Jason Embry of the Austin American-Statesman laid out an important point in his Tuesday column, “State's demands forced school costs to shoot up.” From his piece:
As the student population has changed, Texas has continued to pile more demands on schools, and it costs money to meet those demands. Schools began giving the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, a much tougher exam than its predecessor, in 2003, and began that year to require students in the third grade to pass the reading section of the test to advance to fourth grade. Today the test is tied to promotion in grades five and eight. In addition, students who used to graduate from Texas high schools with three credits in math and three in science now must have four credits in each. To meet these demands, schools have spent more on student remediation, teacher training and the renovation of science labs.
Schools are preparing to give a new test next year, the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, which the Texas Education Agency has promised “will be significantly more rigorous than previous tests.” And let's not forget that, led by our last governor, the federal government created an additional set of accountability measures for schools to meet during the past 10 years.
The increasing demands on students have put more demands on teachers and principals, particularly considering the state's heavy emphasis on standardized testing to judge schools.
Districts across the state have therefore decided to hire instructional coordinators, curriculum specialists and others to give students extra attention and to help teachers make sure their lessons help students meet the escalating expectations.
After some digging, we were able to determine exactly how much the cost of standardized testing went up under the Perry/Bush era of standardized testing. When you breakdown the numerous ways that the cost of standardized testing adds up — including contracting with an agency to develop the tests, testing materials, study guides, and additional school personnel to administer all the tests — what does it add up to? From a 2009 Statesman blog post titled, “The high cost of TAKS, we learn that:
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.