A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the budget implications for states participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two federally funded consortia creating assessments aligned to the Common Core. That post received some positive feedback, so we decided to do a similar analysis of the budgetary costs (or savings) for states participating in the other group, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Smarter Balanced will have two options for states: a basic and a complete system. The basic system covers all of the summative tests required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and costs states $22.50 per student. According to the estimates released by Smarter Balanced, the basic system would reduce testing costs for two-thirds of its member states. The complete system, which includes summative, formative, and interim assessments, costs states $27.30 per student but would still reduce costs for more than half of the participating states.
For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the basic tests. As with PARCC, the savings, or costs in some cases, vary quite a bit based on the state. The table below uses Matthew Chingos’ November 2012 estimates for the Brookings Institution to illustrate how much each member state could save or lose under Smarter Balanced. It includes the latest member list from Smarter Balanced itself (although it excludes Connecticut, Iowa, South Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia, and Wyoming, which do not have comparable testing cost figures available; and it also does not include any costs for states or schools to upgrade their technology infrastructure).
The table shows that, for 13 states, Smarter Balanced is a net savings, while seven states will likely see a rise in testing costs. If you add up all the savings and costs and look at all of the states in the aggregate, the consortium stands to save over $9.5 million collectively.
State budgets aren’t collective, of course, so the individual state numbers are important. While Washington would save the most at more than $20 million annually, there is a large drop off after that; the median savings is more than $2 million annually. On a per-student basis, Michigan would save about $0.57 per student, while Hawaii, Alaska, and Delaware all stand to save more than $50 per student.
Looking to the seven states that would see increases, California would see the highest overall increase in costs at almost $21 million. This may sound like a large figure, but it’s worth considering it against the fact that California spends $68.5 billion on K-12 schools. California’s state government share is $37.7 billion, so, with $74.5 million in assessment fees, Smarter Balanced is asking California to spend a grand total of 0.2 percent of its state education budget on assessments.
Smarter Balanced is aiming to provide computer-adaptive tests aligned to the Common Core that will accurately measure student progress and readiness for college or a career. For now, we must wait to see whether states see the value in that or whether the costs will prove too steep.
This piece was co-authored by Bobby Dishell, a Bellwether intern and University of Michigan student.
Photo Credit: Martin Shields, Getty Images