AP: Kansas audit pegs cost of new Common Core standards

12/14/2012

TOPEKA (AP) — Auditors said Thursday that implementing the national Common Core education standards could cost Kansas between $34 million and $63 million during the next five years.

TOPEKA (AP) — Auditors said Thursday that implementing the national Common Core education standards could cost Kansas between $34 million and $63 million during the next five years.

A Kansas Legislative Post audit report attempted to answer legislators' questions about the cost of changes in how public school students are taught. Some estimates say implementing the standards will cost as much as $3 billion in California.

"Our estimate of the total cost to implement the Common Core standards in Kansas is significantly lower than other studies' estimates to implement those standards," said Joe Lawhon, lead auditor on the report.

The standards have been approved by 45 states, including Kansas, and are an effort to establish shared national standards for teaching English and math. The State Board of Education adopted the changes in 2010.

"I think it's pretty cool because the standards are pretty rigorous," said Rep. Ann Mah, a Topeka Republican who heard the presentation on the audit.

The changes are part of the state's federally approved waiver to free it of No Child Left Behind Act requirements. Other components include revising teacher evaluations and developing new methods for measuring student progress.

The audit estimated that school districts would have to spend $30 million to $50 million over the next five years to purchase new textbooks and up to $10 million for additional teacher training.

However, Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said districts have already incurred some of the expense with implementing the standards, such as purchasing new textbooks and staff training.

"Districts have been transitioning since 2010," she said, adding that the expenses were not unlike when the state made changes to curriculum.

The cost estimate was cumulative for the state's 286 school districts. Districts can mitigate those costs by delaying the purchase of textbooks for other subjects or implementing Common Core training for teachers with existing training programs.

Auditors said that the cost of implementing the standards would vary among the districts and that they are divided between real and so-called opportunity costs associated with the effort.

Real costs include actual expenses for goods and services related to the standards. Opportunity costs would be those incurred by training teachers and administrators to use the standards instead of doing something else, such as professional development.

Two national studies estimated that the total cost to Kansas would be between $100 million and $180 million over three to seven years.

The Kansas audit found that fewer teachers will need Common Core training than estimated and those who do will require fewer hours of instruction.

In addition, Kansas could save as much as $3 million a year in student testing. The state currently contracts with a private firm to develop student tests. But Lawhon said replacing those with tests that meet the Common Core standards could be acquired at little or no cost to the state.

DeBacker said a national consortium was working on tests to assess student proficiency on the Common Core that Kansas was likely to use.

Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards said districts have already factored in the cost of new textbooks and manage those expenses.

"The real cost of this issue is not the textbooks or the ongoing training. The real cost is getting students to be successful," he said. "How do you put in place more teacher and staff support?"

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