The Cost of Smarter Balanced for One Iowa School District

A local radio station did a story on one Iowa school district’s move from the Iowa Assessments to Smarter Balanced. The Iowa State Board of Education approved Smarter Balanced and has mandated that schools change over by the 2017/2018 school district. The Iowa Legislature approved a delay so, presumably, they could reconsider the BOE’s decision. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad vetoed that measure.

Carroll Community School District is a school district in Western Iowa who has an enrollment of 1773 students. District Superintendent Rob Cortes told KCIM 1380 AM that the change represents an increase of $25,000 to the district’s assessment costs. This is an increase the state of Iowa has not set money aside to cover. Cortes noted that in order to pay for Smarter Balanced they will discontinue other assessments they used along with the current Iowa Assessments.

This represents a significant increase, consider what this is costing larger school districts.

Here are hard cost estimates to Iowa’s districts based on 2013-2014 enrollment (see spreadsheet of district breakdown):

  • SBAC summative: nearly a $5.5 million increase (500% increase)
  • SBAC summative, interim, digital library: over a $6.8 million increase (nearly 700% increase)
  • Next Generation Iowa Assessment: over a $3.2 million increase (300% increase)

Soft costs to each district:

  • Common Core assessments are online-only assessments. They will require significant increases in both technology (computer equipment, software and maintenance) as well as internet bandwidth in all school districts just to accommodate that many students taking these tests. These costs are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force.
  • The SBAC assessment does not include science. The additional costs for adding a science test are unknown and were not considered by the assessment task force or the Iowa State Board of Education.
  • The SBAC assessment only measures the Common Core State Standards – it will not measure any of the required additional state standards that still remain as part of the Iowa Core (approximately 10-15%), nor any standards that local districts may be allowed to add (15%)

The Iowa Legislature can still address Smarter Balanced again this session in order to protect taxpayers from footing the bill for invalid, costly test.

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