sed seal                                                                                                 

 

THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

TO:

EMSC Committee

FROM:

John B. King, Jr.

SUBJECT:

Assessment Cost Reduction Strategies

DATE:

June 8, 2010

   

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Decision

              The State Education Department’s expense to operate the assessment program continues to rise as a result of several factors including: inflation, the addition of examinations, increased cost of testing vendor contracts, and the need for more test security.

             

              Based on the Executive Budget, SED projects a deficit of approximately $11.5 million in available funding in 2010-11 for P-12 programs, including the assessment program. In 2011-12, this will likely increase to approximately $21 million due to the end of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) administrative funds. Additional funding in the 2010-11 State budget is needed to prevent a deficit in this program.

              The Regents have requested $7 million in the 2010-11 State budget to maintain the assessment program and avoid significant reductions in testing.  Even if the State budget includes that $7 million, the Regents will still need to make some adjustments and reductions in the assessment program in order to offset the remainder of the deficit.    If the State budget does not include the $7 million that the Regents have requested, or a final State budget is not in place by August 1, 2010, more significant reductions will need to be made in the assessment program.

 

Reason(s) for Consideration


              Review of Policy
             

Procedural History

The Regents first discussed this matter in March 2010. 

 

Background Information

 

The Assessment Program

Grades 3-8 Tests

In response to the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the State Education Department now develops and administers tests in English language arts and mathematics for grades 3-8 and grades 4 and 8 science tests. Grades 5 and 8 social studies tests and grade 8 second language proficiency exams are also administered. The grades 3-8 tests are administered once a year to approximately 3.5 million NYS students.

Regents Exams

The Regents Examination Program consists of 17 tests in five different subjects, many of which are administered three times a year: January, June and August. Approximately 2.3 million students take at least one Regents examination each year: 1.9 million in June, 300,000 in January, and 100,000 in August.

Translations

Each year approximately 131,000 students take at least one of the grades 3-8 tests or Regents examinations translated into one of five foreign languages: Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean and Russian.

Other Tests

The State Education Department also administers approximately 219,000 New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Tests (NYSESLAT), approximately 14,000 alternative assessments for students with severe disabilities, and 9,000 high school component retests each year.

Assessment Funding

In 2003-04, before the NCLB requirements for grades 3-8 testing were implemented, the cost of the assessment program was $14.1 million. In 2009-10, it will be approximately $45 million.

While costs have increased, available funding is dwindling. If the Executive Budget is enacted, SED’s General Fund appropriation will have been reduced by approximately 30 percent since 2008-09. Because federal funds can be used over a 27-month period, SED has been able to use federal “carry-over” funds from previous fiscal years to absorb the increasing expense of the assessment program. These carry-over funds will be exhausted by June 30, 2010, resulting in a deficit.

The Regents have requested $7 million in the 2010-11 State budget to maintain the assessment program and avoid significant reductions in testing.  If the State budget includes that $7 million, the Regents will still need to make some adjustments and reductions in the assessment program in order to offset the more than $4.5 million of the $11.5 million deficit.

Over the past few months, Department staff have met with and talked to stakeholders including the District Superintendents, the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS), the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), and others, to get their input on which cost reduction strategies should be implemented first.  On March 30th, a special meeting to discuss this issue was held that included representatives from NYSCOSS, NYSUT, the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS), the Big 5 School Districts, the New York City Department of Education and nonpublic schools.     While there was no consensus of opinion among stakeholders, one message we heard fairly consistently was to try to avoid making cuts in assessments that would impact high school graduation.  To the extent practicable, the proposals included in this item respond to that request. 

Recommendation

              If the State budget includes the $7 million that the Regents have requested for the assessment program, the Department recommends that the strategies in Chart A (below) be made to offset the remainder of the deficit.  If the State budget does not include the $7 million that the Regents have requested, or a final State Budget is not in place by August 1, 2010, the Department recommends that in addition to the strategies in Chart A, the strategies in Chart B (below) also be made to eliminate the deficit.   If all of the cost savings strategies included on Charts A and B are made there will still be a remaining deficit of approximately $1.1 million.  The Department will continue to explore additional cost reduction strategies to eliminate the remaining deficit.

              A decision by the Board of Regents is needed this month in order for the necessary reductions in the assessment program to be made beginning with the 2010-11 school year.

Chart A

Strategy

Number of Students Tested

Estimated Savings

Review all test development processes to reduce reliance on Education Specialists (Special Payroll employees paid on an hourly basis) and limit their involvement to critical work e.g. standard setting

N/A

$1.25 million

Discontinue paper-based scoring materials for Regents exams and post all scoring training materials and answer keys to website to let schools download prior to scoring

N/A

$.60 million

Eliminate Component Retesting in Math & ELA

9,000

$1.6 million

Eliminate Grades 5 and 8 Social Studies Exams

447,000

$.80 million

Total Estimated Savings for Chart A Strategies

 

$4.25 million

Chart B

 

            Strategy

Number of Students Tested

Estimated Savings

Eliminate Grade 8 Second Language Proficiency exams

114,000

$2.0 million

Eliminate August Administration of Algebra 2/Trigonometry and Chemistry exams

17,000

$.8 million

Eliminate HS Foreign Language Regents exams except for Spanish and French

16,000

$1.2 million

Immediately discontinue translating exams into Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Korean, & Russian- Continue Spanish and perform the work with Department staff.

22,000

$.75 million

Eliminate January Administration of Regents Exams

300,000

$1.4 million

Total Estimated Savings for Chart B Strategies

 

$6.15 million