Brookings: Student Testing Costs States $1.7 Billion a Year

testsA new study by Matthew Chingos of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution shows that states will be spending $1.7 Billion a year in assessments.  We are still not sure how the Common Core State Standards assessments will be sustained after the federal funding for their development runs out in 2014 prior to the assessments implementation.  There is still a lack of transparency about how much these tests will costs.

From the executive summary:

The Common Core effort has prompted concerns about the cost of implementing the new standards and assessments, especially in states that have historically spent very little on their tests. Unfortunately, there is little comprehensive up-to-date information on the costs of assessment systems currently in place throughout the country. This report seeks to fill this void by providing the most current, comprehensive evidence on state-level costs of assessment systems, based on new data gathered from state contracts with testing vendors.

We find that the 45 states from which we obtained data spend a combined $669 million per year on their primary assessment contracts, or $27 per pupil in grades 3-9, with six testing vendors accounting for 89 percent of this total. Per-pupil spending varies significantly across states, with Oregon ($13 per student), Georgia ($14), and California ($16) among the lowest-spending states, and Massachusetts ($64), Delaware ($73), and Hawaii ($105) among the highest spending. We find that larger states tend to spend substantially less, per student, than smaller states, which is not surprising given that larger states save on fixed costs like test development by spreading them over more students and may have more bargaining power.

We estimate that states nationwide spend upwards of roughly $1.7 billion on assessments each year, after adjusting the $669 million figure to (1) account for the fact that six percent of students are located in states for which we were unable to obtain data, (2) reflect spending on assessments not included in states’ primary assessment contracts, and (3) include state-level spending on assessment-related activities that are not contracted out.

…Collaborating to form assessment consortia is not a new idea, and is in fact the strategy being pursued by nearly all of the states that have adopted the Common Core standards. Our model cannot be used to estimate the cost of the tests being developed by the Common Core consortia because they include innovative features not part of most existing systems and because they are substantially larger (in terms of students covered) than any existing state assessment system. But our model does suggest that these consortia will create opportunities to realize significant cost savings, all else equal, compared to the current model of most states going it alone.

A study recently conducted by the Pioneer Institute, American Principles Project and the Pacific Research Institute of California put a $16 Billion dollar price tag on the implementation of the Common Core.  The estimated a cost of $1.24 Billion for assessments.  While Brookings is explaining away the cost of the assessments as being relatively small in comparison to the whole of education spending this is just a smallest part of Common Core spending.  The lion’s share will be in the area of technology – which Pioneer estimates being $6.87 billion spent by the states.  Professional development is next with a $5.26 Billion price tag.  They anticipated textbooks and instructional materials to run states about $2.47.

Here’s the Brookings Report embedded below.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems