The race to fix America’s broken system of standardized exams.
How the new tests will affect the states’ already depleted coffers depends on the state. A state like Georgia, which now spends about $10 per student on testing , will likely to have to ante up more money. Mar yland’s costs should come down. Florida will have to scrap an assessment it just revised for the 2010-11 school year to align with more rigorous state standards. Whatever their situation, the states have some careful fiscal planning to do.
But let’s put things in perspective. Critics of testing habitually protest its cost, implying that the millions spent on assessment would be better put toward smaller class sizes, expanded library hours, or the restoration of art and gym. But despite testing’s huge and growing role in education, the U.S. now devotes less than a quarter of a percent of per-pupil spending to assessments. That’s less than the cost of buying each of America’s students a new textbook.
The American education system is at a major crossroads, one that few Americans are aware of. The new assessments—the product of a huge investment of time, knowledge, and talent—are only two years away from being put in place, and they’re desperately needed. It’s too early to know whether they will work as advertised, and even if they do, the danger is that states will quickly revert to their old habits of doing assessment on the cheap. But if we do this right, we could finally provide educators like Caryn Voskuil with one of the tools they need most: a test worth teaching to.
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