Publications & Resources

Alternative Assessment Programs: What Are the True Costs? An Analysis of the Total Costs of Assessment in Kentucky and Vermont

Feb 1998

Lawrence O. Picus and Alisha Tralli

At the March 1996 education summit in New York, President Clinton, the nation’s governors, and a select group of chief executive officers from large companies agreed that a critical component of education reform was the need to hold schools accountable for student learning. Although the exact methods for doing this were not specified, it seems certain that a major component of this effort will include some form of assessment. While it is doubtful that we will see a national standardized test, the importance of assessment programs will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. The purpose of this report is to provide a first detailed analysis of the “economic” or opportunity costs of the testing systems in two states, Kentucky and Vermont. Using a framework developed by Picus (1994), this study looked closely at the amount of time local school officials spent supporting the assessment programs in their respective states in 1995-96, and estimates the value of that effort. As the results show, when the full “economic” costs of an assessment system are estimated, the costs of assessment programs are considerably higher than they appear when only state level appropriations are considered.

Picus, L. O., & Tralli, A. (1998). Alternative assessment programs: What are the true costs? An analysis of the total costs of assessment in Kentucky and Vermont (CSE Report 441). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).