Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Academic Indicator Calculation

Methodology for measuring performance on the Academic Indicator.

The Academic Indicator is based on the results of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics results and applies only to LEAs and schools with grades three through eight. Performance will be calculated and reported separately for ELA and mathematics. (Note: Grade 11 assessment results are included in the College/Career Indicator.)

At the January 2017 SBE meeting, the SBE approved the "Distance from Level 3 (DF3)" methodology which measures how far (or the distance) each student is from the Level 3 (i.e., Standard Met) Smarter Balanced performance level. Each students' score is compared to Level 3, and all distance results are then averaged to produce a school- and student-group-level average scale score. The results will show, on average, the needed improvement to bring the average student score to Level 3 or the extent to which the average student score meets or exceeds Level 3.

Using scale scores, rather than a percentage of students performing at or above Standard Met, provides a more comprehensive picture of how all students at the school are performing on the Smarter Balanced assessments.

More information regarding the DF3 methodology is provided in the California School Dashboard Technical Guide (PDF) on pages 74 through 76.


The formulas below are used to calculate the Academic Indicator for Status and Change.

Academic Indicator Status (Distance from Level 3) Formula*

Sum of All Grades 3 through 8 Students' Distance from Level 3 scores on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments

divided by

Total Number of Grades 3 through 8 Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments 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 Appendix C of the California School Dashboard Technical Guide (PDF).

Academic Indicator Change Formula

Current Year Status minus Prior Year Status for Smarter Balanced Assessment Results for Grades 3 through 8

Reporting Performance for the Academic Indicator

Based on the Status and Change results, a performance level (or color) will be given. Performance for this indicator can be reported using a five-by-five colored grid.

Below is an example of the ELA Academic Indicator five-by-five colored grid for an elementary school with:

  • A Status of 12.7 points above Level 3
  • A Change of +4 points

In this example, the school did well in the current year (Status), with an average distance from Level 3 of +12.7 points.  This puts the school in the "High" level for Status. It also made a slight gain over the prior year. A Status of "High" and a Change of "Maintained" meet on the grid to give a performance level of Green.

ELA Academic Status & Change example

More information on the five-by-five color table for the Academic Indicator can be found in the Resources tab on the California Accountability Model & School Dashboard.

Questions: Academic Accountability Team | | 916-319-0863 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Recently Posted in Accountability