Indiana

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Citing Cost Concerns, Oklahoma Plans To Design Its Own Common Core Test

Laptops set up with pencils and scratch paper at the ready in a temporary testing lab at Tecumseh Junior High in Lafayette. School principal Brett Gruetzmacher says his school needs to set up temporary testing spaces to accomodate the number of test-takers they have this year.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Indiana is already testing students online, but other states say they don't have the technology infrastructure to run new, Common Core-aligned standardized tests.

Oklahoma isn’t pulling out of the Common Core assessment consortium PARCC, but state education officials last week announced plans to design their own test.

The reason? Cost.

In a memo to schools, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi estimated the state can save at least $2 million a year if it develops its own test rather than go with the PARCC exam.

As Education Week reporter Catherine Gewertz explains:

Its key decision drivers—testing time, cost, and technological readiness—resonate in many states. So it’s interesting to see them laid out here, with telling details. A couple that I noticed? One: that 85 percent of the state’s districts were not technologically ready to administer tests online. Another: that developing its own tests will mean Oklahoma students will spend half as much time on testing as they would with PARCC tests.

We’ve written about this before, but all signs are that we’ll be writing about it for months to come: States are faced with a cluster of difficult decisions here. Even states that believe in the kinds of assessments the two consortia are designing have to bite down hard to tolerate the political, technological, and financial challenges they present. How many states will be able to sell the idea of more testing time? How many will be faced with having to spend more on tests than they currently spend, and how will that fly with policymakers tasked with the yes-no vote?

Gewertz notes Oklahoma isn’t the only state getting cold feet about new assessments aligned to the nationally-crafted Common Core standards. In fact, Indiana is scaling back participation in PARCC — an acronym for “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers” — until the state education leaders decide whether to stay the course with new standards.

(We mapped out who’s involved — and not involved — with building the new assessments in a post last week.)

But the cost argument is interesting because PARCC hasn’t released hard numbers yet. The other consortium developing Common Core-aligned tests, Smarter Balanced, says the price of its tests — about $27 per student — represents a cost savings for about two-thirds of participant states.

The cost of PARCC also has Georgia policymakers worried, reports Wayne Washington for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The state currently spends roughly $9 per student on assessments. Georgia education officials say the PARCC could cost $37 per student on assessments ($18.50 each for the English and math portions).

But Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, the education non-profit that helped develop the Common Core, says that figure isn’t right. It’s outdated — it was meant to represent the high-end of the cost range. Colby says PARCC plans to release a more accurate cost estimate July 22.

Indiana has earmarked roughly $45 million for both testing and remediation in each of the next two fiscal years but plans to stick with the ISTEP through the 2014-15 school year.

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