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How Much Money Does this Stuff Cost?

By Anonymous on Feb 26, 2009 10:07 AM

OK – this is the last blog on testing for now and I thought I'd poke around to see if anyone actually has tried to figure out what all this testing actually costs in dollars. I haven't been too lucky with figuring that out for Pennsylvania, or Philadelphia. I did get a copy of a summary of State Appropriations for Pennsylvania's Department of Education. Under a budget line entitled "PA Assessment" there is a number of $54,400,000. I don't know about you, but to me, that's an awful lot of money, But it's not out of line to what all the other states are spending.

I stumbled on a pretty interesting site: Communities for Quality Education. It's an attempt to capture what NCLB has cost and some quotes from this report are very telling. For example, here's what Virginia estimates as simply the administrative costs – not the cost of what it would take to provide students with what they need to take the test:

"In September 2005, the Virginia Department of Education released a cost study that found that local school divisions will have to spend $62 million, $60 million, $61 million, and $65 million more than they are receiving from the federal government, through fiscal year 2008, to administer NCLB. The study covers the costs of meeting the laws requirements (i.e. compliance cost), but does not cover what the state will have to spend to actually get students to pass grade level tests and close the achievement gap (i.e. proficiency costs)."

And another: "The Connecticut State Department of Education reported that through FY 08, it will cost the state approximately $41.6 million to administer NCLB. These are state level costs only; a report on local costs for just three school districts found an additional unmet cost of $22.6 million. The study covers the costs of meeting the law's requirements (i.e. compliance cost) but does not cover what the state will have to spend to actually get students to pass grade level tests and close the achievement gap (i.e. proficiency costs)."

"In July 2004, a study commissioned by the Hawaii legislature found it would cost $191 million between 2003-2008 to meet the requirements of NCLB. Developmental costs were estimated at an additional $24.6 million. The study covers the costs of meeting the law's requirements (i.e. compliance cost) but does not cover what the state will have to spend to actually get students to pass grade level tests and close the achievement gap (i.e. proficiency costs)."

So what are we getting for all this money? Well, according to one writer, what we are getting is very very cheap tests because any assessment worth its salt would cost even more than the computerized drone of an assessment now being used. From another interesting website comes this excerpt:

"'s Pauline Vu looks at the rise of standardized testing….The year before NCLB went into effect, Vu reports, states spent $423 million on standardized tests. During the 2007- 08 school year, that amount will increase to almost $1.1 billion. And the windfall largely goes to five (soon to be four) testing companies. And yet, federal funds have been lacking to help pay the tab for administering now 45 million tests a year (going up to 56 million once NCLB's science assessment is added). Hence a reliance in many states on cheaper-to-score multiple-choice assessments."

"But is the answer more money for better tests (and more profits for testing companies)?...So barring an infusion of cash, the consequence of NCLB's testing mania will be an ongoing quest for cheaper and cheaper tests…As Wisconsin's director of testing tells Vu, "People who don't have their heads stuck in the instruction don't realize it's not cheap to do this really well. And right now, I don't know many legislatures that are very open to spending money or raising taxes to develop these kinds of instruments."

So when will this end? How can we bring sanity and reason back to education, to instruction, to assessment? Any ideas?

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Comments (4)

Submitted by Paul Socolar on February 26, 2009 6:00 pm

Can't answer the "when and how will this end?" questions, but wanted to follow up on the subject of "very very cheap tests." The publication Rethinking Schools is the only place I've seen writing about what a standardized-test-scoring operation looks like from the inside. Here's their most recent story on that subject by a test scorer.

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Submitted by Debbie Wei (not verified) on February 27, 2009 8:16 am

Hey Paul - I have actually had my own experiences both scoring tests and reviewing test items for cultural content. Even did one for NAEP (they picked me up in a limo and put me up in the Ritz, though for the life of me, I can't remembr which city it was in because I spent 3 days holed up in the hotel reading stuff 10 hours a day...) Just read the piece in RS and it sparked all kinds of deja vu for me from my experiences. He is dead on in terms of some of the stuff that goes on. When we do real authentic assessment in our school, it does cost money - we hire subs so teachers cna be released to help with the assessment and bring in volunteers who listen to students read their work, ask questions, write responses, or in the roundtables which some of our middle school teachers are doing, 1 or 2 adults spend a full 2 hours listening to 4 students present their work, ask questions and listen for student response and refleciton, and take part in a collective scoring process with rubrics in hand - and which students also participate in with scoring their classmates. And even then - it's only a part of what my teachers are looking at in assessing students. The tests are not only financially cheap, they cheapen the educational process in carrying way more weight than they should in terms of what counts....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 20, 2012 11:45 pm

The public needs to know the dollar cost (materials, administrative costs, etc.) of standardized testing and what percentage this represents of the total school budget. Would a moratorium on testing get rid of our budget crisis?

Any ideas on how to bring this question to public awareness?

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