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Academic Indicator FAQs

The most frequently asked questions about the Academic Indicator and Participation Rate used for the California School Dashboard.

Academic Indicator | Participation Rate

Academic Indicator

When will Science be added as an Academic Indicator?

At this time, the California Science Test is not included in the Academic Indicators. The California Department of Education (CDE) has continued to apprise the State Board of Education (SBE) as to when it may be feasible to include science for accountability. Beginning with the 2022 Dashboard, viewers have been able to select a link on the Dashboard that connects them directly to the science results on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) web site. The 2023 Dashboard will have a similar link to the science results.

Will the aggregated growth score ever factor into a school's Academic Indicator on the California School Dashboard? Does it seem likely that growth scores will replace Distance from Standard (DFS) as the state's measure of growth for each Local Education Agency (LEA)?

Action would need to be taken by the State Board of Education to add growth scores to the Academic Indicator on the California School Dashboard, or to replace DFS with any other measurement such as growth scores.

Will we be resetting the DFS cut scores or five-by-five colored tables for the 2023 Dashboard?

No. The State Board of Education (SBE) is committed to continuous improvement of the Dashboard and did not want to lower the standards in 2023. This may be something that we revisit in the future, but for the 2023 Dashboard, cut scores will remain the same.

Participation Rate

I have the same number of students testing for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics but my participation rates appear very different. How is this possible?

The participation rate calculation removes certain students from needing to participate. Specifically, English Learner (EL) students who have been enrolled for less than one year are required to test in Mathematics but are excluded from testing in ELA, which may affect the participation rates for the respective tests differently.

Is participation rate the same thing as completion rate (in Test Operations Management System [TOMS])?

No. Under California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), LEAs can access test completion rates, which is based on the total number of students who took the test at a given school. The participation rates for the Dashboard only includes students enrolled during the “accountability testing window.” This accountability window includes the application of grace periods, which hold an LEA/school harmless when there is inadequate time to administer the assessments.

Are early graduates (grade 11) included in the participation rate?

If students graduate before the testing window has opened for the LEA, the student is not expected to test and will not be included in the participation rate. If their exit date is after the window has opened, they are expected to test and will be included in the participation rate.

Do I need to test all my students, even those with the highest cognitive disabilities?

Yes. A participation rate of 95% is required by the U.S. Department of Education to not receive a participation rate penalty. All students should be tested, however, students taking the California Alternate Assessment (CAA) who receive a LOSS are removed from the DFS calculation. In other words, they need to be tested, but will not count against the district if they are unable to perform.

How do parent opt-outs affect the participation rate?

While California recognizes parent opt-out waivers as a reason not to test, the U.S. Department of Education does not recognize the waiver and requires 95% participation for all students. Unfortunately, parent opt-outs do not change the federal requirement. If the school or district does not meet the 95% requirement, a penalty in the form of a LOSS will be applied.

A student left my school before the testing window opened but they are still showing up in TOMS – will this affect my participation rate?

TOMS is a great tool for looking at real-time testing rates within a school or LEA. Completion rates, however, are a similar but different metric than the participation rate. Additionally, students remain in TOMS at their last known California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) school. Therefore, if a student never enrolled in another California school, they will appear as needing to test in TOMS. Since these students left before the testing window opened, they will not be included in the numerator or the denominator of the participation rate.

If my new-comer English Learner (EL) student took the ELA test on accident, will it still be used in my DFS calculation?

ELs who have been enrolled in a U.S. school for less than one year are exempt from taking the ELA portion of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments and the California Alternate Assessment (CAA). Newcomer EL students who have been enrolled in a U.S. school for less than one year will automatically be removed from the calculation of the ELA participation rate even if the student opted to take one or both parts of the ELA assessment. These students will not be included in the participation rate or DFS calculations.

A student logged onto the test but did not complete testing. Will they count against my participation rate?

Students need to log on to both the Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) and Performance Task (PT) portions of the Summative Assessments in order to be counted as participating. If the student only logged on to one of the two portions, they will not be counted as participating. If the student did not complete the tests but were given a score from Educational Testing Service (ETS), that score will be used in the DFS calculations. If no score is given, a LOSS will be assigned.

A student left in the middle of testing but did not start any of the assessments. Will I be held accountable for their test?

If the student is expected to test and did not test, the school and LEA will be held accountable for the student not testing. If the student falls under any of the exemptions including grace periods and is not expected to test, the school and LEA will not be held accountable for the student not testing.

Does the 95% requirement apply to student groups as well?

Yes. The 95% participation rate is required for all schools, districts, and student groups.

Where can I view my school or district participation rates?

The School Dashboard Additional Reports and Data webpage has a special report for the ELA and Math participation rates. Schools, LEAs, and student groups with 11 or more students display the participation rates of the most recently available California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) data.

What happens if I do not reach the 95% participation rate?

If the participation rate is less than 95%, the number of students needed to bring the rate up to 95% are added to the average Distance from Standard calculation in the form of a LOSS. There is more information about how this is calculated on the Participation Rate flyer(PDF).

A student left my school during the LEA selected testing window but before we tested any students. Will they affect my participation rate?

No. Students that exit the school before testing has begun are not expected to test and will not be included in either the numerator or the denominator of the participation rate.

My school did not reach 95% participation on the California Science Test (CAST) - What will happen?

At this time, the Science test is not included as a measure on the Academic Indicator. While we encourage participation in the test, reaching less than 95% for the Science test has no impact on Accountability for the 2023 Dashboard.

Why are my completion reports on the Test Operations Management System (TOMS) not the same as my participation rate on the dashboard?

The TOMS reports provide insight into the students who have taken part in the assessments in “real-time”. However, the dashboard does not use the same inclusion and exclusion rules and does not collect any testing data until September/October. Therefore, the dashboard participation rate and the TOMS completion reports can be the same or differ depending on the student.


Questions: Analysis Measurement & Accountability Reporting | | 916-319-0863 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, August 17, 2023
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