Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How Much New Nationwide Academic Standards Could Cost Indiana

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    A student at a public intermediate school in Anderson.

    In Indiana and the 44 other states where they’re being implemented right now, education experts say the Common Core State Standards promise to affect everything: states’ evaluations of their schools, districts’ evaluations of their teachers, schools’ evaluations of their students — the list goes on.

    But successfully putting the new slate of academic standards into practice in Indiana schools will also require revising textbooks, offering professional development for teachers, and writing new statewide tests.

    All of that, according to one estimate, could cost nearly $16 billion nationwide.

    “The Pioneer authors seemed uninterested in reimagining standards implementation or in looking for—or even acknowledging—the potential for cost savings.”
    —Kathleen Porter-Magee, Fordham Institute

    The estimate, which comes from a consortium of free-market think tanks, says the new standards could cost more than $15.8 billion across the 45 Common Core states over the next seven years.

    AccountabilityWorks and the Pioneer Institute write their estimate does not account for “additional expensive or controversial reforms” that may be needed to ensure the new standards’ success, such as implementing merit pay or decreasing class sizes.

    Among other things, the white paper bases this nearly-$16 billion estimate on assumptions about how much money each state will need to buy new materials for teachers to use in class and pay for technology upgrades they’ll need to administer new computer-based standardized tests.

    In Indiana, the Pioneer/AccountabilityWorks report says the state’s schools will need to spend more than $62.4 million to upgrade the textbooks and instructional materials. The report also assumes Indiana will pay more than $347 million in technology costs over the next seven years.

    Is That Number Right?

    On Fordham’s Common Core Watch blog, Kathleen Porter-Magee says the AccountabilityWorks $15.8 billion cost estimate is too high:

    The Pioneer authors seemed uninterested in reimagining standards implementation or in looking for—or even acknowledging—the potential for cost savings.

    Take, as just one example, the section on professional development. Pioneer estimates that there will be a one-time professional development cost of $5.26 billion across all states—a third of Pioneer’s total CCSS [Common Core State Standards] implementation estimate.

    Unfortunately, this overblown estimate rests on two fairly dubious assumptions. First, the authors explain that it “was determined by first identifying a typical cost for professional development based on previous state experiences implementing academic standards, weighed by the relative size of this states.” In other words: we assume that it is impossible to rethink professional development delivery or to imagine savings in this area. Both of these assumptions are, of course, absurd…

    That said, the authors do raise some very legitimate concerns about CCSS implementation to which supporters should pay attention.

    (Underscoring how divisive this issue is among right-leaning education policy wonks, take a look at this post on Jay P. Greene’s Blog, where Jim Stergios takes issue with Porter-Magee’s arguments.)

    Another potential area for cost savings? Standardized testing.

    “Currently, states spend a combined $1.3 billion annually to develop, publish, administer, score, and report on their own state tests,” the Alliance for Excellent Education writes. The Common Core allows states to pool resources and build tests they can share across state lines.

    Then again, the Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Sheffield writes the actual cost of implementation could be closer to $30 billion — much higher than the Pioneer/AccountabilityWorks estimate.


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