REPORT: Martinez/Skandera testing could give $1 BILLION to test companies; Require 3rd graders to be tested 15 hours a year

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student testingTeachers and students alike are going back to school this year with a lot more anxiety than they’ve faced in previous years.  That’s because the next phase of high-stakes testing goes into effect this year, and that means even more testing and more money for the for-profit testing companies involved.

And all of this comes just as reports out of Florida, the basis for the Florida-model imported by PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, say all this testing did little for student performance there.

First to Florida:

Backtracking on Florida Exams Flunked by Many, Even an Educator – New York Times, June 2012

…[A]fter 15 years of education reform, three-fourths of Florida children could not write.”

After spending billions on testing programs that improve student performance, Florida announced this year that it was scrapping its current high-stakes testing program, FCAT, and starting over with a new one.

Yet, New Mexico continues on with its own big test programs based on that failed Florida model.

What do all these testing changes mean for teachers, students and taxpayers in New Mexico?  Here’s a few facts you might find surprising:

The new tests going into effect this year could earn the testing company more than $1 BILLION of taxpayer dollars from the states who adopt PARCC standards:

The scope of the contract, which is estimated to bring Pearson more than $1 billion over an eight-year period (the contract is for four years but PARCC has the option to renew it for another four), brought controversy even before Pearson won it in May. – Santa Fe Reporter, July 2014

Education Week, a national online education-focussed news outlet, explains how the math breaks out:

The potentially huge scope of the work is described in the language of the New Mexico contract with Pearson. It says that anywhere between 5.5 million and 10 million students would be tested annually, with a projected per-student cost of testing in the new contract of about $24.

In addition to the cost to state taxpayers to administer the tests, local school districts also have to shoulder the cost of test administration.

In Florida, where Skandera oversaw the implementation of the same high-stakes testing program, local school districts were required to take hundreds-of-thousands of dollars out of classrooms to pay for the infrastructure just to administer more tests required by for-profit contracts.  The Washington Post reported in 2012 on the costs to local districts in FL:

A typical elementary school of ~700 students reported spending approximately $2500 of their operating school budget and a large high school reported spending $15,000 on this same expenditure…

Computer-based testing protocols require the purchase of additional computers, as well as increased bandwidth, both of which must come out of the district operating dollars. This current year, one district reported spending approximately $18,000 to purchase new computers for the sole purpose of adhering to computerized testing requirements. That same district estimated the cost of providing the electricity, data cables, network switch and twenty-four furniture stations in each cost nearly $19,000 per lab. Establishing the nine labs needed for the 2012 FCAT cost the district roughly $172,000.

* In the coming 2012-2013 school year, many students in specific grades will be tested on line, mounting costs higher. Aside from establishing labs (see above), some schools are out of space and will need portables. Moving and running electricity to one existing portable costs a district $35,000. Costs will multiply should districts need to lease or purchase additional portable classrooms. This added cost will also occur with the implementation of PARCC and its required computer-based testing for grades 3 and 4.

New testing required by PED starting this year requires up to 10-hours to complete, per student.  That’s in addition to end-of-course exams and specialty tests students are required to take.

PARCC, the multi-state collaborative pushing high-stakes testing estimates that new state-required tests will:

  • Require third-graders (8-years-old) to sit be tested for at least eight hours for just one test battery
  • Middle and high school students (starting at age 13) will be required to sit for high-stakes tests for more up to10 hours a year for just one test battery

But the PARCC test isn’t the only one required under PED’s new testing initiatives.  A new report from Santa Fe Public Schools found that under the new requirements, third-graders would be required to sit for 19.5 hours for testing per year if they were performing in Spanish and English:

In what Bowman called a worst-case scenario, a third-grade English-language learner in a two-way dual-language program could spend up to 19.5 hours of testing in a year. – Santa Fe New Mexican, Sept. 3, 2014

Other grade levels are required to be tested almost that much – including those 8-year-old third graders who must sit for 15 hours a year just completing state required tests.

In Santa Fe Public Schools, fourth- and seventh-graders are tested the most, at 15.5 hours per year. Third-graders spend 15 hours testing. Students in grades five, six, eight, nine and 10 undergo 13.5 hours of testing, while 11th-graders spend 11 hours testing. Students in grades K-2 take six hours of tests. – Santa Fe New Mexican, Sept. 3, 2014

(Editor’s note:  What could we possibly ask an 8-year-old for 15 hours?!)