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It is a well-known fact that the latter part of every school year is inundated with state-mandated testing. Testing that should measure whether students have met their states’ standards for learning. As states across the nation explore innovative approaches to testing, they must also consider the economics of it all. How much every opportunity costs often determines whether or not it is seized. Here are some points that must be considered from a recent post from Jason Dougal, the president and chief operating officer of the ​​National Center on Education and the Economy:

The cost of tests

  • Testing is driven by a multibillion-dollar industry.
  • Up to a quarter of the school year is spent on test taking and prep.
  • Collecting testing data has helped to shine a light on the wide achievement gap in this country.
  • Discussions should focus on whether children are being presented with the right kind of tests.
  • Economics overrides good education practice when it comes to required state testing.
  • The only type of test that is currently cost-effective are those composed of mostly computer-graded multiple choice questions, which do not assess student competency.
  • Competency-based tests that focus on whether students have truly mastered concepts require them to write effectively, think critically and analyze information sources do exist, which is more expensive.
  • States spend as little as $7 per student per test, with a national average of about $25 for normal tests, compared to competency-based assessments, which cost $75 to 100 per exam.
  • The cost is greater because they assess skills that must be evaluated by humans, not computers.
  • The savings for less informative tests end up costing us far more…millions of students graduating without the skills needed to make it in the global economy. 


  • Relaxed USDE requirements around testing.
  • States took advantage of that flexibility and issue tests that focuses on the relevant knowledge and skills that children need to succeed.
  • Breaking the stranglehold of cheap standardized testing means assessing students less frequently, but with better exams.
  • Testing a sample of students reflecting a state’s overall demographics in each subject could save money and reduce the burden so much testing and loss of instructional time (like NAEP and PISA).
  • Allow teachers the flexibility to conduct shorter, less intrusive and more targeted assessments.
  • Break restrictive cycle of testing every child each spring and put more faith in teachers to track student progress and give them the time and flexibility they need to get every kid ready for life beyond school. 


  • This story was produced by The 74, a non-profit, independent news organization focused on education in America.

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