The Costs of Common Core
As school and state leaders across the nation prepare to implement the Common Core State Standards in the fall of 2014, a new report proposes three options—with three costs—to use.
According to “Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?” released in May by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit education policy think tank, the authors explain three approaches states may make to implement the standards during the transitional phase, which is expected to span one to three years, depending on the pace of each district, before the 2014-2015 school year.
Business as usual. Following this “traditional approach,” districts or states buy hard-copy textbooks, administer annual student assessments on paper, and deliver in-person professional development to all teachers. It’s not cheap, but it’s familiar. In California, for example, the cost is roughly $1.6 billion, according to the report. (This is not the net cost to California of taking this approach, but the total cost of implementing the Common Core standards overall.)
Bare bones. This is the cheapest option and includes using open-source materials, annual computer-administered assessments, and online PD via webinars and modules. In California, it would cost $380 million.
Balanced implementation. This blends the two approaches and includes a mix of instructional materials with teacher self-published texts or district-produced materials, interim and summative assessments, and in-person and online PD, including training for the trainers. In California, it would cost $681 million.
At the Corning-Painted Post School District in Corning, N.Y., Superintendent Michael Ginalski says his 5,200-student district is already using a slightly modified version of the business-as-usual approach.
The district received $215,000 last year in Race to the Top funding to be spent over four years to make the shift to the Common Core. It has already spent more than half of that on delivering in-person professional development, in part for teachers to develop new curricula; purchasing new novels for secondary grades, particularly for ELA; and providing infrastructure upgrades for school buildings.
“We support this direction [of the Common Core]. … It’s well overdue,” Ginalski says. “Much like Title I and IDEA, it’s well intentioned, but not nearly enough money is being provided. It’s going to be a challenge.”
The amount of hours for teachers to develop the new curricula and new assessments that align with the Common Core standards, as well as the leadership training involved, represents “a major, major shift culturally,” Ginalski adds.
Co-author Elliot Regenstein says the report is designed to make state leaders consider which model to use, given their individual budgets and technology needs. The report does not advocate any one paraticular approach.