Frequently Asked QuestionsFrequently asked questions about the School Accountability Report Card (SARC).
Why are local educational agencies (LEAs) required to publish School Accountability Report Cards (SARCs)?
In November 1988, California voters passed Proposition 98, also known as The Classroom Instructional Improvement and Accountability Act. This ballot initiative provides California's public schools with a stable source of funding. In return, all public schools in California are required annually to prepare SARCs and disseminate them to the public. SARCs are intended to provide the public with important information about each public school and to communicate a school's progress in achieving its goals.
In the years since the passage of Proposition 98, additional requirements for school accountability reporting and dissemination have been established through legislation. Most SARC requirements are codified in California Education Code (EC) sections 33126 and 33126.1 . In addition, similar requirements are contained in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation.
Pursuant to Chapter 914, Statutes of 2004 (Assembly Bill 1858), all nonpublic, nonsectarian schools are required to prepare a SARC in accordance with EC Section 33126. This requirement applies to nonpublic, nonsectarian schools but does not apply to nonpublic, nonsectarian agencies.
Are LEA governing boards required to approve the publication of a SARC?Yes. EC Section 35256 states:
The governing board of each school district maintaining an elementary or secondary school shall develop and cause to be implemented for each school in the school district a School Accountability Report Card.
(a) The School Accountability Report Card shall include, but is not limited to, the conditions listed in Section 33126.
(b) Not less than triennially, the governing board of each school district shall compare the content of the School Accountability Report Card of the school district to the model School Accountability Report Card adopted by the state board. Variances among school districts shall be permitted where necessary to account for local needs.
(c) The governing board of each school district annually shall issue a School Accountability Report Card for each school in the school district, publicize those reports, and notify parents or guardians of pupils that a hard copy will be provided upon request. Commencing with the 2008–09 school year, each school district shall make hard copies of its annually updated report card available, upon request, on or before February 1 of each year.
Preparation and Dissemination Requirements
Are schools/LEAs required to publish and disseminate SARCs?
Yes, all active public schools/LEAs and nonpublic, nonsectarian (NPS)schools are required to prepare and disseminate a SARC for the primary purpose of providing parents with data and information to make meaningful comparisons between schools (inclusive of charter schools).
Charter schools are required to prepare SARC reports as a method by which to measure pupil progress in meeting pupil outcomes for state priorities, pursuant to EC Section 47605(b)(5)(C). Further information about charter schools can be found on the Charter Schools web page.
For public school/LEA SARC Coordinators, the electronic SARC template is partially pre-populated using the data that the school/LEA submitted to the California Department of Education (CDE) during the school year.
For NPS SARC Coordinators, the NPS schools do not provide the CDE with data during the school year, and therefore, the electronic SARC template is only pre-populated with some district data and the state data.
The online SARC Web Application can be accessed on the California Department of Education (CDE) SARC web page.
The blank SARC template is available on the CDE SARC web page.
EC Section 35256 states in part:
...each school district shall make hard copies of its annually updated report card available, upon request, on or before February 1 of each year.
In addition, EC Section 33126(d) states:
It is the intent of the Legislature that schools make a concerted effort to notify parents of the purpose of the school accountability report cards, as described in this section, and ensure that all parents receive a copy of the report card; to ensure that the report cards are easy to read and understandable by parents; to ensure that local educational agencies with access to the Internet make available current copies of the report cards through the Internet.
These sections, when taken together, require that LEAs notify all parents of the availability of a full report and provide instructions regarding how this information can be obtained both through the Internet and on paper (upon request). LEAs with access to the Internet are required to make SARCs available through that medium.
Are County Offices of Education (COEs) required to prepare and publish SARCs?
Yes, EC Section 35256 requires that the governing board of each school district maintaining an elementary or secondary school develop a SARC. EC Section 1984 provides that a county board of education shall be deemed to be a school district when it establishes and maintains a county community school. Further, EC Section 1906 provides where a county board of education operates classes or schools for prisoners in a county jail, county farm, or county road camp, the county board of education has the same obligations as a school district would have if it were operating the schools. Throughout the EC, there are several statues which include a county board of education operating an elementary or secondary school within the definition of "school district" (e.g., EC sections 1984, 35160.2, and 41302.5). Therefore, any county board of education operating an elementary or secondary school is required to prepare SARCs.
How does an LEA primary user create or edit a user account in the online SARC Web Application?
There is a new streamlined SARC user account registration process starting with the 2019-2020 SARCs, which requires each County Superintendent, District Superintendent, Direct Funded Charter (DFC) School Administrator, and Nonpublic Nonsectarian (NPS) School Administrator to annually register on the SARC User Account Registration web page to obtain a secure user account (i.e., username and password), then using his/her new secure user account can immediately log onto the SARC Web Application system. The secure user account provides each authorized registrant with the capability to can create additional user accounts in the SARC Web Application system for his/her designated SARC Coordinators, if needed. Note, it is the responsibility of the authorized registrant to provide his/her designated SARC Coordinators with the username and password that the authorized registrant established when creating the additional user account.
Only County Superintendents, District Superintendents, DFC School Administrators, and NPS School Administrators (as listed on the California School Directory) may register for the initial, secure user account (i.e., username and password) to access the online SARC Web Application because it is only by their authority that persons are designated to have access to the online SARC Web Application for their district and/or school SARCs. For security purposes, the User Account Registration system will only recognize registration by the authorized registrants (i.e., County Superintendents, District Superintendents, DFC School Administrators, and NPS School Administrators, as listed on the California School Directory).Once an authorized registrant has obtained his/her secure user account, he/she can immediately log onto the SARC Web Application and create additional user accounts for his/her designated SARC Coordinators, if needed. When creating a user account, the authorized registrant can determine which sections the new user will be authorized to edit, if the user will be authorized to create additional user accounts, and if the user will be authorized to finalize (make public) the completed online SARC Report. The following steps provide the process for creating or editing a user account:
- Login to the SARC Web Application
- In the left menu bar, select 'Users'
- Select the hyperlink 'Add a User'
Note: If you do not see this option ('Add a User'), then you do not have authorization to create or edit a user account.
- Complete the requested information and select the options for the new user
- Select 'Save'
- Login to the SARC Web Application
Is there a specific date by which the SARCs are to be published and submitted to the California Department of Education (CDE)?
Yes. SARCs must be published and submitted to the CDE no later than February 1 of each year.
According to state and federal laws (EC sections 35256(c), 35258(a), 35258(b), and Public Law 107-110), schools/LEAs must annually update and disseminate SARCs to provide current information to parents and other members of the public. The CDE interprets "annually" to mean "once in each school year." In most years, some of the required data may not be available until the end of October or later. Therefore, the preparation of report cards that comply with State Board of Education (SBE)-adopted requirements governing content and definitions may not be completed until November.
Since SARCs must be prepared and disseminated before the end of each school year to comply with the law, schools/LEAs must prepare and make available their new SARCs no later than February 1 of each year.
Who Prepares the SARC – the school or LEA?
This is a local decision made by the LEA. Each LEA may complete SARC reporting requirements differently, based on local resources and areas of expertise. The LEA is responsible for ensuring all SARCs are made available to the public by the required date.
Are newly opened schools required to prepare and disseminate a SARC in their first year of operation?
Yes. The law (EC Section 35256) states that each local governing board shall develop and issue a SARC for each school in the school district. All available information and data must be published by the publication deadline. However, if a school had zero enrollment during the SARC year, and zero enrollment during the current school year, then a SARC will not be required.
The SBE-approved template provides the years that correspond to each table of requesting data. Newly opened schools are to provide data in the SARC template tables of those which years correspond with their new/first school year.
If a school was open during the SARC year but is now closed, is a SARC required for this school?
If there is no intention for this school to become active/open any time within the following two school years, then no, a SARC is not required.
If there is intention for this school to become active/open any time within the following two school years, then yes, a SARC is required.
How do I register as a SARC Coordinator or update my SARC Coordinator information to receive SARC email messages?To register or update your SARC Coordinator information, log onto the CDE Accountability Report Card Listserv web page. This is a user managed unrestricted listserv available to the public. This listserv is used to send emails regarding general, non-confidential, non-sensitive SARC information. To subscribe or unsubscribe to this accountability listserv, follow the directions listed on the Accountability Report Card Listserv web page.
The CDE will be in contact with county/district superintendents, direct funded charter (DFC) school administrators, and nonpublic nonsectarian (NPS) school administrators regarding confidential and sensitive SARC information (i.e., process to obtain usernames and passwords to access the online SARC Web Application).
Where are the SARCs located that are posted with the CDE?
The CDE hosts the submitted SARC reports and SARC web links on the Find a SARC web page .
If a school's SARC report or web link to their SARC report is not available on the CDE Find a SARC web page, please contact the school or district.
Why does the CDE pre-populate a portion of the SARCs for public schools but not for nonpublic, nonsectarian schools?
As a courtesy for public schools and districts, the CDE makes some SARC data available. Where the CDE maintains data previously reported by LEAs, the data have been pre-populated into a portion of the electronic SARC templates for public schools' use. Nonpublic, nonsectarian schools do not provide the CDE with data, and therefore the CDE does not have data available to pre-populate these same data elements in their SARC templates, with the exception of some district data and the state data.
Are LEAs required to provide the CDE with a copy of the SARC for each of the LEA's schools?
Yes. EC Section 33126.1 requires LEAs to provide the CDE with an accurate link to the website address where the LEA has posted its SARCs. EC Section 33126.1 also requires the CDE to maintain a centralized location of the submitted links to these LEA websites to facilitate public access to SARCs. In order to ensure uniformity and access by the public, the CDE has made available two methods for the schools/LEAs to submit their SARCs to the CDE: (1) use the online electronic SARC template located on the SARC Web Application to complete and post the SARC, or (2) provide an accurate uniform resource locator (URL) to the website address where the SARC has been posted on the school/LEA website.
To be in compliance with law, in addition to submitting their SARCs to the CDE, each school/LEA that is connected to the Internet shall also post their SARCs on their school/LEA website.
What are the methods available for LEAs to submit their SARCs to the CDE?
The SARC Web Application serves as the mechanism for each LEA to provide the CDE with its completed SARC. There are two methods available for LEAs to submit their SARCs to the CDE: (1) use the online partially pre-populated electronic SARC template located on the SARC Web Application to complete and post the SARC, or (2) provide an accurate URL to the website address where the SARC has been posted on the school/LEA website.
If your LEA uses method 1 above, once you have finalized/posted the SARC on the SARC Web Application (if posted successfully there will be a green check mark in the "Finalized" column on the SARC Dashboard), a successfully posted SARC will simultaneously post on the CDE Find a SARC web page . When using method 1, the Google Translate feature allows the user to view your SARC in over 70 languages. While in Google Translate, the user can print or save as a PDF the translated SARC report to post on the school and/or district website. There will be no need to send any additional information to the CDE. Remember to post your SARC on your school/LEA website (English and all required translations). If you place a link to the CDE Find a SARC web page on your school/LEA website along with an informational and instructional notation (in English and in the translations), this will satisfy your legal requirements for posting your required translations.
If your LEA uses method 2 above, once you have posted your SARC on your school/LEA website (English and all required translations), proceed to upload the accurate link to your completed SARC onto the SARC Web Application. If posted successfully, you will see a green checkmark in the “Finalized” column on the SARC Dashboard webpage and this link will simultaneously post on the CDE Find a SARC web page. There will be no need to send any additional information to the CDE.
Are SARCs required to be prepared and disseminated in languages other than English?
Yes. According to EC Section 48985, if 15 percent or more of the pupils enrolled in the school speak a single primary language other than English, all notices, reports, statements, or records sent by the school or district to the parent/guardian of any such pupil must, in addition to being written in English, be written in the primary language, and may be responded to by the parent or guardian in English or in the primary language. These translation requirements apply to the SARC just as they apply to any other written communication that a district or school prepares for the purpose of informing a student’s parent or guardian. In addition, federal law requires that schools and districts effectively communicate with all parents and guardians, regardless of the percentage of students who speak a language other than English (Title III, Section 3122[c]).
Where do I upload the translated SARCs?
For posting SARCs translated to other languages, CDE recommends that you upload the translated SARCs onto your school/LEA website.
For those SARCs (in English) that were completed and posted using the electronic SARC template available on the online SARC Web Application, Google Translate is available on the system to allow the user to view the SARCs in over 70 languages. The user can print or save as PDF the translated SARC report while in Google Translate.
Are there specific items that must be included in the SARC?
Yes. State and federal laws require specific items to be reported in the following categories: demographic information, school safety and climate for learning, academic data, school completion, class size, teacher and staff information, curriculum and instruction, postsecondary preparation, and fiscal and expenditure data, pursuant to EC sections 33126, 33126.1, 35256, and 52052, and ESEA Section 1111(h)(2).
What are the reporting requirements related to facility inspections?
Schools are required to have facility inspections. Specifically, state law requires that the facility inspection be reflected on the SARC in accordance with EC sections 33126 and 33126.1. The Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) Facility Inspection Tool (FIT) or a locally developed instrument that meets the same legal requirements must be utilized during these inspections to determine if a school facility is in "good repair" and to rate the facility accordingly.
LEAs are to use the data collected in the school's most recent FIT report to populate the SARC regarding the school's facility conditions and the "good repair status" of the facility. The year and month of the most recent FIT report are also required to be provided on the SARC.
How are school site expenditures per pupil calculated?
Expenditures per pupil must be calculated to complete the SARC School Finances tables.
- Total expenditures per pupil (includes both unrestricted and restricted sources)
In calculating per pupil expenditures, you must calculate the current expense (cost) of education per average daily attendance (ADA) pursuant to EC Section 41372. The methodology is: cost of education divided by ADA equals per pupil expenditure. This same methodology is used to calculate total expenditures, basic expenditures, or supplemental expenditures. For additional guidance see the CDE Current Expense of Education and Per-pupil Spending web page.
The calculation for total expenditures per pupil includes funds from both unrestricted and restricted sources. Funds from unrestricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 0000–1999 range and funds from restricted sources are identified by resource codes in the 2000–9999 range.
- Expenditure categories for current expense of education
The following are the expenditure categories for the current expense of education:
Account Code Description 1000 Certificated Salaries 2000 Classified Salaries 3000 Employee Benefits (beginning in 2014–15, state payments to retirement systems on behalf of districts are included) 4000 Books and Supplies 6500 Equipment Replacement 5000 & 7300 Services and Indirect Costs
Note: From the total expenditures reported in the above accounts, costs for the following categories are deducted: (1) Non-agency activities; (2) Community Services; (3) Food Services; (4) Fringe Benefits for Retired Persons; and (5) Facilities Acquisition and Construction. For additional guidance see the CDE Current Expense of Education and Per-pupil Spending and the Certificated Salaries and Benefits web pages.
Questions about the calculation should be directed to the CDE Office of Financial Accountability and Information Services at 916-322-1770 or by email to email@example.com.
- Expenditures per pupil (unrestricted sources)
Funds or activities that are not legally restricted or restricted by the donor for specific purposes, but rather by the LEA's governing board, will be accounted for and reported as unrestricted. LEAs will need to review other local revenue received from external sources to determine whether legal or donor restrictions apply for purposes of restricted or unrestricted designations. Revenues that have restrictions on how the funds are spent are referred to as restricted revenues. They are accounted for in Resource codes in the 2000–9999 range. Revenues whose use is unrestricted in nature but which still have reporting requirements are accounted for in unrestricted Resource codes in the 1000–1999 range. Those activities using unrestricted revenues that do not have financial reporting or special accounting requirements are accounted for in Resource 0000, Unrestricted. For more information about classifying revenues and expenditures, see Procedure 310 in the California School Accounting Manual (CSAM) on the CDE Definitions, Instructions, & Procedures web page.
Note: The calculation for expenditures per pupil funds from unrestricted sources are identified by Resource codes in the 0000–1999 range.
- Expenditures per pupil (restricted sources)
Restricted programs or activities relating to the operation of kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) educational programs are considered a part of ordinary operations and are accounted for in the general fund. Within the general fund, restricted programs or activities must be identified, accounted for, and reported separately. This requirement means that general fund activities will be divided into restricted and unrestricted segments. This is achieved through the use of the resource field of the standardized account code structure. (The resource field is discussed in CSAM Procedure 310.)
Restricted programs or activities are those funded from external revenue sources legally restricted or restricted by the donor to specific purposes. Examples include, but are not limited it, instructional materials, special education funds, and teacher and principal training funds. Unrestricted revenues are those funds whose uses are not subject to specific legal or donor constraints and may be used for any purposes not prohibited by law. Examples include, but are not limited to, Education Protection Account, state lottery (not the instructional materials portion), and undesignated local parcel tax funds. Programs funded by a combination of restricted and unrestricted sources will be accounted for and reported as restricted.
Note: The calculation for expenditures per pupil funds from restricted sources are identified by Resource codes in the 2000–9999 range.
- The formula to calculate the Percent Difference is:
V1 = School Site Value
V2 = District Value or State Value
- Section D. Other SARC Information in the SARC Template and in the Data Element Definitions document.
- The Table of Valid Codes Descriptions on the CDE SACS Valid Code Descriptions web page.
- Detailed information pertaining to Resource Codes in Procedure 310 of the CSAM on the CDE Definitions, Instructions, and Procedures web page.
- CDE SACS Query by Resource Code web page.
- Section D. Other SARC Information in the SARC Template and in the Data Element Definitions document.
- Total expenditures per pupil (includes both unrestricted and restricted sources)
How should data on the graduation rate be reported?
EC Section 33126 requires the reporting of the graduation rate as defined by the SBE when available pursuant to EC Section 52052. In addition, the ESEA requires the reporting of a graduation rate as a condition of federal funding.
The high school graduation rate is calculated using the following cohort graduation rate formula:
Number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of year 4 in the cohort
- divided by -
Number of first-time grade 9 students in year 1 (starting cohort) plus students who transfer in,
minus students who transfer out, emigrate, or die during school years 1, 2, 3, and 4
Are county offices of education, when preparing SARCs on behalf of schools operated by the county office, required to report average salaries and expenditures in the Fiscal and Expenditure Data section of the SARC?
County offices of education that operate schools are not required to report the statewide average salary and expenditure information specified in EC Section 41409. However, EC sections 33126 and 33126.15 (as amended and added by Senate Bill 687 of 2005) require all school report cards -- including those prepared for schools operated by county offices -- to report specified school-level salary and expenditure information.
Where is the blank SARC template?
The blank SARC template is located on the CDE SARC web page under the subsection SARC Preparation Resources.
Are LEAs required to use the template approved by the SBE?
No. However, EC Section 33126.1(j) states:
A school or school district that chooses not to utilize the standardized template adopted pursuant to this section shall report the data for its school accountability report card in a manner that is consistent with the definitions adopted pursuant to subdivision (c).
EC Section 33126.1(c) states:
When the template for a school is completed, it should enable parents and guardians to compare the manner in which local schools compare to other schools within that district as well as other schools in the state.
Furthermore, EC Section 35256(a) states:
The School Accountability Report Card shall include, but is not limited to, the conditions listed in Section 33126.
Can LEAs modify the model SARC template?
Yes. The CDE has designed the model SARC template in a Word version and electronically in the online SARC Web Application. Both can be modified. Portions of the SARC template in Word can be modified or deleted if those portions are not applicable based on grade levels. Whole tables in the electronic SARC template can be restricted from public view by selecting the checkbox "Do not display this table to the public" located at the top of each electronic table, then selecting the "Save" button.
For example, an elementary school with grades kindergarten through grade six do not need to complete the Dropout Rate and Graduation Rate (Four-Year Cohort Rate) table as it pertains to high school grades nine through twelve. Therefore, the Dropout Rate and Graduation Rate (Four-Year Cohort Rate) table can be deleted or restricted from the public view, respectively.
Where can I access prior year SARC Reports?
California law only references the publication and posting of current SARCs. The CDE, LEAs, and schools are not required to maintain or post prior year SARCs.
However, as a courtesy, many LEAs and schools continue to maintain and post their prior year SARCs on their websites, and make hard copies available upon request.
The CDE posts the current SARCs and one prior year SARCs that have been submitted to the CDE on the CDE Find a SARC web page .
Additionally, the CDE maintains the blank SARC templates and downloadable SARC data files of the current SARC and one prior year SARC on the CDE SARC web page.