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Frequently Asked Questions

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


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

    In November 1988, California voters passed Proposition 98 [], 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 []. Most SARC requirements are codified in California Education Code (EC) Sections 33126 and 33126.1 [] External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition, similar requirements are contained in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation.

    Pursuant to Chapter 914, Statutes of 2004 (Assembly Bill 1858), all nonpublic, nonsectarian schools are required to prepare a SARC in accordance with EC Section 33126. This requirement applies to nonpublic, nonsectarian schools but does not apply to nonpublic, nonsectarian agencies.

  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 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 Section 33126.

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

    (c) The governing board of each school district annually shall issue a School Accountability Report Card for each school in the school district, publicize those reports, and notify parents or guardians of pupils that a hard copy will be provided upon request.

Preparation and Dissemination Requirements

  1. Are schools/LEAs required to publish and disseminate SARCs?

    Yes, all active public schools/LEAs and nonpublic, nonsectarian schools are required to prepare and disseminate a SARC for the primary purpose of providing parents with data and information to make meaningful comparisons between schools (inclusive of charter schools).

    Charter schools are required to prepare SARC reports as a method by which to measure pupil progress in meeting pupil outcomes for state priorities, pursuant to EC section 47605(b)(5)(C). Further information about charter schools can be found on the Charter Schools Web page.

    For public schools/LEAs, 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 on the California Department of Education (CDE) SARC Web page.

    For nonpublic, nonsectarian schools, the blank SARC template is available on the CDE SARC Web page [].

    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.

  2. Are County Offices of Education (COEs) required to prepare and publish SARCs?

    Yes, EC Section 35256 requires that the governing board of each school district maintaining an elementary or secondary school develop a SARC. EC Section 1984 provides that a county board of education shall be deemed to be a school district when it establishes and maintains a county community school. Further, EC Section 1906 provides where a county board of education operates classes or schools for prisoners in a county jail, county farm, or county road camp, the county board of education has the same obligations as a school district would have if it were operating the schools. Throughout the EC, there are several statues which include a county board of education operating an elementary or secondary school within the definition of "school district" (e.g., EC Sections 1984, 35160.2, 41302.5). Therefore, any county board of education operating an elementary or secondary school is required to prepare SARCs.

  3. How does an LEA primary user create or edit a user account in the online SARC Web Application?
    The SARC Web Application allows an LEA primary district-level user to create or edit user accounts. When creating or editing a user account, the LEA primary district-level 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'

  4. Is there a specific date by which the SARCs are to be published and submitted to the CDE?

    Yes. SARCs must be published and submitted to the CDE no later than February 1 of each year.

    According to state and federal laws (EC Sections 35256(c), 35258(a), 35258(b), and Public Law 107-110), schools/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 completed until November.

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

  5. 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 responsible for ensuring all SARCs are made available to the public by the required date.

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

    Yes. The law (EC Section 35256) states that each local governing board shall develop and issue a SARC for each school in the school district. All available information and data must be published by the publication deadline. However, if a school had zero enrollment during the SARC year, and zero enrollment during the current school year, then a SARC will not be required.

    The SBE-approved template provides the years that correspond to each table of requesting data. Newly opened schools are to provide data in the SARC template tables of those which years correspond with their new/first school year (note: Most Recent Year refers to the current school year).

  7. If a school was open during the SARC year but is now closed, is a SARC required for this school?

    If there is no intention for this school to become active/open any time within the following two school years, then no, a SARC is not required. If there is intention for this school to become active/open any time within the following two school years, then yes, a SARC is required.

  8. How do I register as a SARC Coordinator or update my SARC Coordinator information to receive SARC e-mail messages?
    To register or update your SARC Coordinator information, log onto the CDE Accountability Report Card Listserv Web page []. This is a user managed unrestricted listserv available to the public. This listserv will be used to send e-mails regarding general, non-confidential, non-sensitive SARC information. To subscribe or unsubscribe to this accountability listserv, follow the directions listed on this Web page.

    The CDE will be in contact with district and direct funded charter school administrators regarding the confidential and sensitive SARC information (i.e., usernames and passwords to access the online SARC Web Application).
  9. Where are the SARCs located that are posted with the CDE?

    The CDE hosts the submitted public school SARCs and SARC Web links on the Find a SARC Web page [] External link opens in new window or tab..

    The CDE hosts the submitted nonpublic, nonsectarian school SARC Web links on the Find a School Report Card (NPS) Web page [].

    If a school's SARC report or Web link to their SARC report is not available on either of the CDE Web pages noted above, please contact the school or district.

  10. Why does the CDE pre-populate a portion of the SARCs for public schools but not for nonpublic schools?

    The CDE pre-populates a portion of the SARCs for public schools using the data that the public schools submitted to the CDE during the school year. Nonpublic schools do not provide the CDE with data during the school year, and therefore the CDE does not have data available to pre-populate a portion of their SARCs.

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

    Yes. EC Section 33126.1 requires LEAs to provide the CDE with an accurate link to the Web site address where the LEA has posted its SARCs. EC Section 33126.1 also requires the CDE to maintain a centralized location of the submitted links to these LEA Web sites to facilitate public access to SARCs. In order to ensure uniformity and access by the public, the CDE has made available three methods for the LEAs to submit their SARCs to the CDE: (1) Use the online pre-populated SARC Web Application to complete and post the SARC, (2) Upload a vendor-created or custom-created PDF copy of the completed SARC, or (3) Provide an accurate URL to the Web site address where the SARC has been posted on the school/LEA Web site.

    To be in compliance with law, in addition to submitting their SARCs to the CDE, the schools/LEAs must post their SARCs on their school/LEA Web site.

  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 singleprimary 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?

    For posting SARCs translated to other languages, CDE recommends that you upload the translated SARCs onto your LEA/school Web site.

    For those SARCs (in English) that were completed and posted using the electronic SARC template available on the online SARC Web Application, Google Translate is available on the system to allow the user to view the SARCs in over 70 languages. The user can print the translated SARC report while in Google Translate one section of the SARC at a time. The SARC Web Application only allows the SARC reports to be downloaded as a PDF in English.

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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, pursuant to EC Sections 33126, 33126.1, 35256, and 52052, and Public Law 107-110 Section 1111(h)(2).

  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 Sections 33126 and 33126.1. 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 the most recent available data collected by the LEA is used to populate the SARC regarding the school facility conditions and the "good repair status" of facilities. 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:

    1. 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 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.

    2. 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 [] and the Certificated Salaries and Benefits [] 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

    3. 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 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.

    4. 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.

      Additional resources

  4. 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

  5. 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 to be designated as highly qualified, a 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 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.

  6. 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 statewide average salary and expenditure information specified in EC Section 41409. 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 school-level 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 SARC Web page [].

  2. Where are the pre-populated SARC templates located?

    The pre-populated SARC templates are located in the online SARC Web Application [] External link opens in new window or tab.. A hyperlink to the online SARC Web Application is located on the CDE SARC 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 adopted pursuant to subdivision (c).

  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 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 California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE), and therefore the CAHSEE tables/section do not apply and may be deleted or restricted from the public view, respectively.

  5. Where can I access prior year SARC Reports?

    Law only references the publication and posting of current SARCs. The CDE, LEAs, and schools are not required to maintain or post prior year SARCs.

    However, as a courtesy, many LEAs and schools continue to maintain and post their prior year SARCs on their Web sites, and make hard copies available upon request.

    The CDE maintains the downloadable data files and blank SARC templates of the current SARC and prior three years of SARCs on the CDE SARC Web page [].

Questions: SARC TEAM | | 916-319-0406 
Last Reviewed: Monday, April 4, 2016
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