Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Make Your Own Infographics - How State Testing Impacts Technology Access

Yesterday I crunched some numbers and posted some infographics showing a conservative estimate of how much money standardized testing is costing schools. In reality the amount the state spends is probably much larger since this figure doesn't account for the salaries of employees at the Minnesota Department of Education whose jobs are either explicitly devoted to or have come to be consumed with test-driven data. It also doesn't account for the benefits packages of many of the employee salaries included in my figures. It doesn't account for capital expenses or utilities spent in the service of testing or test prep including computer labs, electricity, buildings, heating costs, maintenance staff, and all the other things that schools spend money on to keep their buildings operational. One could, I suppose, figure out what percentage of the school year is monopolized by these high stakes tests and their subsequent culture and paraphernalia. If all those were factored in, the actual cost of standardized testing becomes astronomical.

Today, however, I would like to focus on how these high stakes tests impact student access to school technology resources, namely computer technology.

Now school districts vary slightly their student contact days but most schools in Minnesota are in session around 172 days per year. Of those days:
  • 20 monopolize district technology resources for the MCAs. This includes not only student-use computers but also the internet and intranet throughout the district. So, even if a teacher's class is not being tested their classroom use of technology (either student computer stations or teacher computer including whatever machine they might use to display content on an interactive whiteboard).
  • 60 monopolize district technology resources for the NWEA. The same issues regarding Internet and intranet also apply.
  • 60 monopolize district technology resources for online test prep.
This leaves 32 instructional days where both the Internet and student computer labs are accessible to students for something other than testing or practice testing. This is shown in this infographic I created the other day using ManyEyes:

School District Technology Use Many Eyes
In those 32 days where district technology is not monopolized by testing or test prep scarce resources must be shared. This means that if district technology resources are only available for 18.6% of the year for higher-order learning experiences and those resources have to be shared that in a school with a 4:1 ratio of students to computers that they are really only available 6.2% of the time.

So, if testing and test prep monopolize 81.4% of the school's technology resources then we can clearly attribute that percentage of the district technology costs to the impact of testing.

But, lets take just a conservative estimate and only take a small percentage of these expenditures into our definitive figure for our running tally of how much state testing costs Minnesota. To do this we will assume that two computer labs in each building are utilized for testing and/or test prep. If these labs are on a 7 year replacement cycle then the equation to figure this out would look something like the following:

f(technology cost of testing)=2[(Cost of a computer lab X .814)/7] + (annual cost of internet * .814)

So, lets say the average computer lab costs $30,000 and the annual cost for internet in each school is around $30,000 (taken from my own school district data) then:

f(technology cost of testing)=2[($30,000 X .814)/7] + ($30,000 * .814)
f(technology cost of testing)=2[($24,420)/7] + ($24,420)
f(technology cost of testing)=2($3,488.57) + ($24,420)
f(technology cost of testing)=$6,977.14 + $24,420
f(technology cost of testing)=$31,397.14

So, according to the state website Minnesota has 2,637 schools so multiply f(technology cost of testing) by this number and we should have a conservative estimate of how much expense is spent on technology alone. That ends up being: $82,794,258

Add that to the running total from my last post we are now at:

$939 Million Dollars

Of course, if it were not for these tests most of this money would still be spent but it would be spent differently. Still the only discernible extra spending I can find so far is the $72 million dollars I discussed yesterday.

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