- An authoritative Fordham Institute study said that the Common Core could be expected to add a minuscule $3 million per year for 3 years to New Hampshire’s $3 billion K-12 education budget. (here,below)
- Many New Hampshire school districts have years of Common Core experience now and the superintendents say that their Common Core implementations have cost very little.(here,below)
Ask around. You can get any answer you want on the question of what the Common Core costs. The Heritage Foundation uses a $30 billion figure nation-wide. That gets widely quoted – here, for instance – but when I contacted Liv Finne, the source of the figure, she said that was just her own personal estimate!
The Boston free-market think tank Pioneer Institute says the cost will be $16 billion nation-wide over 7 years. The study itself is quite glossy, though the appendix with the numbers on which the study is based (I’ve highlighted the NH figures in yellow) looks like something an intern knocked together in an afternoon. Based on the report’s assumptions that our schools will buy new textbooks for every child – $11.7 million right away – and make big computer purchases and incur extensive professional development costs, the study says the Common Core will cost New Hampshire $85 million over 7 years. Even after all of those inflated assumptions, that amounts to $12 million per year – not that big a figure out of a $3 billion state-wide education budget.
Fordham Institute has also done an analysis. Unlike Pioneer, which produces advocacy studies for advocacy purposes, Fordham is actually about education. It’s conservative but it brings rigorous – or at least defensible – analysis to its studies and is widely cited. You get the sense that they are trying to get it right. And, true to form, the Fordham study is more thorough than Pioneer’s. Fordham says that, depending on how you do it, the cost could range from $3 billion to $12 billion nation-wide and is likely to be $8.9 million over three years in New Hampshire. That’s less than $3 million per year, state-wide, far lower than that already modest Pioneer figure.
Superintendents say there is little additional cost to the Common Core or the test
But what is the New Hampshire experience? Our own educators, well into their Common Core implementations, provide a realistic assessment. They say there is not much increase in cost as a result of implementing the Common Core, nor from the technology required for testing. And what cost there is gets folded into business-as-usual.
White Mountains Regional School District has been implementing the Common Core for several years. Superintendent Harry Fensom says that,
“The new standards have been implemented in all WMRSD classrooms” and implementing the standards “has to date required no increase in the district-approved budget.” He goes on to say that, “With regard to curriculum, training, etc. there have been no increases to accommodate CCSS.” Teachers all around the state agree with him.
Dr. Brian Blake, Superintendent of Sanborn Regional School District in Kingston and Newton says he’s paying for the Common Core in the normal course of business:
Most, if not all, school districts have a curriculum review cycle that involves a review of the existing curriculum, realignment if necessary, and the purchase of new and/or supplementary materials. Over the past five years, the Sanborn Regional School district has utilized the curriculum review cycle to ensure curriculum alignment with the expectations in the Common Core.
…the Common Core assessments (Smarter Balanced in the case of NH), will be about the same as the costs of the NECAP testing, which we have had in the State for years.
…Our technology purchases have positioned us to be ready for the Smarter Balanced Assessments without any additional impact on the system.
John Freeman, Superintendent of Schools in Pittsfield, starts by saying he wants to affirm testimony I had given earlier (but had not videoed), then goes on to say,
If you know Pittsfield, you know we’re a property poor community. And we’re also a community with one of the highest tax rates in the state of New Hampshire. So cost items are always on the front burner for us.
In Pittsfield, the use of the Common Core State Standards has not resulted in any increased cost for us.
Through our normal curriculum review cycle, we’ve used the Common Core State Standards to revise and update our curriculum. I’m assuming that we’re not unique in that process. We provide on-going professional development for our faculty. So when we saw the opportunity to upgrade our standards to the Common Core State Standards, we continue to provide professional development for our faculty.
We are engaged in continuous improvement and we just really integrated this latest upgrade in standards into our normal course of standard operations.
Relative to technical costs, we also have not experienced any impact in that regard either….We, as have many school districts in New Hampshire, have been using an on-line assessment for many years.
Our elementary school, for instance, has been using the NWEA assessment. Seventeen classrooms all using one computer lab during an open window of about three weeks in the spring and in the fall….
We would have the ability to used our current equipment…
The Smarter Balanced to me is important because….now that we’ve got the Common Core integrated into our curriculum, we want to assessment to match so that we’re accountable to our community in terms of outcome.
And, in most cases, the technology required for Smarter Balanced testing in 2015 is technology the schools would get in the normal course of upgrading their 21st Century classrooms. Nashua, for instance, is not a rich school district. At the October 2, 2013 Nashua Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Mark Conrad said the district is prepared for the Smarter Balanced assessment:
Technology is coming about naturally…. What we do in technology is not related to the Common Core….The one area in which technology is related to the Common Core is in providing the Smarter Balanced assessment. For most districts in New Hampshire that’s not going to be a concern and it’s not a concern for us – for several reasons. First, we have the bandwidth that’s required to provide the assessments on-line….Also, there’s a 12 week window for the Smarter Balanced, which means that you can rotate students through a very long window into more limited capacity. The Common Core isn’t driving what we do in technology.
Teachers agree: the Common Core is part of their normal day-to-day work
Patty Hurley, Learning Disabilities Specialist at Manchester’s Northwest Elementary school, says, “…putting the new standards to work has taken a big commitment from everyone but, mostly, that work has been integrated with the work we continually do to improve our lesson plans.”
Debbie Villiard, a fourth grade teacher in Manchester’s Northwest Elementary School, says she doesn’t need a lot of extra training or special books, “Like any change, there’s a lot of preparation at first – but then you have it for the next year….We don’t need a company coming in and saying, ‘Okay, we have this full program that covers all the standards.’ We’re doing it ourselves.”
Jane Ellwood teaches second grade at Manchester’s Northwest Elementary School. She talks about shifting to the Common Core as part of her every-day work:
We started figuring out the math standards two years ago. [Our principal] talked about the standards at PLCs [“Professional Learning Communities,” teacher meetings to share best practices and professional knowledge]. She would share global information; just kind of a bird’s eye view of where we were going and what she thought the timeline would look like. Then last year we really started getting deep into the math standards. And we are using them for all our math instruction this year.
Last year all our professional development was centered around math standards. [The principal] led us through each of the standards. We met as grade level teams and really dug into them… It was a good way to get to know the standards. Then we slowly began to kind of incorporate them into the teaching and try some new methods of instruction.
About the need for new books? Ms. Ellwood says,
For instance, we can use Everyday Math with the Common Core in lots of ways. But not in all ways. And there are many elements of Everyday Math that we’re not using any more because we’re going so much deeper than we would have tried to do before. Everybody talks about that – it was a mile wide and an inch deep compared to what we’re doing now.
She goes on to say,
It is a lot more work but, because we started rolling it out last year, there are also many materials that I’ve developed and already have ready for my students. I easily put in a couple of additional hours or more each week in preparing…and I know a lot of my colleagues are doing that too. We’re spending Sunday afternoons making materials….But that’s definitely not a complaint!