An alphabetic, general glossary of education terms


Academic Performance Index (API)

The cornerstone of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999. The API measures the academic performance and growth of schools based on a variety of tests and establishes a statewide ranking of schools according to those scores. Most schools have an API, a state ranking (by elementary, middle, or high school), a ranking in comparison to 100 similar schools, and growth targets for the following year.

Actual v. Funded ADA

The actual (total) ADA for the current year versus the greater (funded) of current or prior year ADA. These numbers are the same in districts with growing numbers of students. Districts with decreasing numbers of students are funded on the prior year’s ADA rather than the current year, in part to cushion the impact of declining enrollment.

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)

A goal of the 2001 federal law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that requires schools and districts to measure and report students’ annual progress toward proficiency in English/language arts and mathematics by 2013-14. Progress is based on whether the school or district met its Annual Measurable Objectives and demonstrated 95% participation on standardized tests, achieved its target on the Academic Performance Index and, for high schools, met target graduation rates.

Alternative Schools

A voluntary program that provides an appropriate education, often for very high-risk students.

Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM)

An alternative way of measuring student performance in schools with mostly high-risk students, such as continuation schools, and schools with fewer than 11 valid test scores.

Annual Measurable Objective (AMO)

The annual target for the percentage of students whose test scores must be proficient or above in English/language arts and mathematics. Meeting the AMO is the first step toward demonstrating Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal law No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Average Class Size

The number of students in classes divided by the number of classes. When calculating the “filtered” version of average class size, certain counts are excluded such as Special Education and classes with more than 50 students. Since some teachers have assignments outside regular classrooms or work part-time, the average class size is usually larger than the pupil-teacher ratio.

Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

The total number of days of student attendance divided by the total number of days in the regular school year. A student attending every school day would equal one ADA. Generally, ADA is lower than enrollment due to such factors as transience, dropouts, and illness. A school district’s revenue limit income is based on its ADA. The state collects ADA counts at the district but not the school level.


Basic Aid

School districts in which local property tax revenues equal or exceed their revenue limits. These districts keep the excess and until recently also received $120 per ADA ($2,400 for small districts) in constitutionally guaranteed “basic aid” from the state. Fewer than 10% of all districts were considered basic aid until 2003, when the Legislature stopped the basic aid payment to these “excess revenue” districts on the ground that state categorical funds covered the constitutional requirement.

Block Grant

A combination of similar special-purpose funds, usually with reduced restrictions on how the money may be used.

Bond Measure

Authorization for a school district or the state to issue general obligation bonds to support capital investment. The two-thirds approval for local district bond measures was reduced to 55% in 2001, with some accountability requirements. The principal and interest are repaid through local property taxes. At the state level a simple majority marks approval, with repayment through state taxes.

Budget Act

A one-year statute that contains the state’s budget appropriations. It must be passed by a two-thirds vote of each house by June 15 and sent to the governor, who may not increase individual items but may reduce or delete them. This deadline is not always met.

Building Fund

A fund consisting of revenue from general obligation bonds and the sale, rental, or lease of property. The money may only be used for expenditures related to capital outlay.


California Achievement Test, 6th Edition Survey (CAT/6)

A standardized, nationally normed test that replaced SAT-9 in spring 2003. Third and seventh graders take this mandated test as part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. CAT/6 is published by CTB/McGrawHill.

California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS)

An annual collection of basic student and staff data that; includes student enrollment, graduates, dropouts, course enrollment, enrollment in alternative education, gifted and talented education, and more. Statistical information about schools, teachers, and students that is collected from each public school on a given day in October.

California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)

A two-part test, linked to academic content standards in English/language arts and math, that students must pass in order to graduate beginning with the class of 2006. Tenth graders’ CAHSEE scores are one indicator for Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal law No Child Left Behind, and CAHSEE scores are typically 20% of the API for high schools.

California Standards Tests

Tests in English/language arts and mathematics in grades 2-11, science in grades 5 and 9-11, and history/social science in grades 8, 10 and 11 based on California’s academic content standards. This is the core of California’s statewide Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR).


A welfare reform program that replaced AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Data about CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids) is no longer available on Ed-Data as of 2004-05. Free or Reduced Price Meals Program data can be used as a socioeconomic indicator for families and children.

Capital Outlay

Amounts paid for fixed assets or additions to fixed assets, including land or existing buildings, the improvements of grounds, construction of buildings, additions to buildings, remodeling of buildings, or equipment.

Categorical Aid

Funds from the state or federal government granted to qualifying school districts for children with special needs, such as disabilities; for special programs, such as the School Improvement Program; or for special purposes, such as Economic Impact Aid or Transportation. Expenditure of most categorical aid is restricted to its particular purpose. The funds are granted to districts in addition to their revenue limit income.

Certificated (Credentialed) Employees

School employees who are required by the state to hold teaching credentials, including full-time, part-time, substitute, or temporary teachers and most administrators. A teacher who has not yet acquired a credential but has an emergency permit or a waiver to teach in the classroom is included in the count.

Charter Schools

Publicly funded schools that are exempt from many state laws and regulations governing school districts. They may be established as a charter or converted from an existing public school and frequently have a specific mission. The charter is granted for up to five years by a school district, county office or education, or the State Board of Education and may be renewed for periods of five years. In 2004-05 California had more than 500 charter schools serving about 180,000 students (2.8% of the statewide enrollment). They are subject to the state’s STAR program and to the provisions of the federal law, No Child Left Behind.

Class Size Reduction

A state-funded program for kindergarten through third grade classes with no more than twenty students per teacher. On a given day a class may have more than 20 children, but the average in each class must be lower than 20.4 over the school year to ensure full funding. Virtually all 1st and 2nd graders and nearly all kindergarten and 3rd grade students are in the smaller classes. A separate program supports some smaller classes for core subjects in 9th grade.

Classified Employees

School employees who are not required to hold teaching credentials, such as secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, instructional aides, and some management personnel.

Common Administration Districts

An elementary and high school district with the same administration, school board, and teachers’ organization. This common district files a joint financial report but separate demographic and attendance reports.

Community Day/Community Schools

A type of school for high-need students, particularly the homeless or students who have been expelled.

Continuation School

A type of school that provides students 16-18 an option for acquiring a diploma.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

An increase in funding for revenue limits and categorical programs based on various indices of inflation. In tight budget years the Legislature has appropriated only a portion of the amount required by law.


Deferred Maintenance

Major repairs or replacement of buildings and equipment. Some matching state funds for these repairs are available to districts with a deferred maintenance program.

Developer Fees

A charge per square foot on residential and commercial construction. Developer fees are levied by a school district, with the maximum amount set by law and adjusted for inflation every two years. Proceeds may be used for building or renovating schools and for portable classrooms.

District Types

A designation that indicates the grades served in a district. An elementary district is generally kindergarten through 8th grade, high school is generally grades 9 through 12, and unified is kindergarten through 12th grade.


Economic Impact Aid

State categorical funds for districts with concentrations of children who are transient, from low-income families, or need to learn English.

Education Code

The body of law that regulates education in California. Additional regulations affecting education are contained in the California Administrative Code, Titles 5 and 8, the Government Code, and general statutes.

English Learner (EL)

A student who is not sufficiently proficient in the English language to succeed in the school’s regular instructional programs. The former designation was Limited English Proficient (LEP). Students’ English proficiency is assessed annually.


A count of the students enrolled in each school and district on a given day in October. This is different from average daily attendance (ADA), which is the average number of students who attended school over the course of the year. The number of pupils enrolled in the school is usually larger than the ADA due to transience, dropouts, and illnesses. Enrollment data is available at the school, district, county and state levels. Enrollment and ADA are both used for funding purposes.

Ethnic Diversity Index

The Ethnic Diversity Index (EDI), developed by EdSource, measures how much variety, or diversity, a school or district has among the seven ethnic categories of students reported to the CDE. Numbers close to 100 indicate a fairly even distribution, while numbers closer to 0 mean that students are predominantly from a single ethnic group.


The designation of students and staff according to seven ethnic/racial groups for the California Department of Education’s California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS). These seven groups, along with a multiple/no response category, meet state and federal reporting requirements.


Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT)

A state-funded organization that assists schools and districts to improve financial and management accountability.

Free/Reduced Price Meals

A program to provide food for students from low-income families.


General Fund

Accounting term used by local educational agencies to differentiate general revenues and expenditures from those placed in separate funds for specific uses, such as a Cafeteria Fund. The General Fund is used to account for the ordinary operations of a local educational agency. All transactions except those required or permitted by law to be in another fund are accounted for in the General Fund.

General Obligation Bond (G. O. Bond)

Bonds for capital outlay, financed through taxes. Local school bonds require approval by either a 55% (with conditions) or a two-thirds vote; state measures need only a majority vote.

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)

State funds to participating districts for educational services to children who are identified as exceptionally able or talented.


High Priority Schools Grant (HPSG)

Additional funding to assist students in the lowest-performing schools beginning July 2002.

High School Exit Exam

See California High School Exit Exam.



The Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program to encourage a schoolwide improvement program in schools with very low test scores. Schools in the lowest five deciles of API scores are eligible if they do not meet their API targets.

Instructional Materials, K-8 & 9-12

State funds specifically for classroom materials, such as textbooks and workbooks.


J-200, J-380

Financial and program cost accounting reports submitted by school districts and county offices to the California Department of Education. The information was used to monitor the fiscal condition of school districts and county offices prior to 2003-04. Beginning with 2003-04, all local educational agencies report their financial data in the Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS).


A voluntary report by school districts and county offices listing teachers’ salaries and benefits. This report, the most comprehensive certificated salary and benefit data available in the state, includes information from 81 percent of school districts and county offices, representing 98 percent of the state’s average daily attendance.

Juvenile Court School

An educational program provided by counties for students in the Juvenile Court system.


No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The 2001 reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that places comprehensive accountability requirements on all states, with increasing sanctions for schools and districts that do not make adequate yearly progress toward proficiency in English/language arts and mathematics or that fail to test 95% of all students and all significant subgroups. In California, those sanctions currently apply only to schools and districts that accept Title I funding.


Opportunity Schools

A type of school that provides short-term education for high-risk students.


Population Status

U.S. Census Bureau designations of size.

  • Large City: a central city of a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) with 250,000 people or more.
  • Mid-size City: a central city of a CMSA or Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), with less than 250,000 people.
  • Urban Fringes of Large City: any incorporated place, Census Designated Place, or non-place territory within a CMSA or MSA of a Large City and defined as urban by the Census Bureau.
  • Urban Fringes of Mid-size City:any incorporated place, Census Designated Place, or non-place territory within a CMSA or MSA of a Mid-size City and defined as urban.
  • Large Town: an incorporated place or Census Designated Place with a population greater than or equal to 25,000 located outside a CMSA or MSA.
  • Small Town: an incorporated place or Census Designated Place with a population less than 25,000 but greater than 2,500 located outside a CMSA or MSA.
  • Rural, outside MSA: any incorporated place, Census Designated Place, or non-place territory designated as rural by the Census Bureau.
  • Rural, inside MSA: any incorporated place, Census Designated Place, or non-place territory within a CMSA or MSA of a Large or Mid-Size City and defined as rural by the Census Bureau.

Program Improvement (PI)

A plan with a series of steps to improve the performance of students in a school that did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for two years in a row. Only schools that receive federal Title I funds are placed in Program Improvement. The steps in PI could include a revised school plan, professional development, tutoring for some students, transfer to another school with free transportation, and, at the end of five years, significant restructuring.

Proposition 13

An initiative amendment to the California Constitution passed in June 1978. Tax rates on secured property are restricted to no more than 1% of “full cash value.” Proposition 13 also defines assessed value and requires a two-thirds vote to change existing or levy new special purpose taxes.

Proposition 227

An initiative that limits non-English language instruction for students who are learning English. Approved by voters in June 1998, Proposition 227 permits parents to petition a school to provide instruction in students’ native language as well as in English.

Propositions 98 and 111

Voter-approved initiatives that amended the California constitution in 1988 and 1990 to guarantee a minimum amount of funding for K-14 education each year. The propositions included formulas for calculating the guarantee under different economic conditions. Proposition 98 also mandated School Accountability Report Cards.

Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)

Public Employees’ Retirement System. Unless exempted by state law, classified employees, their district, and the state contribute to this retirement fund.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

The total student enrollment divided by the number of full-time equivalent teachers. The pupil-teacher ratio is the most common statistic for comparing staffing data across states. The ratio is usually smaller than average class size because some teachers work outside the classroom.


Regional Occupational Centers/Regional Occupational Programs (ROC/P)

State funding for training in entry-level jobs, job-related counseling, and upgrading skills for students age 16 to 18.

Restricted Funds

Money whose use is controlled by law or by a donor. Money that is designated for specific purposes by the district or governing board is not considered restricted. The SACS (Standardized Account Code Structure) financial reports on Ed-Data indicate which revenues and expenditures are restricted.

Revenue Limit

The specific combination of state and local property taxes a school district may receive per pupil (ADA) for its general education program. Categorical aid is granted in addition to revenue limit income.


see “Regional Occupational Centers/Regional Occupational Programs”



The SAT I Reasoning Test (formerly called Scholastic Aptitude Test), widely used as a college entrance examination. A score can be compared to state and national averages of seniors graduating from any public or private school.

School Improvement Program (SIP)

State funds for qualifying schools (K-6 and 7-12) to carry out a plan developed by a school site council for improving the school environment, organization, instruction and/or services. In 2005-05 SIP was folded into one of six block grants.

School Types

The designation of the kind of school, usually elementary, middle, or high. Examples of alternatives are community day/county community schools for high-need students including expelled or homeless; continuation schools, an option for ages 16-18 to acquire a diploma; juvenile court schools; and short-term opportunity schools for high-risk students.

SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area)

A state-mandated association that oversees and facilitates education for students with disabilities. The SELPA coordinates with school districts and the County Office of Education to provide a continuum of programs and services for disabled individuals from birth through 22.

Small Districts

An elementary district with fewer than 101 ADA; a high school district with fewer than 301 ADA; and a unified (K-12) district with fewer than 1,501 ADA.

Socioeconomically Disadvantaged

Students whose parents do not have a high school diploma or who participate in the free/reduced price lunch program because of low family income.

Special Education

Programs to identify and meet the educational needs of children with emotional, learning, or physical disabilities. Federal law requires that all children with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate education according to an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from infancy until 21 years of age.

Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS)

A uniform, comprehensive, and minimum chart of accounts for classifying the financial activities of California local school districts and county offices of education. Phase-in began in 1997-98, and in 2003-04 all LEAs reported in SACS.

Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR)

Three tests mandated for grades 2 through 11:

  1. California Standards Tests (CSTs) based on California academic content standards in English/language arts and mathematics in all grades, science in 5 and 9-11, and history/social science in 8, 10 and 11;
  2. a standardized national test (CAT/6 replaced SAT-9 in spring 2003); and
  3. a test for Spanish-speaking students who have been in a California school for a year or less (“Aprenda,” as of 2006-07).

Stanford-9 (SAT-9)

The Stanford Achievement Test, Form 9. This nationally normed, standardized test was part of the state’s STAR program until the California Achievement Test, 6th Edition, Survey (CAT/6) replaced it in spring 2003.

State Teachers Retirement System (STRS)

A retirement fund to which, by law, all certificated employees, school districts, and the state must contribute.


Title I, Migrant Education

Funds for districts with students whose parents are migrant workers.

Title I, Title VI

Funds from the federal Educational Consolidation and Improvement Act. Title I is for educationally disadvantaged children; Title VI is for innovative education program strategies. (These programs were formerly called Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.) In California, schools and districts receiving Title I funds are placed in Program Improvement if they fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.


Unrestricted Funds

Money whose use, except for general guidelines, is not controlled by law or by a donor. Unrestricted funds may include money that is designated by the district or governing board.