Some interesting insight. Wonder what the bill will be when the state begins implementing the end-of-course exams that will eventually equal 12 in number.
By Eric Dexheimer | Statesman Focal Point
Thursday, March 19, 2009, 09:40 AM
Texas students have their TAKS week and we have ours. On Tuesday, I wrote how some school districts were rewarding their students with extravagant prizes for passing the standardized tests, including expense-paid trips to Hawaii and days off from school. The high stakes pay-offs demonstrate once again how important the exams have become to administrators, whose very jobs can depend on the outcome.
Another way to gauge how important standardized tests have become is dollars and cents. Not surprisingly, according to that measure, too, the assessments have become extremely important in recent years. Here are the numbers:
The Texas Education Agency outsources the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills to NCS Pearson Inc., which helps develop the tests. In 2000, the agency signed Pearson to a five-year contract worth $47.45 million — about $9.5 million a year to administer tests to the state’s students.
When that contract expired, TEA and Pearson inked a new five-year deal. This time, though, it was worth $160 million, which, at $32 million a year, represented nearly a fourfold increase.
Since 2005, however, the contract has been modified several times. The result: This year alone the state will pay Pearson $88 million to test Texas children.
Why the big jump? “The predominant reason is the increase in the number of assessments,” says Gloria Zyskowski, TEA’s deputy associate commissioner of student assessments. Thanks to the Legislature’s fondness for standardized testing, as well as the growing requirements from the federal No Child Left Behind laws, Texas students are being tested more and more.
The original TAKS was implemented in 2003. Today, thanks largely to No Child Left Behind demands, the exam has multiplied to four different TAKS (“modified,” “alternative,” and “linguistically accommodated” versions, in addition to the standard exam). A new “End of Course” assessment is being added. During the 2002-03 school year, the TEA administered 60 separate standardized tests. This year, Zyskowski says, the number will be 138.
Testing-related materials add more to the bill. In 2004, TEA signed a four-year, $17.7 million contract with Grow Network for study guides designed for high school students who don’t pass TAKS. A 2006 contract pays Pearson another $8.8 million through 2011 for summer remediation study guides.
When added up, taxpayers will pay about $93 million this year to administer standardized tests to Texas students, Zyskowski says, or nearly ten times the cost of just nine years earlier.