States can halve their assessment costs by tilting more toward essay questions and performance tasks than the multiple-choice-heavy approaches now used in most states, a new analysis says.
The study, released last week, addresses a problem that bedevils assessment experts: how to get what many experts view as the fuller picture of student achievement that essays and performance items yield without higher cost.
A moderate-sized state can expect to pay $52.3 million, or $19.93 per student, to develop and field-test an annual, mostly multiple-choice summative test with one or two extended constructed-response questions in reading, writing, and mathematics, the authors estimate. In comparison, they write, a “high-quality comprehensive assessment system,” which would include half as many multiple-choice items and more essay and performance-type questions, would cost $146.1 million, or $55.67 per student.
But, with certain cost-saving steps, states can cut the price tag to $10 per student, the authors found. Chief among the steps were joining consortia of 30 or more states and using teachers instead of vendors to score test items.
The authors are affiliated with the Assessment Solutions Group, a Danville, Calif.-based organization that provides consulting services on testing issues. They did the study as part of a Stanford University project that is exploring various aspects of performance assessment.
A version of this article appeared in the April 21, 2010 edition of Education Week as Assessment Costs