Standardized Testing Costs States $1.7 Billion A Year, Study Finds

11/29/2012 05:30 pm ET

A new report by the Washington-based Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution calculates states spend a combined $1.7 billion annually on standardized testing.

The report’s author, Matthew M. Chingos, looked at test spending data for 44 states and the District of Columbia, determining they spend $669 million overall per year on their primary assessment contracts, or $27 per pupil in grades three through 9. (Chingos reached the $1.7 billion figure after adjusting the $669 million figure to account for the states that were not included in the data and to reflect spending anomalies.)

That figure represents only one-quarter of 1 percent of annual K-12 education spending, but according to Chingos, if these costs were instead devoted to across-the-board pay raises for teachers, the average teacher would see his or her salary increase by 1 percent, or about $550.

Per-pupil spending varies significantly across states, with New York ($7 per student), Oregon ($13 per student), and Georgia ($14) among the lowest-spending states, and Massachusetts ($64), Delaware ($73), Hawaii ($105) and the District of Columbia ($114) among the highest-spending.

Six testing vendors account for 89 percent of this total, with New York City-based Pearson Education raking in the most money at 39 percent, followed by New York’s McGraw-Hill Education at 14 percent and the Maple Grove, Minn.-based Data Recognition Corp. at 13 percent.

That figure represents only one-quarter of 1 percent of annual K-12 education spending, but according to Chingos, if these costs were instead devoted to across-the-board pay raises for teachers, the average teacher would see his or her salary increase by 1 percent, or about $550.

Chingos writes that the already low spending on assessments, coupled with concerns about test quality, suggests states should seek to be more efficient in an effort to absorb budget cuts or free up resources.

One proposal calls for states to collaborate on assessments, in order to share the cost of test development over a larger number of students. For instance, according to the author’s model, a state with 100,000 students that joins a consortium of states comprising 1 million students would save an estimated 37 percent, or $1.4 million per year.

While Chingos says his model cannot be used to estimate the cost of those tests, he does acknowledge the consortia could potentially foster opportunities to realize significant savings.

Earlier on HuffPost:

New York Standardized Testing Protest

CONVERSATIONS