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Academic Performance Calculation

Methodology for measuring performance on Academic Performance.

This measure is based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments (SBAC) and the California Alternate Assessments (CAA) for English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) and mathematics—which is administered to students in grades three through eight and grade eleven—and how far the average student is from meeting the grade-level standard, or the "Distance from Standard" (DFS).

Determining the DFS for the SBAC

To calculate the DFS, each student's SBAC score is first compared to the “Standard Met” threshold for that grade level on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. Because the scale score ranges for each performance level differ for each grade level, it is important to compare each student’s ELA and mathematics scores against the lowest Level 3 scale score for the appropriate grade and content area.

  • Example: The ELA scale scores for Grade 5 range from 2,201 to 2,701, and the lowest scale score for Level 3 is 2,502. Each grade five ELA assessment score is compared against this fixed point to obtain the DFS. A grade five student receives a score of 2,552 on the SBAC for ELA. 

  • The DFS for that student is calculated as follows:

    • 2,552 minus 2,502 = 50 points

  • The student scored 50 points above the lowest possible Level 3 scale score in Grade 5 ELA. The DFS for that student is positive 50 points.

All distance results are averaged to produce a LEA, school, and student group-level average scale score (the DFS). The results will show the needed improvement to bring the average student score to “Standard Met” or the extent to which the average student score meets or exceeds “Standard Met.”

Using scale scores, rather than reporting on the percent of students who performed at or above the “Standard Met”, provides a more comprehensive picture of how all students at the school are performing on the SBAC.

Determining the DFS for the CAA

The CAA is based on a different set of standards and has different reporting scales than those used for the SBAC. In order to incorporate the CAA results into the Academic Indicator, each CAA score is first converted to a comparable SBAC score, using the following methodology:

  • For levels 1–3 on the CAA, a student’s CAA score is substituted with the top score point of the same SBAC achievement level. For example, a grade three student scoring anywhere in Level 2 on the CAA for ELA would receive the highest score of the Level 2 range on the SBAC ELA, which is 2431. This substituted score is used to calculate the DFS.

Due to the vast number of students who do not orient or respond to the CAA, students who receive a Lowest Obtainable Scale Score (LOSS) on the CAA are excluded from the DFS calculations.  

For more information regarding the DFS methodology, please see the California School Dashboard Technical Guide, which is posted on the CDE California School Dashboard and System of Support web page at California School Dashboard and System of Support.

Determining Status and Change for the Academic Indicator

In the 2019 Dashboard, performance on this measure is determined by (1) the most current DFS for ELA or mathematics, and (2) whether results improved or declined between 2018 and 2019. Please note that there are two separate five-by-five colored tables: one for grades three through eight and one for grade eleven. However, schools that serve students in Kindergarten through grade twelve, as well as unified school districts, will receive a performance level (color) based on the five-by-five colored table adopted for grades three through eight.

Current Year DFS Formula* for Grades Three through Eight and Eleven (Status)

Sum of All DFS Scores on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments and CAAs

divided by

Total Number of Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment and CAA Test Takers.

*Specific inclusion and exclusion rules, such as continuous enrollment, are applied to determine the numerator and denominator. For the complete business rules, please view the California School Dashboard Technical Guide.

Difference from Prior Year DFS (Change)

Current Year DFS minus Prior Year DFS

Determining a Performance Level

Based on the current and prior year DFS, a performance level (or color) will be given for this measure. The performance level is determined by using a five-by-five colored grid.

Example: Little League Elementary School has the following ELA academic data:

  • In the current year, its DFS was +12.7 (i.e., 12.7 points above "Standard Met")
  • From the prior year to the current one, the DFS increased by 4 points.

Using the grade three through eight five-by-five grid for the ELA Academic Measure, we see that a DFS of +12.7 is considered "High" (see left column). Additionally, an increase of 4 points from the prior year falls into the "Increased" level (see top row). On the grid, "High" and "Increased" intersect at the Green performance level, which is the second highest level.

Performance Level Declined Significantly

from Prior Year (by more than 15 points)

from Prior Year (by 3 to 15 points)

from Prior Year (declined by less than 3 points or
increased by less than 3 points)

from Prior Year (by 3 to less than 15 points)
Increased Significantly

from Prior Year (by 15 points or more)
Very High

+45 points of higher in Current Year


+10 to +44.9 points in Current Year




Little League Elementary School


-5 points to +9.9 points in Current Year

-5.1 to -70 points in Current Year
Very Low

-70.1 points or lower in Current Year
Questions: Academic Accountability Team | | 916-319-0863 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, December 30, 2020
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