calendars, parental exception waivers, bilingual paraprofessionals, and more. Student aggregate counts (graduates, dropouts, and various enrollment counts) and certificated staff data previously collected through CBEDS have been transitioned to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Although these data are no longer collected through CBEDS, the information continues to be a part of the CBEDS data files accessible via the California Department of Education website.

California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS)

A longitudinal data system used to maintain in H3idual-level data including student demographics, course data, discipline, assessments, staff assignments, and other data for state and federal reporting. CALPADS became operational in 2009.

California Standards Tests (CSTs)

Until 2014, tests in English/language arts and mathematics in grades 2-11, science in grades 5 and 9-11, and history/social science in grades 8, 10, and 11 based on California's academic content standards. This was the core of California's statewide Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR). In 2014, STAR, including the CSTs, was discontinued to make way for the new “Smarter Balanced” assessments, which are aligned to the Common Core State Standards adopted by California in 2010.


A welfare reform program that replaced AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Data about CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids) is no longer available on Ed-Data as of 2004-05. Free or Reduced Price Meals Program data can be used as a socioeconomic indicator for families and children.

Capital Outlay

Expenditures for the acquisition cost of capital assets (land, buildings, equipment), or expenditures to make improvements to capital assets that materially increase their value or useful life. Expenditures for equipment or assets less than $5,000 generally are not capital outlay.

Categorical Aid

Funds from the state or federal government granted to qualifying school districts for children with special needs, such as disabilities; or for special programs, such as special education and child nutrition. Expenditure of most categorical aid is restricted to its particular purpose. The funds are granted to districts in addition to their Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) entitlement. Note that many in H3idual categorical programs were eliminated in 2013-14 when LCFF was established. 

Certificated (Credentialed) Employees

School employees who are required by the state to hold teaching credentials, including full-time, part-time, substitute, or temporary teachers and most administrators. A teacher who has not yet acquired a credential but has an emergency permit or a waiver to teach in the classroom is included in the count.

Charter Schools

A charter school is a publicly funded school that is generally exempt from most laws governing school districts, except where specifically noted in the law. A charter school may be established as a charter or converted from an existing public school and frequently has a specific mission. The charter is granted for up to five years by a school district, county office of education, or the State Board of Education and may be renewed for periods of five years.

The law also requires that a public charter school be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and prohibits the conversion of a private school to a charter school. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.

Classified Employees

School employees who are not required to hold teaching credentials, such as secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, instructional aides, and some management personnel.


A cohort is the group of students that could potentially graduate during a four-year time period (grade 9 through grade 12). This cohort is then "adjusted" by adding students who transfer in to the cohort and subtracting the students who transferred to another school that offers a high school diploma, emigrated to another county, or died during the years covered by the cohort rate. Students who drop out during the four-year period remain in the adjusted cohort, as well as students who complete 12th grade and exit the educational system without graduating. Students who take longer than four years to graduate or remain enrolled after four years are also included as part of the cohort.

Federal regulations require all states to use a four-year cohort graduation rate for federal accountability purposes beginning in 2012. California began using cohort data to report graduation and dropout rates with the 2009-10 school year.

Calculations of cohort rates differ from the NCES calculations for high school dropout and completion rates that were used in California prior to 2009-10. As a result, graduation and dropout rates before 2009-10 should not be compared with graduation and dropout rates from 2009-10 or later.

Common Administration Districts

An elementary and high school district with the same administration, school board, and teachers' organization. This common district files a joint financial report but separate demographic and attendance reports.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

The Common Core State Standards, often referred to as “Common Core” are a set of educational standards that describe what students should know and be able to do in English language arts and math in each grade from kindergarten through 12th grade. California is among the more than 40 states that have adopted them in an effort to establish clear, consistent educational standards across state lines. California students will begin to take standardized tests measuring their knowledge of the Common Core in spring 2015.

Community Day

A  type of school that serves mandatory and other expelled students, students referred by a school attendance review board, and other high-risk youth. 

Community Schools

A type of school for high-need students who have been expelled from school or referred by probation authorities.

Continuation School

A type of school that provides students age 16-18 who are at risk of not completing their education with credit recovery and other specialized programs providing in H3idual support for acquiring a high school diploma.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

An increase in funding based on various indices of inflation. In tight budget years the Legislature has appropriated only a portion of the amount required by law.

Deferred Maintenance

Scheduled, periodic major repairs or replacement of buildings systems or equipment. "Deferred" indicates addressing the maintenance of an asset with a long useful life which needs repair or replacement only at specific intervals.  For example, a roof may be inspected and patched every year but is replaced after a scheduled useful life of fifteen or twenty years. School districts generally maintain a deferred maintenance plan that is updated annually which addresses, in priority order, systems or equipment that is scheduled for repair or replacement.

District Types

A designation that indicates the grades served in a district. An elementary district is generally kindergarten through 8th grade, high school is generally grades 9 through 12, and unified is kindergarten through 12th grade.

Districtwide Charter

A districtwide charter is a school district in which all schools are converted to charter. A districtwide charter, subject to certain conditions (including that at least 50% of teachers sign the charter petition), can only be approved by joint action of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

Dropout Rate

The dropout rate is the percentage of students that leave the 9-12 instructional system without a high school diploma, GED, or special education certificate of completion and do not remain enrolled after the end of the 4th year.

The CDE began using student level data to report a 4-year-cohort dropout rate with the 2009-10 school year. The cohort dropout rate is calculated by H3iding the number of students in the 4-year cohort that dropped out by the end of the school year by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for that graduating class.

Prior to 2009-10, the California Department of Education (CDE) calculated one-year and four-year rates based on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) dropout criteria. The one-year dropout rate was the number of grade 9-12 dropouts H3ided by grade 9-12 enrollments. The four-year dropout rate was an estimate of the percent of students who would drop out in a four-year period based on data from a single year. Note: Because the 4-year cohort dropout rate is calculated differently from the NCES dropout rates, dropout rates before and after the 2009-10 year cannot be compared.


The CDE defines a dropout for a specific school year as a student who meets the following criteria:

Was enrolled in grades seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve at some time during the school year AND left school prior to completing the year


Successfully completed the prior school year but did not begin attending the next grade (seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve) to which he or she was assigned, preregistered, or expected to attend


Was not enrolled and attending school as of Information Day (typically the first Wednesday in October) following the specified school year.

Students who have transferred to another school, received a high school diploma or its equivalent, moved out of the United States, or died are not counted as dropouts. For more information, please see the CDE website (opens in a new tab).

Education Code

The body of law that regulates education in California. Additional regulations affecting education are contained in the California Administrative Code, Titles 5 and 8, the Government Code, and general statutes.

English Learner (EL)

A student who is not sufficiently proficient in the English language to succeed in the school's regular instructional programs. The former designation was Limited English Proficient (LEP). Students' English proficiency is assessed annually.


A count of the students enrolled in each school and district on a given day in October. This is different from average daily attendance (ADA), which is the average number of students who attended school over the course of the year. The number of pupils enrolled in the school is usually larger than the ADA due to transience, dropouts, and illnesses. Enrollment data is available at the school, district, county and state levels. Enrollment and ADA are both used for funding purposes.

Ethnic Diversity Index

The Ethnic Diversity Index (EDI), developed by Ed-Data, measures how much variety, or H3ersity, a school or district has among the eight ethnic/racial categories of students reported to the CDE. Numbers close to 100 indicate a fairly even distribution, while numbers closer to 0 mean that students are predominantly from a single ethnic/racial group.

Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT)

A state-funded organization that assists schools, districts, county offices of education, and community colleges to improve financial and management accountability.

Free/Reduced Price Meals

A program to provide food for students from low-income families.

General Fund

Accounting term used by local educational agencies to differentiate general revenues and expenditures from those placed in separate funds for specific uses, such as a Cafeteria Fund. The General Fund is used to account for the ordinary operations of a local educational agency. All transactions except those required or permitted by law to be in another fund are accounted for in the General Fund.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)

Prior to 2013-14, state funds to participating districts for educational services to children who are identified as exceptionally able or talented. The GATE program funding is now included in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), authorized by the 2013-14 Budget Act. Funding for this program will be determined at the local level.


The number of 12th-grade graduates who received a diploma in the school year indicated or over the following summer. It does not include students who passed the California High School Proficiency Examination, earned a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or completed programs administered by a community college or through adult education.

Graduation Rate

The graduation rate is the percentage of the students expected to graduate in four years who actually did graduate. 

Federal regulations require all states to use a four-year cohort graduation rate for federal accountability purposes beginning in 2012. California began using cohort data to report graduation rates with the 2009-10 school year. This graduation rate is calculated by H3iding the number of students in the 4-year adjusted cohort who graduate in four years or less with either a traditional high school diploma, an adult education high school diploma, or have passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for that graduating class.

Instructional Materials, K-8 & 9-12

State funds specifically for classroom materials, such as textbooks and workbooks.

Juvenile Court School

An educational program leading to a high school diploma provided by counties for students in the Juvenile Court system.

Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP)

A key accountability requirement of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the LCAP is a three-year plan, which every district must create and update annually with input from the community. The LCAP is intended to explain how the district will use state funds to improve educational outcomes for all students based on eight state priorities, with special attention to high-needs students who received additional money.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

Signed into law on July 1, 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula, also known as LCFF, overhauls California's school finance system, replacing "revenue limits" and most "categorical funds" with a per-pupil base grant plus additional money for high-needs (low-income, English learner, and foster youth) students. For more information about the new funding formula, please see Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula.

Local Education Agency (LEA)

An entity that operates local public primary and secondary schools. In California, LEAs include school districts and county offices of education. Depending upon the context, the term may also include charter schools.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The 2001 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that places comprehensive accountability requirements on all states, with increasing sanctions for schools and districts that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress toward proficiency in English/language arts and mathematics or that fail to test 95% of all students and all significant student groups. In California, those sanctions currently apply only to schools and districts that accept Title I funding.

Opportunity Schools

A type of school or program that provides a short-term educational option for high-risk students, which may include specialized curriculum, instruction, and counseling.

Proposition 13

An initiative amendment to the California Constitution passed in June 1978. Tax rates on secured property are restricted to no more than 1% of "full cash value." Proposition 13 also defines assessed value and requires a two-thirds vote to change existing or levy new special-purpose taxes.

Proposition 30

The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012, approved by the voters on November 6, 2012, temporarily increases the state’s sales tax rate for all taxpayers and the personal income tax rates for upper-income taxpayers. A portion of the new revenues are used to support increased school funding, with the remainder helping to balance the state budget.

Proposition 227

An initiative that limits non-English language instruction for students who are learning English. Approved by voters in June 1998, Proposition 227 permits parents to petition a school to provide instruction in students' native language as well as in English.

Propositions 98 and 111

Voter-approved initiatives that amended the California constitution in 1988 and 1990 to guarantee a minimum amount of funding for K-14 education each year. The propositions included formulas for calculating the guarantee under different economic conditions. Proposition 98 also mandated School Accountability Report Cards (SARC).

Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)

Public Employees' Retirement System. Unless exempted by state law, classified employees, their district, and the state contribute to this retirement fund.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

The total student enrollment H3ided by the number of full-time equivalent teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio is the most common statistic for comparing staffing data across states. The ratio is usually smaller than average class size because some teachers work outside the classroom.


The designation of students and staff according to eight ethnic/racial groups for the California Department of Education's California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS). These eight groups meet state and federal reporting requirements. 
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Regional Occupational Centers/Regional Occupational Programs (ROC/P)

A program a Local Education Agency may choose to run (or participate in through a Joint Powers Authority) that provides training in entry-level jobs, job-related counseling, and upgrading skills for students age 16 to 18 as well as adults.

Restricted Funds

Money whose use is controlled by law or by a donor. Money that is designated for specific purposes by the district or governing board is not considered restricted. The SACS (Standardized Account Code Structure) financial reports on Ed-Data indicate which revenues and expenditures are restricted.


The SAT I Reasoning Test (formerly called Scholastic Aptitude Test) is widely used as a college entrance examination. A score can be compared to state and national averages of seniors graduating from any public or private school.

School Types

The designation of the kind of school, usually elementary, middle, or high. Examples of alternatives are community day/county community schools for high-needs students, including those expelled or homeless; continuation schools, an option for ages 16-18 to acquire a diploma; juvenile court schools; and short-term opportunity schools for high-risk students.

School Accountability Report Card (SARC)

An annual report of accountability, performance, demographic, school safety, staffing, and financial data for each public school in California. Since November 1988, state law has required all public schools receiving state funding to prepare and distribute a SARC each year by February 1. A similar requirement is also contained in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. For more information, please see the California Department of Education's SARC guide.

Small Districts

An elementary district with fewer than 101 Average Daily Attendance (ADA); a high school district with fewer than 301 ADA; and a unified (K-12) district with fewer than 1,501 ADA.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) 

A multistate consortium working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned with a common core of academic content standards for English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Smarter Balanced assessments are designed to measure student progress toward college and career readiness.

Socioeconomically Disadvantaged

Students who are eligible for the free/reduced price meals program. For accountability purposes, the California Department of Education also includes students if neither parent has a high school diploma.

Special Education

Programs to identify and meet the educational needs of children with emotional, learning, or physical disabilities. Federal law requires that all children with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate education according to an In H3idual Education Plan (IEP) from infancy until 21 years of age.

Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS)

A uniform, comprehensive, and minimum chart of accounts for classifying the financial activities of California local school districts and county offices of education. Phase-in began in 1997-98, and in 2003-04 all traditional Local Education Agencies (LEAs) reported in SACS. State board policy allows charter schools to report in a simplified alternative format that is less comprehensive than SACS and that cannot be combined with SACS.

Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR)

A battery of standardized tests for grades 2 through 11 that served as California’s primary K-12 assessment system until it was replaced in 2014 by the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments. The STAR program began in 1998 but the assessments included evolved over time. 

Note: In 2014, California discontinued its STAR testing program and began its new assessment program, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), of which the new Smarter Balanced assessments, aligned to the state's new Common Core standards, will be the cornerstone

State Board of Education Charter

Most charter schools are authorized by either a local school district or county office of education. However, if the charter is denied by these entities, a charter school petitioner may submit the petition to open a charter to the State Board of Education (SBE). If the SBE approves the charter, the Board may designate a local education agency (LEA) to oversee the school, provided that the LEA is in the same county as the school and agrees to take on that responsibility.

State Teachers Retirement System (STRS)

A retirement fund to which, by law, all certificated employees, school districts, and the state must contribute.

Statewide Benefit Charter

Statewide benefit charter petitions are submitted directly to the State Board of Education (SBE). The SBE may authorize a five-year charter for the operation of a charter school that will provide instructional services of "statewide benefit" that cannot be provided by a charter school operating in only one school district, or only in one county. Statewide benefit charters must adhere to all other charter laws with the exception of geographic limitations. They must open at least two new sites/schools in different counties in areas with struggling schools. After the first two sites have operated for two years and met performance objectives, operators may open two additional sites each year.

Statewide Student Identifier (SSID)

A unique student identifier assigned to each K-12 pupil enrolled in a public school program or in a charter school that will remain with the student throughout his or her academic ‘career’ in the California public school system.

Title I, Migrant Education

Funds for districts with students whose parents are migrant workers.

Title I, Title VI

Funds from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title I is for educationally disadvantaged children; Title VI is for innovative education program strategies. (These programs were formerly called Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.) In California, schools and districts receiving Title I funds are placed in Program Improvement if they fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.

Unrestricted Funds

Money that is not subject to legal or donor limitations regarding its use, except for general guidelines. Unrestricted funds may include money that is earmarked for specific purposes by the district or governing board.

Prepared by the California Department of Education and EdSource.

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