Putting Education Reform To The Test

How Much New Common Core Tests Could Cost — And, Maybe, Save — Florida

Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers are concerned about the cost of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.

zzzack / Flickr

Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers are concerned about the cost of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam.

Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers are concerned about the cost of replacing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Florida is one of 45 states moving to new math, English and literacy standards known as Common Core. With new standards will come a new test.

But Scott is concerned about the cost of the leading candidate, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. PARCC is a coalition of more than 20 states designing a test tied to Common Core.

“PARCC is too expensive and it takes too long,” Scott said Wednesday, indicating he may issue an executive order about the test. House and Senate leadership have also said they oppose using the exam.

It’s difficult to argue that PARCC won’t require students to spend more time testing. Students will spend up to 10 hours a year on testing and some exams are twice as long as the current test. But PARCC includes more complex, open-ended questions designed to measure critical thinking. It’s up to state officials to decide whether that’s worthwhile.

But is it more expensive? Most analyses shows PARCC will cost about the same or less than what the state currently spends on FCAT.

We’ll start with an analysis from PARCC itself. The group estimates PARCC will cost about $29.50 per student for reading, writing and math exams in third through eleventh grades.

An apples-to-apples comparison is difficult because PARCC would test more grades, and more exams per grade than are currently tested with FCAT. For instance, students would take a PARCC writing test every year. Only fourth, eighth and tenth graders take an FCAT writing exam.

PARCC says it would cost Florida about $11 per student more than the state currently spends on FCAT between kindergarten and high school graduation. PARCC also includes 6 additional writing tests, an Algebra 2 end-of-course exam and an eleventh grade math exam.

The Quick and the Ed blog also ran the numbers after PARCC announced its cost in July and found Florida would save $16.3 million switching to PARCC from FCAT.

And the Tampa Bay Times reported the most recent state figures show Florida spent $30.59 per student on the FCAT.

Big caveat: None of these analyses figure in the cost of expanding Internet bandwidth or adding computers or other devices to administer the online test. However, Florida lawmakers have required school districts to deliver half of all classroom instruction digitally when school starts in 2015. That requirement would also force schools to upgrade Internet bandwidth and computers, laptops or tablets.

Something else to note is that PARCC is being designed to measure college readiness. That means PARCC could replace other exams which measure the same thing, such as the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, or PERT.

PARCC’s final advantage is that the federal government is picking up the cost of developing the test. Florida would have to pay that cost if it develops its own alternative. Testing companies SAT and ACT are also designing Common Core-tied exams and Florida could choose to use one of those.

We don’t know yet how much a Florida-designed Common Core test or ACT and SAT versions will cost.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »