Ohio’s Republican leadership continues to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about the education provisions that are in Senate Bill 5 and that were recently removed from the budget bill.  Senator Peggy Lehner, referred to as the Senate’s “point person on education issues” (the author must not know what “point person” actually means), expressed her desire to discreetly slide these provisions back in while House Speaker Batchelder tweeted made it clear that he will make every effort to restore the provisions in conference committee if the Senate doesn’t correct their crazy mistake.

When they try and force through the performance pay and evaluation language that is dependent on student growth as measured by assessments, Batchelder, et al., continue to make two fatal assumptions:

  1. Statistically valid student assessments are easy to create
  2. These changes can be implemented with no increased expense (see Executive Budget, p. D-191)

Whether referring to teacher performance pay or the evaluation process, the bills both rely on state assessments and value-added data.  At the present time, those tests are limited to math and reading for grades 3-8 and five tests at grade 10 (math, reading, science, social studies, writing).  For those subjects without a state test, the Ohio Department of Education and/or the local school board are directed to adopt assessments (fatal assumption #1).

If teachers are to be equitably measured across all subjects, then these assessments must be statistically valid.  That process can and should take years to develop, and if intended to provide consistency statewide (why else is it being adopted into state law), then these additional measures should be created at the state level in the same manner that the current Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduation Tests were developed.

What would something like that cost?  In 2003, a financial analysis was prepared for the Ohio Department of Education to explore the cost of implementing the No Child Left Behind Act in Ohio.  That study estimated that it would cost $9.1 million to develop the eight new required assessments, a cost of $13 per pupil and $1.13 million per assessment (fatal assumption #2).

Let’s consider what new assessments would need to be created under the GOP proposals.  With apologies to every subject that is omitted, for this simple projection, we’ll limit to easily identified basics.  Students at each grade should expect to be taking at least seven assessments every year:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Writing
  • 2 out of 3: Art, Music, Physical Education

Students will certainly be taking different combinations of these, especially as they reach high school, but it is reasonable to expect at least seven assessments per year.

Including kindergarten, this would result in a total of 91 state assessments (7 per year x 13 years).  Subtract out the 17 existing assessments and we’re left with a total of 74 new assessments that the state will need to develop to implement the new law.

In 2003, the development of those tests would have cost the state $83.6 million.  Look for that amount in Kasich’s or Batchelder’s budget — you won’t find it.  This would be the kind of thing we might use one-time money on, if only that was something that was appropriate to do in a budget.

And that amount is chump change compared to the annual cost of administering the assessments.  The current allocation to implement those 17 existing tests is approximately $56 million, an amount equal to approximately $25 per student – the amount charged to a district for a replacement test.

If you’ve started to calculate how that adds up, you’ll need to know the number of students taking these tests — 1,744,969 in 2009-2010.  Now we can start calculating the total cost:

1,744,969 students x $25 per test x 7 tests = $305,369,575

Awesome, isn’t it?  Our illustrious Ohio Republican leadership is pitching a fit over this legislation that will increase the annual cost of state assessments from the FY2011 budgeted amount of $56,703,265 to a staggering $305,369,575.  Will that also be spun to be the fault of the teacher unions and local district mismanagement?

These people are just brilliant.  Why do we even try to argue educational philosophy when they can’t even comprehend the basic financial implications of this legislation?