MADISON, Wis. — A budget request by the Department of Public Instruction shows the cost of testing Wisconsin students over the next two years could cost millions of dollars more than originally estimated.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the department is seeking more than $36 million to administer tests aligned to Common Core State Standards over the next two school years. That’s $7.2 million more than what is already appropriated through 2017.
The increase comes as states are preparing students for tests that meet Common Core standards - and as local GOP lawmakers are seeking to diminish the standards and offer ways for schools to opt out of the tests.
The cost estimates could change once final contracts with the test vendor are negotiated, said DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy. But the budget request indicates the estimates are reliable.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker said the governor would review the request. Walker has called for a full repeal of Common Core standards in the past, but recently he has softened his stance.
The requested amount covers the Smarter Balanced exam, recently renamed The Badger Exam, for students in grades three through eight, along with the ACT group of tests for high school students that includes ASPIRE, ACT and WorkKeys exams. It also includes the Dynamic Learning Maps exam for students with disabilities.
One measure moving through the Legislature this session asks that schools be given an option of tests to use instead of requiring them to use the Common Core-aligned tests.
Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, Assembly Education Committee chairman, said he thinks the test costs are increasing partially because some states are no longer using the test. Senate Education Reform and Government Operations committee chairman Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, echoed those concerns.
But Senate Education Committee chairman Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said the higher-than-expected cost is largely due to the nature of the new tests, which are Web-based and adaptive.
Farrow said he would like to discuss whether the state should pick a different test before committing the funding for coming school years.
“If we’re finding it’s now too cost-prohibitive, I don’t want to put all these eggs into this basket,” he said. “I would rather find an alternative to be truly fiscally efficient.”
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj
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