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Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 2:32pm

High Costs For Student Testing

It will cost more for schools to measure students’ graduation readiness next year.

“Whatever we do, there is going to be an increased expense with the assessment,” said Melissa Fincher, the associate superintendent for assessment and accountability at the Georgia Department of Education.

Fincher met with members of Georgia’s Board of Education in Dalton Tuesday to discuss how student achievement should be measured in the state’s schools. Georgia must find a replacement for testing options offered under the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Several states are part of the PARCC consortium developing standardized tests to assess students’ grasp of the Common Core. The Common Core is a set group of concepts students must learn in order to graduate high school. Georgia voluntarily adopted the Common Core standards along with many other states in 2010.

Governor Nathan Deal and State School Superintendent John Barge announced this July the state would no longer participate in PARCC, citing high costs.

Fincher said Georgia currently spends about $26 million on students testing, but PARCC’s tests would have sent costs sky high.

“It would double the state assessment budget just to do the language arts and mathematics assessment,” Fincher explained. “So that doesn’t even include the science or social studies or other assessments that we have as part of state law.”

The price tag to create Georgia’s own exams, however, will still be higher than what the state pays now.

“Currently we are working on contract prices that were negotiated in 2006. So even if we were to stay with our current programs and not make any changes, we could expect an increase in the cost just because the cost of business has increased,” said Fincher.

The state has been looking at several budget-reduction ideas, including moving to more internet-based assessments to save paper and postage costs.

“We’re looking at cost saving measures and that would be sharing items with other states as best we can,” added Fincher.

Florida also recently pulled out of the Common Core testing consortium. Just like Georgia, that state will enter a competitive bidding process to select an exam vendor, according to Joe Follick, communications director for the Florida Department of Education.

“No option has been ruled out and we look forward to reviewing the bids as they come in. We expect to choose an assessment by March,” said Follick.

Georgia’s Board of Education will ask for bids sometime after January 1 and should choose a testing option by July 1 ahead of the 2014-2015 school year.

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