Test scores for California K-12 students hold steady, chronic absence rate drops

New data from the California Department of Education indicates that students are generally holding steady academically compared to last year and rebounding attendance-wise following years of pandemic disruptions.

On Oct. 18, the department released the latest results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) — which kept consistent with recent scores or showed slight improvements — as well as updated data on chronic absenteeism.

“Given the ongoing drops in achievement appearing on many national tests and the relationship between student advantage and achievement, California’s statewide scores are particularly promising as the proportion of high-need students has also increased in California schools,” according to a CDE press release. “Specifically, the proportion of students tested who are socioeconomically disadvantaged increased from 60 percent in 2022 to 63 percent in 2023 … and the number and share of students who are experiencing homelessness or who are part of the foster care system has also increased.”


CAASPP tests include the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts/literacy and mathematics; the California Science Test (CAST); the California Alternate Assessments (CAAs) for ELA, mathematics, and science; and the California Spanish Assessment (CSA).

For Smarter Balanced ELA, the percentage of participating students who met or exceeded the standard dropped just 0.4 percent from 47.1 percent in 2022 to 46.7 percent in 2023. The rate of American Indian or Alaska Native, Filipino, economically-disadvantaged and students with disabilities who met or exceeded the standard either stayed consistent or slightly improved while all other groups saw slight decreases in performance. Students experiencing homelessness saw the largest drop with a 2-percentage point decrease from 27.8 percent meeting or exceeding standards in 2022 to 25.8 in 2023.

By grade, third- and 11th-grade students saw slight increases in meeting or exceeding standards.

In Smarter Balanced math, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard increased by 1.2 percent from 33.4 percent in 2022 to 34.6 percent in 2023. All demographic groups and grades saw improvement.

For CAST, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard increased from 29.5 percent in 2022 to 30.2 percent in 2023.

CAA participation in ELA and mathematics increased and the number of students taking the science assessment slightly decreased. The percentage of students who met the level 3 standard rose 1.6 percentage points for ELA and 0.6 percentage points for math from 2022 to 2023. Science performance fell 2.1 percentage points. These alternative assessments are designed for students with significant cognitive disabilities who are unable to participate in the Smarter Balanced Summative or California Science Test with supports and accommodations.

Participation in the CSA test rose from 46,170 in 2022 to 55,226 in 2023 and the overall performance (percent reporting range 3) dropped from 10.7 to 9.4. The performance of Filipino students, students who identify as two or more races, English learners and foster youth stayed consistent or slightly improved year-to-year, with all other demographic groups seeing slight drops.


ELPAC tests include the initial ELPAC, initial alternate ELPAC, summative ELPAC and summative alternate ELPAC. For the first time in 2022–23, data on initial alternate ELPAC performance is available.

Of the students who took the initial or initial alternate ELPAC (221,813 and 864 students, respectively) in 2023, the majority were identified as Novice English learners or Intermediate English learners.

For the summative ELPAC, there was a 0.9 percent increase in performance level 4 achievement, the level used for meeting one of four criteria for reclassification. All grade levels besides first and second saw improvement in meeting performance level 4 (first graders saw a 0.3 percent decrease year-to-year and second graders saw a 2 percent decrease).

The summative alternate ELPAC saw a 2.6 percent decrease in level 3 proficiency attainment.


In 2022–23 the rate of chronic absenteeism fell to 24.9 percent — a significant improvement from 30 percent in 2021–22. Far fewer kindergarten students were absent in 2022–23 compared to 2021–22 as well, at a rate of 36.3 percent chronic absence vs. 40.4 percent.

By student group, those considered migrant saw a 10.4-percentage point change in the rate of chronic absenteeism falling to 22.5 percent in 2022–23. By race/ethnicity, American Indian or Alaska Native students saw the biggest improvement with the rate of chronic absenteeism falling 7.3-percentage points to 36.3 percent in 2022–23 followed by Hispanic, Pacific Islander and African American students.

CDE also released a report on the reasons for absenteeism. The four kinds of absences considered are excused, unexcused, out-of-school suspension and incomplete independent study.

Additional details on each assessment and student group results, including CAASPP and ELPAC summary reports, can be found on the Test Results for California’s Assessments website. Data on chronic absenteeism in California is available to view on DataQuest.