Ok, so far I have used Wordle, StatsPlanet, ManyEyes, and Gapminder to create infographics. But, when it comes to visualizing data, often the best infographics are ones you create yourself using a plain old image editor. For the following infographics I am going to use a combination of Microsoft Excel to calculate the data and Paint.net to spruce things up.

So, lets start with a baseline. $23 million is what the state of Minnesota pays Pearson Education each year to manage the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Tests in Math, Science, Reading, and Writing.

So, what could the state of Minnesota buy with that $23 million dollars?

Lets assume that each of these six teachers = 10 teachers:

And lets assume that this school bus = 1 field trip for every classroom of 25 children in the State.

And, lets assume that every book in this stack represents one book averaging $25/ea given to each classroom in the state of Minnesota:

And, lets assume that this laptop represents 1 laptop for each classroom in the state of Minnesota:

And, lets assume that this iPod Touch represents 1 hand-held multi-touch mobile computing device per classroom in the state of Minnesota:

So, what would $23 Million Dollars buy?

Now, the actual cost of testing goes beyond what we pay Pearson Education. These tests alone cost the district quite a bit in time, money, and resources to administer. Pearson does not provide proctors or testing equipment to schools so schools are left footing the bill for this. So, how much does it cost school districts each year?

Now, in my experience a school can only realistically test 25 students a time for a computer-based assessment. The state of Minnesota has 823,826.00 students in public school. But, tests are only given to 4 grade levels. If we divide the total number of students by 13 we will get an average number per grade level, then if we multiply that number by 4 we will get a good idea of how many students will be taking these tests. If we divide that number by 25 we get a conservative estimate of how many proctoring sessions for each computer-based test (Math & Science). Now, most schools I have worked in take all students taking a paper and pencil test and herd them into a large auditorium or cafeteria and get that test done all at once so for that we can take the number of schools in the state and multiply it by two to get the number of days it takes to proctor (assuming one session takes 1/2 a day).

Number of students......................................823,826.00

divide by 13 multiplied by 4

Number of students taking tests.................253,484.92

divide by 25 then multiply by 2

Number of proctoring sessions for

Math & Science.................................................20,287.79

Number of schools in Minnesota............................2,637

Multiply by 4

Number of Reading & Writing Test Sessions.....10,548

Add number of proctoring sessions for all tests

Total number of proctoring sessions..............30,826.79

# of proctor sessions per day per school.......................2

# of teachers needed to proctor tests............................3

Average Daily Salary + Benefits for a teacher..$327.87

Divide the total number of session by 2, multiply by 3, then multiply by cost of teachers

Cost for test proctors................................$15,160,718.28

Now that $23 Million is more like $38 Million. Now, these funds are not ones that can be recouped but the time these teachers spend proctoring tests could be reallocated for other purposes if it was not for testing.

Of course, this is not the end of it. Since test results are somewhat difficult and cumbersome to analyze, and since these tests have such high stakes attached to them, most districts have hired someone to be their data analyst and testing coordinator. Sometimes this is a teacher position but usually it is an administrator which means it costs districts more to hire them. Lets just take a conservative estimate and say the way districts do this is 50/50. If the average teacher salary for someone near the top of the salary ladder is $60,000 (assuming that a district is not going to hire a new and inexperienced teacher for this position) and the average school administrator makes around $100,000 then half-way between is somewhere around $80,000. For sake of being conservative in our estimate lets leave out benefits for this one, which would ultimately drive the cost even higher. If there are 543 school districts in the state and each one needs a data specialist/test coordinator then that cost will be:

$80,000 X 543 = $43,440,000 annually for data specialists/testing coordinators

It is highly likely that most districts would not have this expense if it were not for the high-stakes testing required by NCLB. This means that we can add this number to the the $23 Million as extra spending.

Now both because Pearson does not release test results until well into the summer when it is hard to use them to differentiate instruction and because expensive data specialists need to justify the expense of their jobs, most school districts also use NWEA tests to get actionable data throughout the year on student achievement. The NWEA tests give immediate feedback and the subscription cost is fairly low but the tests are online, given for every grade level, and done quarterly. Which means, the actual cost to districts is much higher than the sticker price.

Assuming that every district decided to use this NWEA test the subscription alone would cost:

543 districts X $5,000 = $2,715,000 in NWEA subscriptions

Now this number is also additional spending and can be added to our running tally which is now:

$69,155,000

So, what is the cost for proctoring these tests? Lets find out:

Number of students in the state..................823,826.00

divide by 25 then multiply by 3

Total number of proctoring sessions..............98,859.12

# of proctor sessions per day per school.......................2

# of teachers needed to proctor tests............................3

Average Daily Salary + Benefits for a teacher..$327.87

Divide the total number of session by 2, multiply by 3, then multiply by cost of teachers

Cost for test proctors................................$194,476,957.38

Of course, since these tests have such high stakes attached to them most districts end up spending money on test-prep curriculum like Study Island. It is highly doubtful teachers or districts would use such a tool if it were not for the high-stakes of these tests. But, schools need students to learn how to take tests and be used to taking them online because in the NCLB world test taking is an important life skill. Lets assume that between Study Island and other test-prep curriculum districts spend money on that they average $5,000 a year for curriculum and subscription fees. Seems like a small price to pay for better test scores.

543 school districts X $5,000 = $2,715,000 in Test-Prep Curriculum

But, buying curriculum also means time devoted to implementing it. In the districts I have worked in, teachers have felt pressure to use this drill and practice curriculum that emphasizes low-level cognitive skills such as data recall and decoding. So how much of our tax dollars go to paying for this implementation?

Number of students......................................823,826.00

divide by 25

Total number of classrooms...........................32,953.04

# of days doing test prep for NWEA = 20 x 3 = 60 / 7 class periods * 4 tested subjects

# of days doing test prep for MCA = 20 / 7 class periods * 4 tested subjects

Average Daily Salary + Benefits for a teacher..$327.87

Cost to deliver test prep curriculum...................$493,909,733.02

So, total cost of ownership for these high-stakes tests is: $856 Million Dollars

and the total amount that would not be immediately reallocated toward other purposes:

What could the state do with $72 Million Dollars?

So, what kind of data-driven decision is this?

Tomorrow I will demonstrate what this means for how often kids get to use computer labs for anything but testing or practice testing.

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