Ever wonder what's behind the academic testing acronyms?

As schools head into session, state officials are preparing their annual homework: test scores and school performance results that start coming out this week.

STAR test results will be released Tuesday. API and AYP scores come out in September. And in October, the Department of Education will release its Program Improvement list.

What are all these results and what do they mean?

Here's a rundown:


The Standardized Testing and Reporting program, or STAR, is a series of tests given each spring to students in second through 11th grades. The California Standards Test measures how well public school students are learning English language arts, math, science and history-social science. The program includes tests for students with disabilities, English learners and a national test on general knowledge.

Other facts:

Students are ranked in five categories: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic. The scores are used as a report card to determine whether schools are meeting state and federal accountability measures. The scores help determine the federal funding they will receive.

A school district can use results to help decide student placement, promotion or retention. The scores are not included on high school transcripts.

School districts usually mail reports to homes in August.


The Academic Performance Index is a score given to schools by the state on a scale of 200 to 1,000. The score is based on results of standardized tests given to students in second through 11th grades each spring.

Pro: Shows which schools are making gains in student performance on test scores.

Con: No consequences at state level for schools with chronically low or flat scores.


The Adequate Yearly Progress score is a federal measure of school performance under 2002's No Child Left Behind Act. It includes data such as graduation rates and English and math scores on state tests. If a school fails the AYP two years in a row, it is put on a federal delinquent list called Program Improvement.

Pro: Looks at overall student performance and scores within groups of students, such as English learners, low-income students and ethnic group members.

Con: There are dozens of ways to fail the AYP, so schools can fail even if they show great improvement in most areas.

Program Improvement

Program Improvement is a list schools land on if they fail to meet AYP goals for two consecutive years. Year 5 is the last stop on the delinquent ranking. Schools on the Program Improvement list must provide students additional services, such as tutoring, and may face takeover by state officials.

Pro: Lists schools that need additional monitoring or assistance.

Con: Labels campuses as underperforming even though they may be excelling in certain areas.