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The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has released a new study that estimates the costs that states will incur when implementing the Common Core academic standards. It shows that, while critics have warned of a hefty price tag, the reality is more complicated.
Some states may end up spending a lot of money, explains Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost? But there are also opportunities for significant savings if they use this occasion to update their handling of test administration, instructional materials, and professional development—and make smart use of current budget resources. States have multiple implementation (and cost) options.
Authors Patrick J. Murphy of the University of San Francisco and Elliot Regenstein of EducationCounsel LLC illustrate this with three models:
- Business as Usual. This “traditional” (and priciest) approach to standards-implementation involves buying hard-copy textbooks, administering annual student assessments on paper, and delivering in-person professional development to all teachers.
- Bare Bones. This lowest-cost alternative employs open-source instructional materials, annual computer-administered assessments, and online professional development via webinars and modules.
- Balanced Implementation. This is a blend of approaches, some of them apt to be effective as well as relatively cost-efficient.
The report examines the tradeoffs associated with each strategy and estimates how much the three approaches would cost each state that has adopted the Common Core. The authors also point out that, since states already invest billions annually in professional development, assessments, textbooks, and other expenses in connection with existing standards, proper forecasting of Common Core costs should “net out” the sums that states would spend anyway for activities that this implementation process will replace.
According to the report, Michigan could save as much as $38.3 million by using the "Bare Bones" approach, or spend nearly $300 million more money by sticking to business as usual.