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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the School Accountability Report Card (SARC).

Background

  1. Why are local educational agencies (LEAs) required to publish School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs)?

    In November 1988, California voters passed Proposition 98 [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/prop98.asp], also known as The Classroom Instructional Improvement and Accountability Act. This ballot initiative provides California's public schools with a stable source of funding. In return, all public schools in California are required annually to prepare SARCs and disseminate them to the public. SARCs are intended to provide the public with important information about each public school and to communicate a school's progress in achieving its goals.

    In the years since the passage of Proposition 98, additional requirements for school accountability reporting and dissemination have been established through legislation [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/legislation.asp]. Most SARC requirements are codified in California Education Code (EC) sections 33126 and 33126.1 [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=33001-34000&file=33110-33133] External link opens in new window or tab. . In addition, similar requirements are contained in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation.

  2. Are LEA governing boards required to approve the publication of a SARC?

    Yes. EC Section 35256 states:

The governing board of each school district maintaining an elementary or secondary school shall by September 30, 1989, or the beginning of the school year develop and cause to be implemented for each school in the school district a School Accountability Report Card.

(a) The School Accountability Report Card shall include, but is not limited to, the conditions listed in Education Code Section 33126.

(b) Not less than triennially, the governing board of each school district shall compare the content of the school district's School Accountability Report Card to the model School Accountability Report Card adopted by the State Board of Education. Variances among school districts shall be permitted where necessary to account for local needs.

(c) The Governing Board of each school district shall annually issue a School Accountability Report Card for each school in the school district, publicize such reports, and notify parents or guardians of students that a copy will be provided upon request.

  1. How do I register as a SARC Coordinator to receive SARC e-mail messages?

    LEA SARC Coordinators may register on the California Department of Education (CDE) Accountability Report Card Listserv [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/accntrprtcrdlstsrv.asp] Web page.
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Preparation and Dissemination Requirements

  1. Who Prepares the SARC – the school or LEA?

    This is a local decision made by the LEA. Each LEA may complete SARC reporting requirements differently, based on local resources and areas of expertise. The LEA is accountable for ensuring all SARCs are made available to the public by the required date.

  2. How does an LEA primary user create or edit a user account in the SARC Web Application?

    The SARC Web Application allows an LEA primary user to create or edit user accounts. When creating or editing a user account, the LEA primary user can determine which sections the user will be authorized to edit, if the user will be authorized to create additional user accounts, and if the user will be authorized to finalize (make public) the completed online SARC Report. The following steps provide the process for creating or editing a user account:

    1. Login to the SARC Web Application

    2. In the left menu bar, select 'Users'

    3. Select the hyperlink 'Add a User'
      Note: If you do not see this option ('Add a User'), then you do not have authorization to create or edit a user account.

    4. Complete the requested information and select the options for the user

    5. Select 'Save'

  3. Are LEAs required to publish SARCs by a specific date?

    Yes. LEAs must annually publish SARCs by February 1.

    According to state and federal law, LEAs must annually update and disseminate SARCs to provide current information to parents and other members of the public. The CDE interprets "annually" to mean "once in each school year." In most years, some of the required data may not be available until the end of October or later. Therefore, the preparation of report cards that comply with State Board of Education (SBE)-adopted requirements governing content and definitions may not be complete until November.

    Since SARCs must be prepared and disseminated before the end of the school year to comply with the law, LEAs must prepare and make available new SARCs sometime during the period of November through February 1 of each year.

  4. Are all schools required to prepare and disseminate a SARC?

    All public schools with enrollment reported in the current SARC year are required to prepare and disseminate a SARC. Pursuant to Proposition 98 and the ESEA, all charter schools are also required to prepare and disseminate a SARC. LEAs are responsible for ensuring locally-funded charter school and non-charter school SARCs are made available to the public. Direct-funded charter schools are responsible for ensuring the school SARCs are made available to the public.

  5. Why can’t I find my SARC on my school or district Web site?

    Sometimes LEAs/schools do not post their SARCs in an easy to find location on their Web sites. The CDE requires each LEA/school to submit their SARCs to the CDE by either uploading their completed SARC .PDF file to the CDE the SARC Web Application or by completing their SARCs using the CDE SARC Web Application. The CDE will host all submitted SARCs on the Find a SARC [http://www.sarconline.org/Home/Search] External link opens in new window or tab. Web page located on the SARC Web Application [http://www.sarconline.org/] External link opens in new window or tab. Web page. Another option is to contact the LEA or school and ask them for their SARC Web link or a copy of their SARC.

  6. Are newly opened schools required to prepare and disseminate a SARC in their first year of operation?

    Yes. New schools are required to prepare a SARC during their first year of operation under EC Section 35256(c). The law states that each local governing board must develop and issue a SARC for each school in the school district. All available information and data must be published by the publication deadline. At a minimum, a SARC for a newly opened school must contain all of the general school description items like whom to contact at the school (phone, address, e-mail, etc.); school facility information for Decile 1-3 schools and Decile 4-10 schools that have a facility inspection prior to the publication of the SARC; teacher vacancies and misassignments; textbook sufficiency information; and federal program improvement status if available.

  7. Are charter schools required to prepare a SARC?

    Yes. LEAs are responsible for ensuring locally-funded charter school and non-charter school SARCs are made available to the public. Direct-funded charter schools are responsible for ensuring the school SARC is made available to the public.

    Although charter schools are required by the California Constitution to prepare a SARC as a condition of receiving state funds, charter schools are not required to comply with various SARC content and distribution requirements that are contained in the California EC. Charter schools receiving federal funds are required, however, to prepare an annual report card that contains particular reporting elements that are specified in the ESEA legislation Public Law 107-110 Section 1111(h)(2) [http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.html] External link opens in new window or tab..

    The pre-populated online SARC Web Application External link opens in new window or tab. contains much of the data for completing a SARC. It can be accessed quickly and easily on the 2012–13 SARC [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/sarc1213.asp] Web page. Further information about charter schools can be found on the Charter Schools [http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cs/index.asp] Web page.

  8. Why does the CDE provide data for the public schools to populate SARCs and not for the nonpublic schools?

    The CDE provides data for public schools to populate the SARCs using the data that these public schools submitted to the CDE during the year. The nonpublic schools do not provide the CDE with data, and therefore the CDE does not have data available to provide for their use to populate their SARCs.

  9. How are federal ESEA LEA-level accountability report card requirements met in California?

    In the fall of 2014, the CDE will provide an online LEA-level report card for each California public LEA.

  10. Are LEAs required to disseminate SARCs to the public?

    Yes. EC Section 35256 states:

    …each school district shall make hard copies of its annually updated report card available, upon request, on or before February 1 of each year.

    In addition, EC Section 33126(d) states:

    It is the intent of the Legislature that schools make a concerted effort to notify parents of the purpose of the school accountability report cards, as described in this section, and ensure that all parents receive a copy of the report card; to ensure that the report cards are easy to read and understandable by parents; to ensure that local educational agencies with access to the Internet make available current copies of the report cards through the Internet;.

    These sections, when taken together, require that LEAs notify all parents of the availability of a full report and provide instructions regarding how this information can be obtained both through the Internet and on paper (upon request). LEAs with access to the Internet are required to make SARCs available through that medium.

    In addition, the ESEA legislation (Public Law 107-110, Section 1111[h][2][E]) states:

    The local educational agency shall, not later than the beginning of the 2002–2003 school year, unless the local educational agency has received a 1-year extension pursuant to subparagraph (A), publicly disseminate the information described in this paragraph to all schools in the school district served by the local educational agency and to all parents of students attending those schools in an understandable and uniform format and, to the extent practicable, provided in a language that the parents can understand, and make the information widely available through public means, such as posting on the Internet, distribution to the media, and distribution through public agencies, except that if a local educational agency issues a report card for all students, the local educational agency may include the information under this section as part of such report.

    Although there are some differences in terminology, ESEA requirements are essentially a reiteration of California's existing SARC requirements related to report publication and dissemination.

  11. Are LEAs required to provide the CDE with a copy of the SARC for each of the LEA's schools?

    Yes. EC Section 33126 requires LEAs to provide the CDE with an accurate link to the Web site address where the LEA has posted its SARCs. EC Section 33126 also requires the CDE to maintain a centralized set of links to these LEA Web sites to facilitate public access to SARCs. In order to ensure uniformity and access by the public, LEAs must upload their completed SARC .PDF file to the CDE SARC Web Application [http://www.sarconline.org/] External link opens in new window or tab. or complete their SARCs using the CDE SARC Web Application [http://www.sarconline.org/] External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition to submitting their SARCs to the CDE, the LEAs/schools may link directly to the SARC Web Application [http://www.sarconline.org/] External link opens in new window or tab. Web page from their LEA/school Web sites to be compliant with law.

  12. Are SARCs required to be prepared and disseminated in languages other than English?

    Yes. According to EC Section 48985, when 15 percent or more of the pupils enrolled in the school speak a single primary language other than English, all notices, reports, statements, or records sent by the school or district to the parent/guardian of any such pupil must, in addition to being written in English, be written in this primary language and may be responded to by the parent or guardian in English or in the primary language. These translation requirements apply to the SARC just as they apply to any other written communication that a district or school prepares for the purpose of informing a student’s parent or guardian. In addition, federal law requires that schools and districts effectively communicate with all parents and guardians, regardless of the percentage of students who speak a language other than English (Title III, Section 3122[c]).

  13. Where do I upload the translated SARCs?

    The SARC Web Application utilizes Google Translate to allow the user to view the translated online SARCs. However, it only allows the English version to be posted or downloaded as a .PDF. For posting SARCs translated to other languages, CDE recommends that you upload the translated SARCs to your LEA/school Web site, and provide a link to those translated documents on the first page of the English version of the SARC.

  14. Does a translation of a shortened version of the SARC (i.e., a "SARC Summary") meet the legal requirements cited above?

    No. A translation of a shortened version of the SARC into a language other than English does not constitute full compliance when a translation is required by law.

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Content Requirements

  1. Are there specific items that must be included in the SARC?

    Yes. State and federal laws require specific items to be reported in the following categories: demographic information; school safety and climate for learning; academic data; school completion; class size; teacher and staff information; curriculum and instruction; postsecondary preparation; and fiscal and expenditure data.

  2. What are the reporting requirements related to facility inspections?

    Schools are required to have annual facility inspections. Specifically, state law requires that the annual facility inspection be reflected on the SARC in accordance with EC Section 33126(b). The Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) Facility Inspection Tool (FIT) or a locally developed instrument that meets the same legal requirements must be utilized during these inspections to determine if a school facility is in "good repair" and to rate the facility accordingly.

    LEAs should ensure that information concerning school facility conditions and the "good repair status" of facilities should use the most recent available data collected by the LEA. The year and month in which the data were collected should also be identified.

  3. How are school site expenditures per pupil calculated?

    Expenditures per pupil must be calculated to complete the SARC School Finances tables.

    Expenditure Categories:

  4. Total expenditures per pupil (includes both unrestricted and restricted sources)

    In calculating per pupil expenditures you must calculate the current expense (cost) of education per average daily attendance (ADA) pursuant to EC Section 41372. The methodology is: cost of education divided by ADA equals per pupil expenditure. This same methodology is used to calculate total expenditures, basic expenditures, or supplemental expenditures. For additional guidance see the CDE Current Expense of Education and Per-pupil Spending [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/ec/] Web page.

    The calculation for total expenditures per pupil includes funds from both unrestricted and restricted sources. Funds from unrestricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 0000–1999 range and funds from restricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 2000–9999 range.

  5. Expenditure categories for current expense of education

    The following are the expenditure categories for the current expense of education:

    Account Code Description
    1000 Certificated Salaries
    2000 Classified Salaries
    3000 Employee Benefits (does not include state payments to retirement on behalf of districts)
    4000 Books and Supplies
    6500 Equipment Replacement
    5000 & 7300 Services and Direct Support


    Note: From the total expenditures reported in the above accounts, costs for the following categories are deducted: (1) Non-agency activities; (2) Community Services; (3) Food Services; (4) Fringe Benefits for Retired Persons; and (5) Facilities Acquisition and Construction. For additional guidance see the CDE Current Expense of Education and Per-pupil Spending [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/ec/index.asp] and the Certificated Salaries and Benefits [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/cs/index.asp] Web pages.

    Questions about the calculation should be directed to the CDE Office of Financial Accountability and Information Services at 916-322-1770 or by e-mail to sacsinfo@cde.ca.gov.

  6. Expenditures per pupil-basic (unrestricted sources)

    Funds or activities that are not restricted or designated by the donor, but rather by the LEA's governing board, will be accounted for and reported as unrestricted. LEAs will need to review other local revenue received from external sources to determine whether legal restrictions apply for purposes of restricted or unrestricted designations. Revenues that have restrictions on how the funds are spent are referred to as restricted revenues. They are accounted for in resource codes in the 2000–9999 range. Revenues whose use is unrestricted in nature but which still have reporting requirements are accounted for in unrestricted resource codes in the 1000–1999 range. Those activities using unrestricted revenues that do not have financial reporting or special accounting requirements are accounted for in resource 0000, unrestricted. For more information about classifying revenues and expenditures, see Procedure 310 in the California School Accounting Manual on the CDE Definitions, Instructions, & Procedures [http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/ac/sa/index.asp] Web page.

    Note: The calculation for expenditures per pupil (Basic) includes funds from unrestricted sources only. Funds from unrestricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 0000–1999 range.
  1. Expenditures per pupil-supplemental (restricted sources)

    Restricted programs or activities relating to the operation of kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) educational programs are considered a part of ordinary operations and are accounted for in the general fund rather than in a special revenue fund. Within the general fund, restricted programs or activities must be identified, accounted for, and reported separately. This requirement means that general fund activities will be divided into restricted and unrestricted segments. This is achieved through the use of the resource field of the standardized account code structure. (The resource field is discussed in Procedure 310.)

    Restricted programs or activities are those funded from external revenue sources legally restricted or restricted by the donor to specific purposes. Unrestricted revenues are those funds whose uses are not subject to specific constraints and may be used for any purposes not prohibited by law. Programs funded by a combination of restricted and unrestricted sources will be accounted for and reported as restricted.

    Note: Restricted source means money whose use is restricted by legal requirement or by the donor. Examples include, but are not limited to, instructional materials, economic impact aid, and teacher and principal training funds. Unrestricted source means money that can be used for any lawful purpose, whose use is not restricted by legal requirement or by the donor. Examples include, but are not limited to, class size reduction, state lottery (not the instructional materials portion), and undesignated local parcel tax funds.

    The calculation for expenditures per pupil (Supplemental) includes funds from restricted sources only. Funds from restricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 2000–9999 range.

  2. Additional resources

    • Section VII. School Finances in the SARC Template and the Data Element Definitions.

    • The Table of Valid Codes Descriptions on the CDE SACS Valid Code Descriptions [http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/ac/ac/validcodedesc.asp] Web page.

    • Detailed information pertaining to Resource Codes in Procedure 310 of the California School Accounting Manual on the CDE Definitions, Instructions, and Procedures [http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/ac/sa/index.asp] Web page.

    • SACS Query by Resource Code [http://www2.cde.ca.gov/sacsquery/querybyresource.asp]

  3. How should data on the graduation rate be reported?

    EC Section 33126 requires the reporting of the graduation rate as defined by the SBE when available pursuant to EC Section 52052. In addition, the ESEA requires the reporting of a graduation rate as a condition of federal funding. The four-year cohort graduation rate calculation is aligned with EC Section 52052 and has been approved by the SBE for use in the AYP. The cohort graduation rate was first calculated for the class of 2009–10. Below is the formula for the four-year cohort graduation rate:

Number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma (or earned an adult education high school diploma or passed the CHSPE) by the end of year 4 in the cohort
divided by
Number of first-time grade 9 students in year 1 (starting cohort) plus students who transfer in, minus students who transfer out, emigrate, or die during school years 1, 2, 3, and 4

  1. How should data on ESEA compliant "highly qualified" teachers be reported?

    The ESEA requires that all teachers teaching in core academic subjects are to be "highly qualified" not later than the end of the 2005–06 school year. The ESEA requires that each teacher must have: (1) a Bachelor's degree, (2) a state credential or an Intern Certificate/Credential for no more than three years, and (3) demonstrated subject matter competence for each core subject to be taught by the teacher. More information on teacher qualifications required under the ESEA can be found on the CDE Improving Teacher and Principal Quality [http://www.cde.ca.gov/nclb/sr/tq/index.asp] Web page.

    The SARC template includes a table that displays data in this area at both a school level and a district level. For a school, the data reported are the percent of a school's classes in core content areas taught and not taught by ESEA compliant teachers. For a district, the data reported are the percent of all classes in core content areas taught and not taught by ESEA compliant teachers in all schools in the district, in high-poverty schools in the district, and in low-poverty schools in the district.

    High-poverty schools are defined as those schools with student eligibility of approximately 40 percent or more in the free and reduced price meals program. Low-poverty schools are defined as those schools with student eligibility of approximately 39 percent or less in the free and reduced price meals program.

  2. Are county offices of education, when preparing SARCs on behalf of schools operated by the county office, required to report average salaries and expenditures in the Fiscal and Expenditure Data section of the SARC?

    County offices of education that operate schools are not required to report the average salary and expenditure information specified in EC Section 41409.3. However, EC sections 33126 and 33126.15 (as amended and added by Senate Bill 687 of 2005) require all school report cards -- including those prepared for schools operated by county offices -- to report specified salary and expenditure information.

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SARC Templates

  1. Where is the blank SARC template?

    The blank SARC template is located on the CDE 2012–13 SARC [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/sarc1213.asp] Web page.

  2. Where are the pre-populated SARCs located?

    The pre-populated SARCs are in the SARC Web Application External link opens in new window or tab. located on the CDE SARC [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/index.asp] Web page.

  3. Are LEAs required to use the template approved by the SBE?

    No. However, EC Section 33126.1(j) states:

    A school or school district that chooses not to utilize the standardized template adopted pursuant to this section shall report the data for its school accountability report card in a manner that is consistent with the definitions.

  4. Can LEAs modify the model SARC template?

    Yes. The CDE has designed the model SARC template in a Word Version and as a Web Application. Both can be modified. Portions of the SARC template in Word can be modified or deleted if those portions have no data or are not applicable. Sections of the SARC Web Application can be restricted from public view by selecting the 'Do not display this section to the public' box.

    For example, a kindergarten through grade six school does not take the CAHSEE, and therefore the CAHSEE tables/section do not apply and may be deleted or restricted from the public view, respectively.

  5. Where are the prior year SARC templates?

    Prior year SARC templates are located on the CDE SARC [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/sa/index.asp] Web page under subsection Prior Year SARC Coordinator Information.
Questions: SARC TEAM | sarc@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0406 
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