Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Identification Criteria

Summary of the steps involved in identifying California schools that are eligible for the School Improvement Grant.

The identification of persistently lowest-achieving schools in California is a multi-step process that is informed by both federal and state law. The steps in identifying schools as persistently lowest-achieving are summarized below.

Approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) on March 11, 2010

Step 1: Identifying the Pool of Schools

Per the School Improvement Grant (SIG) Guidance External link opens in new window or tab. developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring must be identified for the pool and be classified as Tier I schools. In California, these are Title I schools that were identified for Program Improvement (PI) during the 2009–10 school year. Per the federal guidance, these schools must be part of a local educational agency (LEA) which receives Title I funds.

Also required to be part of the pool are secondary schools that are eligible for federal Title I funds, but do not receive those funds. Per the federal guidance, these secondary schools must be part of an LEA which receives Title I funds. These schools are classified as Tier II schools per the SIG program.

More information on the definition of the Tiers may be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Definition of Tiers I, II, and III Web page [].

Step 2: Identifying Five Percent of the Pool

To ensure that no one type of school is over-represented in the final list of schools eligible for the SIG and to facilitate systemic reform across the K-12 segment, the pool of schools is divided into five separate groups. Five percent of each group below is identified.

  • Tier I Pool
    • Elementary schools in PI
    • Middle schools in PI
    • High schools in PI

  • Tier II Pool
    • Middle schools, eligible but not receiving Title I funds
    • High schools, eligible but not receiving Title I funds

  • Tier II Waiver
    The SBE approved the submittal of a waiver to the ED to redefine Tier II schools. As a result, middle and high schools identified in the Tier I Pool, but not identified as part of the lowest five percent, were added to the Tier II Pool and were eligible to be identified as part of the lowest five percent in Tier II. However, the five percent was established based on the number of schools in Tier I and Tier II prior to applying the new Tier II waiver definition.
Step 3: Evaluating Academic Performance and Progress

To identify which schools are the lowest achieving in each of the five groups, a three-year average proficiency rate for English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics is computed for all schools.

The number of students who scored proficient in ELA and mathematics as shown on the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports in the "All Students" group is summed across 2007, 2008, and 2009. That number is then divided by the number of valid scores from the AYP reports in the "All Students" group over the same time period to produce a three-year average proficiency rate. All schools are then sorted on the three-year average proficiency rate from high to low.

Schools are also evaluated on their academic progress on the state’s Academic Performance Index or API. Schools that gain a net of 50 points or more on the API growth score over the last five years or meet the statewide goal of 800 during the 2009–10 school year are deemed to have shown significant academic progress and do not continue in the analysis.

Step 4: Applying Exclusions

Before selecting the five percent of schools in each of the five groups as specified in Step 2 above, school size is evaluated. Consistent with the number (n) size rules for the state's API system and for AYP determinations, schools with fewer than 100 valid test scores in any of the three years evaluated (2007, 2008, and 2009) are excluded. Valid scores refer to the number of students continuously enrolled for a full academic year as defined in California's Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook. (Note: California has applied for a waiver to include a "minimum n" as part of the criteria for identifying schools.)

No other exclusions are made.

Step 5: Identifying Schools Based on Academic Performance

Using the five groups of schools identified in Step 2, individual schools are identified based on their three-year proficiency rate until the five percent figure is reached. For example, within the "Elementary Schools in PI" group, the school with the lowest three-year average proficiency rate is identified first, followed by the school with the second lowest three-year average proficiency rate and so on until the figure representing five percent is reached.

Step 6: Identifying Schools Based on Graduation Rates

Federal guidance requires that in addition to the five percent of schools identified because of academic performance, schools in Tiers I and II be identified if the school's graduation rate is below 60 percent over a number of years.

For this identification process, California employed the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) four-year completer rate for which we are approved to use until four years of longitudinal data are available through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). More information about the NCES four-year completer rate can be found in the 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress Report Information Guide located on the CDE AYP Web page [].

The NCES four-year completer rate was evaluated for schools in Tier I and Tier II. Any school with a high school graduation rate below 60 percent in each of the last four years was included in the list. (Note: To be consistent with the n-size approved in California's Accountability Workbook, only schools with 100 or more valid scores in each of the last four years were included in the analysis.)

Step 7: Completing the List of Schools

The final step in the process is to add Tier I schools identified in Step 6 to the Tier I schools identified by academic performance, and then add Tier II schools identified in Step 6 to Tier II schools identified by academic performance. Finally, Tier III schools (all other schools included in the Tier I pool but not identified as part of the lowest five percent) are identified.

Lists of schools are posted on the CDE Web page separately by Tier. An additional list indicating which schools were identified because of their high school graduation rate is also posted.

Questions:   Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division | 916-319-0869
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, October 11, 2016