How much does Standardized Testing actually cost?

The Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution has recently released a report on the current cost of standardized testing in United States.  The purpose of the study is to shed light on current costs so that there will be an accurate baseline upon which to compare new statistics once Common Core testing officially starts in 2014.

Currently, for 44 states and DC (report author Matthew Chingos was unable to procure information from Connecticut, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming), the cost is $1.7 billion, which seems at first glance to be a whopping total; however, this only amounts to .0025% of the overall cost of K-12 schooling. This total works out to $65 per students in grades 3-9, with DC registering the largest of $114 and New York, which charges local districts with the responsibility of paying for testing, registering the smallest at $7 per student.

Speculation abounds about whether Common Core testing will cost an even greater amount per student due to the increased need for technology to conduct the computer-based tests or whether it will cost less due to the fact that the tests will be uniform across states.  Currently, states that have formed together to implement standardized testing have been able to keep costs down.

The report also seeks to shed light on how much of the money put into standardized testing is going to for-profit companies. Out of the $669 million in annual spending on No Child Left Behind tests for grades 3-8 and one more in high school, 6 companies receive the lion’s share, led by Pearson Education (39%), McGraw Hill (14%), and Data Recognition Corporation (13%). Currently, Kansas and North Carolina employ universities to do their standardized testing, and report author Chingos speculates that this could become a model for other states or that this may encourage other non-profit organizations to enter the testing market.  However, he also pointed out the closed-off nature of the current testing market.

Finally, Chingos makes two recommendations:

  • States should continue to combine into consortia to help cut the cost of standardized testing. However, this may be difficult because federal funding encouraging this will stop in 2014, just before the Common Core tests will officially commence.
  • States should use their collective influence to urge testing agencies to increase their levels of transparency when it comes to the cost of funding standardized testing.

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