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Growth Model

Explanation and resources for the student-level growth model.


Since 2015, California has invested significant time and effort in developing a student growth model that is valid, reliable, and fair. California conducted a thorough and thoughtful process of selecting the model that best meets California's needs. On May 12, 2021, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved a student-level growth model using grades four through eight growth scores. The development and adoption of this growth model was accomplished due to the valuable input from a broad range of stakeholders, and the expertise of the California Department of Education's (CDE's) assessment vendor, Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the Technical Design Group (TDG).

California's Student-Level Growth Model

A growth model is a way of measuring the growth of students’ assessment scores year to year based on their statewide assessment scores in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. Growth is different from achievement. Achievement—such as a single assessment score—shows us how much students know at the time of the assessment. Growth shows us how much students' scores grew from one grade level to the next. In an accountability system, aggregate student growth can provide a picture of average growth for students within a school, local educational agency, or student group.

Calculating Growth Scores

California’s student-level growth model methodology uses statewide Smarter Balanced test results from students in grades four through eight.

The first step in calculating student growth scores is to determine the student’s expected test score. The expected test score is determined by looking at students who had similar test scores in the previous grade and then evaluating their typical test scores in the current year. Once an expected test score is determined for each student, the difference between the student's expected test score and their actual test score is compared to arrive at their individual growth score.

These individual scores are averaged for students at the district, school, and student group levels, using either a simple average—when there are large numbers of students, or a weighted average— when there are small numbers of students.

For a complete and in-depth technical review of the growth model methodology, please view the Additional Resources made available at the end of this web page.

Data Release Timeline

  • June 14, 2021:
    • Release student-level growth data to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) via the Test Operations Management System (TOMS).
    • Private preview of aggregate LEA, school, and student group growth data files. (The growth data is based on student performance on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress [CAASPP] for ELA and mathematics administered during the 2016–17, 2017–18, 2018–19 school years.)
    • Statewide webinar for Accountability, Dashboard, and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Coordinators on information regarding the student growth data.

  • September 13, 2021:
    • Statewide webinar for the general public, Accountability, Dashboard, and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Coordinators on the release of the Student Growth Toolkit to support the release of California’s student growth data.

  • September 20, 2021:
    • Release of Student Growth Toolkit to support understanding of California’s Student Growth data.

  • September 22, 2021:
    • Release of aggregate LEA, school, and student group growth data via downloadable data files.
    • These data files are being released for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be used for accountability and/or evaluation purposes.

Ongoing Work

  • July 2021 through Fall 2024:
    • Work with LEAs and stakeholders on communication and data use and visualization strategies.
    • Develop a report that displays English Language Proficiency Assessment for California levels with growth scores.
  • Fall 2024:
    • Earliest release of the next growth model data using current ELA and mathematics data (i.e., 2022, 2023, and 2024 results).
    • Eventually, the growth model may be incorporated into the California School Dashboard Academic Indicator. This is a decision that will need to be approved by the SBE.

Student Growth Toolkit



Getting to know the California School Dashboard (Translated)

Appropriate Uses of Growth Scores Flyer

Growth Model FAQs

Commonly asked questions about the Growth Model

Data Files and Record Layouts

Due to changes in instruction and assessment caused by COVID-19, the growth scores released in 2021 were calculated based on historical data from 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19, and are not actionable. Growth scores will be calculated and released again in 2024, once three consecutive years of test scores are available.


Additional Resources

Recent State Board Items and Memos

  • February 2021 SBE Information Memorandum(DOCX) includes the final technical report from ETS on the student growth model and recommendations for criteria for determining the assignment of the Empirical Best Linear Prediction Model (EBLP) or simple average.
  • May 2021 SBE Item(DOCX) includes detailed information on the approved growth model methodology and the aggregated growth scores for student groups at the LEA and school-levels.
  • October 2021 SBE Information Memorandum(DOCX) includes a progress report on ongoing work on the Student Growth Model
  • February 2022 SBE Information Memorandum(DOCX) includes the overview of research conducted by the California Department of Education (CDE) on the development of a data report or display to combine English Language Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC) levels with academic growth scores.
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Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 06, 2024