Sunday, February 8, 2015

Those are big numbers

We have no idea how much money it will take to implement the Smarter Balanced standardized tests. That’s one of the main objections to going ahead with them. We can estimate how much it will cost to buy the actual tests—and that’s an enormous increase over what we’re currently spending—but we don’t have any estimates of what the necessary tech upgrades and support will cost. Any estimate I try to make here would have to be very rough, because the state has simply not done its homework about the cost.

But I’ll try anyway.

Start with the proposition that every one-percent increase in state school aid in Iowa means about $64 per student. (Derived from the numbers here.) Right now, the Governor is proposing an $80 per student increase for next year.

Then let’s look at what another state has done to prepare for using Smarter Balanced. California is a much bigger state than Iowa, but we can at least try to compare on a per-student basis. California approved $1.6 billion to “help” districts implement the Common Core, including the Smarter Balanced tests. California has about 6.2 million K-12 students. So that’s about $258 per student.

Now school districts in California are taking legal action to obtain an additional $1 billion that the Smarter Balanced tests are costing them. That’s another $161 per student. We’re up to $419 per student (though some portion of that is for other Common-Core-driven costs). And, as the California School Board Association advised the districts, “Remember that while the state has provided some one-time funding for SBA implementation, the expenses of SBA implementation will be ongoing.”

Is it a perfect comparison? No, because I’m a spare-time blogger Googling figures on the internet, as opposed to, say, a building full of state employees who are paid to figure things like this out.

But those are big numbers. More reason to think that if these tests are adopted, we can say goodbye to any hope of decent supplemental aid.

1 comment:

Mary Murphy said...

You might also add in the cost of buying new curricula so that students can be taught the skills necessary to do well on the online tests--if students are taking online tests, the curricula will become more technologically oriented (which will likely happen over time no matter which exam is selected).

And even though schools could test students in groups in a computer lab, that would be unwieldy and over time, schools would go to 1 computer (or pad or notebook)/student.