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?

  • Anonymous

    And this of course would be a windfall for Educational Testing Services, assuming they would design and sell these tests to Ohio (it’s a pretty sure bet they would).

    In light of that, I’m curious to hear our acting Superintendent of Education’s stance on this issue. You know, the guy who’s unethically on ETS’s payroll? My guess is he’s lobbying like a crazy man.

  • Real Get Real

    Ahh, finally someone is doing due diligence on SB5 and Merit Pay!   If only our leaders in state government would look at the data.   Couple this with the studies (Vanderbilt has the best recent controlled study) suggesting no cause and effect between pay for performance and student achievement, and you wonder why voters elected amateurs to guide Ohio’s future.

    But your $300M is even low.   There’s opportunity cost associated with each test.  Time spent testing is time lost for instruction.  So if the average teacher in Ohio makes $55k, we can arrive at roughly $37/hr for an HQT to administer each test.   Building and related costs are not counted here.  If we can have 1:30 ratio of student to teacher proctors then that is 58166 test sessions (total students / 30) of say 3 hours each or 174498 teacher-hours per test.  For 7 tests, we have a total cost to administer at approximately $45,000,000 per year at each grade level (teacher-hours per test * 7 tests * $37/hr).  For 12 grade levels, $540,000,000 per year JUST TO GIVE THE TESTS (someone independently verify, please – this seems incredibly high).  That doesn’t include grading, IEP students (there are many), smaller student:proctor ratios, make up tests, errors, transportation and logistics, administrator costs, and the cost of legal challenges.

    There are other questions,

    – Can a test really be designed to determine value-add on new material?  For example, take a subject like world languages in which most of the content is entirely new to students.  Do we then give more than one test per year?  World language was nearly part of the new Ohio standards rather than an “elective”.
    – What about alternate assessments?  Mid year transfers?  Out of state students?   Students frequently absent?   Double block courses?   Differing curriculums?   AEP courses?  Final exams?
    – D0 we use lower paid aides to give the tests?  If so, that is more hiring and overhead.  Do we instead outsource to testing services?  That would be a huge windfall to them.
    – What about charters?  Will they fall under this requirement?  
    – Someone has to pay, if not the state, this becomes an unfunded mandate on local schools.  Does this mean higher levies just to pay for the new assessments?
    – Parents get annoyed by state mandated testing almost as much as teachers.  It disrupts the curriculum and causes extreme stress at home.  Will this constant testing have political fallout from angry parents?  Student burn-out?
    – What motivation do students have to take these tests or even do well?  It can be difficult just to get students to complete homework.  Will some students and parents sabotage teachers that they don’t like for whatever reason (i.e. “she gave my Buffy a detention!”).  Some people can be amazing vindictive.

  • Real Get Real

    Or ESC (Educational Services Center) to give the tests if ETS doesn’t.   Regardless, someone is going to get a ton of Ohio taxpayer money compliments of Kasich and Batchelder.    Maybe in the billions.

  • Annekarima

    Yeah….that one is sort of simple.  Follow the MONEY.  Seriously, sometimes kids just get tired of being tested and that could be teacher disaster in itself.

  • Xx

    All this is designed to make the public school systems FAIL.

  • Real Get Real

    Absolutely.  Or the kids get an ornery streak and post on Facebook a plan to submarine a teacher via the tests.  After all, what motivation to the kids have to even try?

    My calculations showed above it will cost taxpayers

    $540,000,000 PER YEAR just to take the tests.

    This seems unbelievable, but I have done over my numbers several times.  Can this be right?

  • Anastasjoy

    This jumped out at me from the initial post : “Do we instead outsource to testing services?  That would be a huge windfall to them.” It seems like this is the guiding principle among Republicans in Columbus right now — why of our buddies/donors/supporters can benefit from a windfall of public tax dollars?

    What also strikes me is that this much testing would essentially grind all education to a halt. I remember a friend of mine telling me that when her daughter took the 4th grade tests, they took a whole week. I was stunned. The SATs take only a half day. And then of course there were the months spent prepping. How many days wold kids have to sit for tests under this system? And wouldn’t virtually every minute of the school year be spent prepping for tests?

    I have to think you are right, Xx. It seems to be that completely hamstringing public schools and making them unable to teach at all is the ultimate goal. Then they can pass ALL our education tax dollars to private hands. I hate to say this because I do support public education and our community’s schools, but there is absolutely no way I vote for the levy they’re talking about for this fall. This mess has to be resolved before I increase my property taxes, already among the highest in the state and mostly paid by less affluence homeowners, since the richie riches in the fancy new town homes have abatements.

    I really think they want Ohio’s kids to be as stupid and ignorant as a majority of state legislators. And that’s a high bar!

  • gmild

    Your calculation is too low.  If you follow the model of the 2003 analysis to calculate the opportunity cost of the time involved, you end up with around $490 million on top of the $305 million for an estimated total of $795 million dollars per year.  

    These are the most obvious costs involved.  There are other costs, including those incalculable costs of the loss of REAL LEARNING.

  • Real Get Real

    Sounds like we’re definitely seeing costs reaching $1 BILLION.  I think our calculations approach from different directions but are arriving at a similar number.

    My calculation was based first on the average salary of a teacher, then used your stats on number of students and the assumption of only 7 tests.    I was going after the cost to districts which is likely to be either a) an unfunded mandate to local schools, or 2) a massive windfall to private companies as districts outsource the tests.   But I like your calculation of the cost to the state just to implement, which I agree is added to the cost to districts.  So I get

    $540,000,000    cost to districts to administer (my post)
    $305,000,000   cost to the state to implement (your post)
    $845,000,000   total cost to taxpayers (local and statewide)

    That’s within the ballpark of your $795million figure.    Either way, I agree that the costs are astronomical and voters are unaware to the game being played.  Though in the hidden costs as you mention and we could easily EXCEED $1 BILLION.

    But today’s Dispach article nearly admits that the real intent of SB5 is not to judge merit, but rather let administrators arbitrarily fire teachers based on popularity.  The true outcome of SB5 will be REVERSE SENIORITY in which experienced (read “expensive” to GOP) teachers are targeted first, regardless of how good they are.   This would definitely be more in line with the private sector where age discrimination is widely practiced. 

    The sooner Ohio wakes up and votes out the GOP, the better.

  • Random Thoughts

    I was talking to another teacher friend of mine last Friday. When looking over a student’s standardized test last year, the child had simply answered “A-B-C-A-B-C”, etc. for all of the multiple choice, and for the written responses had simply put “I don’t know”. When the teacher called to inform the mother, and to let her know that his score would be less than stellar, the mother replied “I know – that’s what I told him to do. We don’t believe in testing”.

    I can assure you that there are many other students who do the same thing, whether the parent instructed them to do it or not. By the time achievement tests roll around at the beginning of May, my kids’ brains are french-fried and less-than-motivated to sit for two-and-a-half hours answering the same questions they’ve answered a hundred times in my class. Apathy runs rampant. So even though I know for a fact I taught the material, it doesn’t always show. Legislators who have not been educators will NEVER understand that.

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