Education Funding Report Roundup

Assessment Costs

By Sean Cavanagh — February 25, 2014 1 min read

A new analysis seeks to pinpoint how much can be saved by “machine scoring” test essay questions, and concludes that the costs can be as low as 20 percent of the price of human grading, depending on the volume of students being tested and other factors.

For years, simpler multiple-choice items have had an obvious allure: They’re typically easier and cheaper to score than essays.

But the new study, published by the Danville, Calif.-based Assessment Solutions Group, concludes that the costs of machine scoring of long-form essays could be as low as 20 percent to 50 percent of the costs of human scoring for tests involving large numbers of student responses. The savings tend to be lower, but still significant, where smaller groups of students are being tested.

To put that in dollar terms, in a state that is testing between 1.5 million and 3 million students, the costs of human scoring would range from $1.51 to $2.08 per student, or $3.4 million to $4.7 million in total. With machine scoring, costs range from 41 cents to 86 cents per student, or $922,000 to $1.9 million.

The study was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which also underwrites news coverage in Education Week.

A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as Assessment Costs

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