How much time do school districts spend on standardized testing? This much.

Exactly how much standardized testing are school districts subjecting students to these days? A nearly staggering amount, according to a new analysis.

Testing More, Teaching Less: What America’s Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time,” released by the American Federation of Teachers, looks closely at two unnamed medium-sized school districts — one in the Midwest and one in the East — through the prism of their standardized testing calendars.

Standardized testing has become the focus of modern school reform since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind law in 2002, and continuing through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education initiative. Over the years, the time taken up by test prep and testing has risen, as have the costs and the lost instructional time.

The grade-by-grade analysis of time and money invested in standardized testing found that test prep and testing absorbed 19 full school days in one district and a month and a half in the other in heavily tested grades. The Midwestern district spent $600 or more for standardized testing per pupil in grades 3-8;  about $200 per student for grades K-2; from $400 to $600 per student for grades 9-11. The Eastern district spent more than $1,100 annually on testing per student in grades 6-11; around $400 per student in grades 1-2; between $700 and $800 per student for grades 3-5.

One of the districts gives 14 different assessments to all students at least once a year in at least one grade, the report said, and some assessments are administered for several subjects multiple times a year, resulting in 34 different test administrations. The other district had 12 different  standardized assessments but 47 separate administrations over the course of the year.

The report says:

*Students can spend 60 to more than 110 hours per year in test prep in high-stakes testing grades.

 

*Including the cost of lost instructional time (at $6.15 per hour, equivalent to the per-student cost of adding one hour to the school day), the estimated annual testing cost per pupil ranged from $700 to more than $1,000 per pupil in several grades that had the most testing.

 

*If testing were abandoned, one school district in this study could add from 20 to 40 minutes of instruction to each school day for most grades. The other school district would be able to add almost an entire class period to the school day for grades 6-11. Additionally, in most grades, more than $100 per test-taker could be reallocated to purchase instructional programs, technology or to buy better tests. Cutting testing time and costs in half still would yield significant gains to the instructional day, and free up enough dollars in the budget that could fund tests that are better aligned to the standards and produce useful information for teachers, students and parents.

You can find the whole report here.


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | July 25, 2013