Archive for Thursday, July 25, 2013

State expects Common Core testing costs to be lower than national estimates

July 25, 2013


Kansas education officials say that when schools start giving new reading and math tests aligned to the Common Core standards in 2015, the cost of those tests will be higher than what the state is paying now—but not as high as some recent national reports suggest.

"We're expecting it to be more than what we're paying now because we're asking the assessment to do more,” Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said.

For the past several years, Kansas has contracted with the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at Kansas University to develop and administer all of its tests, including reading, math, science and social studies.

The state Department of Education spends about $4.6 million annually to administer those tests to about 250,000 students a year. The reading and math tests, which are required by federal law, are given each year to students in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school.

But those tests have always been pure multiple-choice tests that are quickly and easily scored by machines. With the new Common Core standards, DeBacker said, states are being asked to use more complex tests that require students to write and do more.

“We've said for many years (the current test format) doesn't tell us what students know and can do,” DeBacker said. "It's just regurgitation of information. When you enhance a test or want to make it more relevant and informative, then you have to look at constructive responses. You have to look at a test that's more interactive, so students can be more engaged in the assessments. That's going to cost more money.”

Although the State Board of Education hasn't yet decided what test it will use in 2015, it did agree a few years ago to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of 22 states that is jointly developing one version of the tests.

In March, SBAC released its pricing list, estimating that its tests would cost states $22.50 per student for just the basic end-of-year test used for federal reporting, or $27.30 per student for a full package of year-end tests, plus quizzes and exams that teachers give throughout the year to keep track of their students' progress.

That would raise the annual cost in Kansas to about $11.2 million for the basic package, or $13.6 million for the enhanced package.

But DeBacker and others say that won't be the case because those estimates include not just the cost of the test itself — $6.20 each for the basic test, or $9.55 for the enhanced package — but a host of other costs that SBAC believes states will have to spend. State officials say those costs probably won't be necessary in Kansas, in many cases.

Among the additional costs to states, according to the SBAC estimate, is the cost of hiring an outside vendor to host a computer-based platform that students will log into in order to take the tests online. But DeBacker said the KU testing center already has built that for Kansas. It's called the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine, or KITE, and it was used this past spring to administer the entire 2013 round of assessments.

Marianne Perie, co-director of the KU center, said that no matter what test Kansas decides to use, CETE can still provide the administration service, and can still do it for less than what SBAC has estimated.

"Honestly, we're still not completely sure what's in their cost estimate,” she said. “We know that they are estimating our costs, but it'll probably be lower than that. We've been having our tech people talk to their tech people, and we're prepared to administer the new tests.”

Although Kansas is part of the Smarter Balanced consortium developing a test, the state is not obligated to use that test. DeBacker said testing company ACT Inc. also is developing new tests to align with the Common Core standards. The board also has the option of continuing to contract with the KU center to write the tests.

DeBacker said she expects the state board to decide which test Kansas will use before the end of the year.

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pittstatebb 4 years, 10 months ago

I am not sure why, but this article along with others with the the same theme, have stated that CETE has developed the current battery of Kansas state assessments. That is simply not true. WestEd, a San Fransisco based company, wrote all of the current Kansas state assessments, as their website clearly states below.

CETE administers the state assessments but has only created pilot questions that align to the upcoming Common Core state assessments. These pilot questions are no where close to the same structure as the SBAC questions that have been released on SBAC's website.

Peter Hancock 4 years, 10 months ago

According to Marianne Perie at CETE, WestEd's contributions for Kansas assessments ended in 2008. CETE took over all of the item development at that point.

She also acknowledged that CETE created some "selected response" items aligned to Common Core standards that were used in the 2013 tests. However, she said CETE is preparing "technology enhanced items" that will be used in the 2014 test that will look much more like those being developed by SBAC. By 2015, she said, CETE will be in a position where it can either deliver the Smarter Balanced test through its KITE system, or provide a similar assessment.

pittstatebb 4 years, 10 months ago

Maybe Matianne could tell us if any new test questions, other than common core pilot questions, have been written since 2008. Since 2008, the tests have looked strikingly similar.

MPerie 4 years, 10 months ago

Sure. The items that WestEd developed formed the basis of the last series of assessments. Over the past four years, our team has developed items to replace problematic items and updated items to improve them. We are currently involved in a major effort to develop all new items aligned to the KCCR standards.

Neal Kingston 4 years, 10 months ago

You will notice on the WestEd web site that they say they wrote the items, not the tests. Just like some companies build car parts and others put the parts together and build cars, until 2008 WestEd built the parts and CETE built the tests. Since 2008 CETE has also been responsible for writing new items which have been available for formative usage, replacement usage, and interim assessments. More recently CETE has been writing items aligned to the new Kansas College and Career standards to support testing in 2013-14.

nick_s 4 years, 10 months ago

Ive got an idea, lets help develop standards with other states & then sandbag the whole operation once these standards are being implemented. Kind of a "taking my ball & going home," kind of attitude that accomplishes nothing.

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