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Changes to California's K-12 Education System

Last updated April 15, 2015

    The convergence of several major reforms is dramatically altering California’s public K-12 education landscape. These changes will affect the reports available on Ed-Data starting with the 2013-14 school year. This article describes some of those changes and how they might affect the data you find on this website. 

    New academic content standards, assessments and accountability

    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 (AB) 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), will include English language arts and mathematics tests aligned to the new standards that were created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. California began field testing the new tests in English language arts and mathematics in the spring of 2014. However, since the purpose of the field tests is to ensure the validity of the tests themselves, they cannot be used to measure student achievement this year.

    The State Board also approved new standards for English Language Development in November 2012, which will require a new test of English language proficiency. But until that test is developed, schools must continue administering the current California English Language Development Test (CELDT).

    California is also changing the accountability system it uses to measure school performance.

    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 decided not to produce an API or any new state accountability system until a growth model is developed using the results from the Smarter Balanced assessments. The State Board of Education hasn’t set a timeline, nor has it set statewide target scores for the new tests.

    The State Board of Education is in the process of creating a new school and district accountability system with broader measures of school performance and college and career readiness than solely determined by standardized tests. The State Board has decided that a new accountability system should be consistent with the state priorities identified in the Local Control Funding Formula. At the earliest, the new system would be available in 2015-16.​

    For federal accountability, the U.S. Department of Education approved a waiver to allow California not to make new Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) determinations for elementary and middle schools in 2014. Instead, elementary and middle schools received the same AYP determinations as in 2013. This means that no new schools entered or exited Program Improvement (PI), and the current PI schools did not advance a year in their PI status. High schools were not affected by this waiver. High schools will continue to receive AYP determinations because those determinations are not based on STAR results, but on California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) results and graduation rates. 

    How this affects what you see on Ed-Data: Ed-Data currently has accountability and performance data for 2012-13. But the California Department of Education will not be posting a 2013 Base API, and schools will no longer be receiving ranks. Until results from the new Smarter Balanced assessments are available, the Department has calculated a 3-year average API, as authorized by AB 484. New API and STAR/CST test data will not be available for 2013-14.

    For more information about API and AYP, please visit the CDE website​.

    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 students who comprise these groups.

    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 for every school district and county office of education in California. It must address the educational needs of all students and be directly connected to the Local Education Agency (LEA) budget.

    How this affects what you see on Ed-Data: The changes to the funding system took effect in the 2013-14 school year, so the new system does not affect the financial reports currently available on this website (Classic Ed-Data). You will find financial reports for 2013-14 on the new Ed-Data website at Ed-Data.org​Note: we will no longer be posting new data on this site. However we will keep this site available as a source of historical data and comparisons as long as possible.​ 

    More information and resources

    For more information about:

    Changes to the current assessment system, please see the California Department of Education’s AB 484 page.

    Changes to the API, please see the CDE’s Public Schools Accountability Act page.

    The new Common Core State Standards, please see the CDE’s Common Core page.

    The new funding system, see our article on Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula.


    For context and explanations about the accountability and school finance reports currently available on Ed-Data, please see:

    Understanding the Academic Performance Index (API).

    Understanding California's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program.

    Adequate Yearly Progress Under NCLB.

    A Guide to California's School Finance System (before LCFF).

    All contents copyright © 2015, Education Data Partnership. All rights reserved.

    Ed-Data is a partnership of the California Department of Education, EdSource and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) designed to offer educators, policy makers, the legislature, parents, and the public quick access to timely and comprehensive data about K-12 education in California.