Every year schools are faced with the financial challenges of updating old materials, textbooks and technology.  Due to the incredible expense of purchasing new textbooks, it is common practice for schools to offset the adoption years by subject.  With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, schools are facing the challenge of purchasing new textbooks, materials and technology for math and language arts in a much tighter timeline.  Factor in the additional cost of orienting teachers to the new standards and providing professional development on the new materials, and the implementation of the Common Core starts to become a very expensive proposition for schools.

Exactly how much this is going to cost is a subject for debate, but a recent study from The Pioneer Institute estimates the costs of implementation over a seven-year period to be approximately $15.8 billion.  Conversely, a recent study released by the Fordham Institute estimates the cost of implementation using three different scenarios:

  • Business As Usual: This “traditional” approach to implementation is defined as buying hard-copy textbooks, administering annual student assessments on paper, and delivering in-person professional development to all teachers.  It is not a cheap approach though, and the prices tags associated with it are quite familiar.  Cost: $12.1 Billion
  • Bare Bones: This is the lowest-cost alternative, employing open-source materials, annual computer-administered assessments, and online professional development via webinars and modules.  Cost: $2.9 Billion
  • Balanced Implementation: This is a blend of approaches, some of which may be more effective than others while also reducing costs.  It uses a mix of instructional materials (e.g. teacher self-published texts and/or district-produced materials), interim and summative assessments, and a hybrid system of professional development (e.g. train-the-trainers).  Cost: $5 Billion

So who is right?  I suppose only time will tell, but I suspect the actual implementation cost at each school will be as varied as the estimations.  Schools will need to select from a growing menu of “Common Core Aligned” materials, texts, programs, resources and professional development opportunities.  Some schools will have money to buy the latest and greatest offerings while others will be forced to modify existing materials.   I think this quote from the Fordham study addresses the issue best:

Some states are busily attending to their implementation checklists while others amble at a turtle’s pace. But generally lost amid the discussions of curriculum maps, computer-administered assessments, how to get teachers up to snuff, and so on, are fundamental questions: How much will all this cost? And are there innovative ways to contain costs—including the thoughtful use of technology—that could make implementation more affordable and perhaps more productive, if not necessarily easier? 

A perfect example of this is the amazing amount of money being spent on orienting teachers to the Common Core.  Whether the professional development is provided through the school district or a third party vendor, the cost of developing and printing materials and paying teachers to attend adds up quickly.

To help make the implementation more affordable and perhaps more productive, if not easier, we developed the Common Core App that provides teachers easy and immediate access to the standards.  Additionally, MasteryConnect has developed the largest online community of teachers collaborating and sharing formative assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  Within MasteryConnect, teachers can easily monitor student performance relative to the standards with our innovative mastery-based, core-aligned MasteryTracker.  All of the above resources are available to teachers for FREE.

Time will eventually provide us with a much closer estimate to the actual costs associated with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  My guess is that in the end, most experts will come to a similar conclusion: implementing the Common Core was incredibly expensive.  At MasteryConnect, we are doing our best to help schools make it a little less expensive and a whole lot easier for teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards.

Keep on Trackin,

Trenton Goble

Chief Academic Officer

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