The real costs of standardized testing
If you do a little digging, you’ll find yourself shocked by the real costs of standardized testing. According to a study by Brown Center on Education Policy, a sufficient education isn’t the only thing that standardized tests are costing students, school districts, and tax payers. The study finds that 44 states spend upwards of a collective $1.7 billion on standardized testing each year of grades K through 12. The state of Pennsylvania alone spent over $58M on standardized testing, roughly $33 per student (assuming all students are tested every year).
The study, released in 2012, had been the center of much controversy according to Huffington Post and WGAL 8. Some insist on the need for standardized testing, citing its efficiency in a growing population, while others contend that this form of testing does not benefit students.
Veteran teacher Dan Hornberger sat down for an interview with WGAL 8. Hornberger is the creator of the documentary Standardized Lies, which brings to light the financial undertones of the testing industry and how past governmental policies have essentially refinanced and reorganized the educational system for profit.
“Tax payers, I think, truly don’t know that the money they pay goes into paying for these companies to design and administer these tests, which really don’t do anything,” – Hornberger said, according to WGAL 8.
In President Obama’s first term, his education policy, which was led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, still relied heavily on the principles set out by the administration’s predecessors: Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind. The program came with a price tag of approximately $4.35 Billion, while funding for the No Child Left Behind program increased from $42.2 to $55.7 Million since 2001. In addition, Congress funded Goals 2000 (a relatively unknown education program) with $105 Million in 1994. So, one question is: where did all this money go?
According to many experts and teachers, like Hornberger, the bulk of the funding goes to standardized testing. As Hornberger noted, there are four main test-making companies that emerged during the start of the education reform movement: Harcourt Educational Measurement, CTB McGraw-Hill, Riverside Publishing, and NCS Pearson. Shockingly, Harcourt Educational owns about 40% of the testing market, CTB McGraw-Hill owns another 40% of the testing market, and Riverside owns 20%. Additionally, all companies’ profits had increased 3,000% to $700 million since 1955, adjusted to current dollars. Although, this particular statistic was published less than a decade ago, a majority of experts believe that number to be substantially larger in the current market, according to PBS.
The most recent standardized test to be released in Pennsylvania was the Keystone test, which was developed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education. The state began administering the test in 2012. Law maker Mike Tobash said in an interview with news educator reporter Ann Shannon, “It was our belief that we needed to slow down.” Tobash is a representative from the Schuylkill and Berks county and wants to stop Keystone testing, at least temporarily. Keystone testing was meant to measure high school students on basic reading and arithmetic skills; however, Tobash discounts the validity of such tests.
“Just because it’s harder, doesn’t mean it’s better,” Tobash said in his interview, referring to the Keystone test. Tobash presented a bill to halt Keystone testing, saying that public schools need a chance to “test the test.” For Tobash, he asks the question: is it worth it?
The answer for Hornberger is clear, “There is big money involved in this. Does it benefit the kids? In my opinion, not one bit.”
We know that tests are expensive – the costs of production, processing, transfer, and reporting are astronomical when viewed on the national scale. Perhaps that is why they have become so high-stakes; because a lot of tax dollars are being spent on tests that push educators to teach memorization, and are putting our children further and further away from actually being educated.