The Price of Standardized Testing

Teachers already know which students excel in reading and writing and which ones struggle. They know who understands mathematics in a snap and who has a hard time tackling the many different concepts. If we were to give a class of students a standardized test, what would we find? We would find out exactly what the teacher could have reported her/ himself. Is finding out that students perform on a bell curve really that surprising? Would the money spent giving out standardized tests be better spent helping to give schools the resources needed for them to give their students the resources most likely to help aid in their education?

Studies show that states spend over $1.7 billion every year on standardized testing. After looking at spending data for forty five different states, it was determined that they spent over $669 million each year on primary assessment contracts. With the introduction of Common Core, little information has been kept up to date concerning the costs of assessment systems set in place throughout the United States. There is a clear lack of transparency in the pricing of assessments. This hinders the ability of states to make informed decisions regarding the testing systems chosen.

One option to fix this issue is for larger states, or multiple states, as a group, ban together to encourage test makers to share information about their pricing models. In a perfect world, test makers would make the formula which is used to create the price of assessment contracts freely available to view. This would allow states to know for sure if they are making financially responsible decisions. A consortia could foster opportunity to appreciate a surplus of savings.

The cost per student varies greatly among different states. In New York, the cost is $7 per student, in Oregon it’s $13, in Georgia $14, Delaware $73, Massachusetts $64, Hawaii $105, and District of Columbia $114. 89% of the total cost is accounted for by six vendors. New York City based Pearson Education makes the most amount of money accounting for 39 percent of revenue. They are followed by New York based- McGraw- Hill Education with 14 percent, and then Minnesota based- Maple Grove at 13 percent.

Some researchers say that instead of standardized tests, teachers should publish grade distributions. Grades portray progress of learning and the formation of skills. Evaluation reports can be published locally and expert verification of national and state reports can have legislators to supervise the publication.

There are a few issues with this system. Grades are subjective when compared to one another. Some classes are harder than others and some teachers make certain classes more difficult than others. Teachers also grade differently. For example, last semester I had a teacher who would give her students 10/10 for participation as long as you showed up to class and stayed in your seat without falling asleep. This semester, one of my teachers only gives 9/10 as the maximum grade because according to him, “There is always room for improvement.” Teachers have a great variety of standards and grade in particular ways. There is not a mainstream grading rubric for the A to F grading scale.

There are usually four main factors causing variation in teachers’ grading. These are the composition of students, the abilities of the teacher, the rigor and equity of the teacher, and lastly the teacher’s concept of achievement.  If we were to require the publication of grades, that would mean that there would be extremely high stakes and intense pressure, which is likely to lead to lying, faked grades, and adjusted results.

Schools with high standardized test scores are widely regarded as successful. These kinds of schools often have affluent and compliant students and families. The test scores are often something these “successful” schools like to show off to make themselves appear superior to other competing schools in the area. It makes the school appear competitive. However, when teachers are observed in the classroom, it is obvious that there is great room for improvement. Good test scores often give subpar teachers a pat on the back that they do not deserve. Some may even say that good scores prevent improvements and progress for students and teachers. Why would they spend time and money improving their curriculum implementation when the school received the highest standardized test scores in the state?

Standardized testing is a billion dollar industry paid for by tax payers. There are better ways to spend such large sums of money. Many school buildings are in desperate need of repairs, students use the same dated textbooks that their parents used, and the class sizes in most schools are way too large for efficient learning. We need to think twice about how tax money is being spent by the school systems.





3 thoughts on “The Price of Standardized Testing”

  1. You touch on a very important topic of the financial cost of standardized testing, it truly is an expensive system. It also is very controversial over whether or not standardized testing is necessary. It’d be interesting to put the U.S.’s standardized tests in perspective with other successful nations testing systems.

  2. Standardized Testing was definitely not my favorite part of school. You brought up a very good point about how schools use testing scores to compare themselves. There is a big flaw with this, because like you pointed out, scores don’t necessarily indicate quality of education within the classroom.

  3. Very thorough and concise piece. I like your writing style for this topic in particular, as first, you stir a question regarding the issue, present the facts, and analyze the effects. It’s astonishing how much money is spent on standardized testing, especially given the fact that absolutely no student likes to take them!

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