Here’s something that I couldn’t fit into my story on the costs of testing in San Diego Unified:

One scholar believes that nationwide, the problem is not too much testing or too much spent on testing, but too much of the wrong kind of testing, done on the cheap. (His comments are more directed to the tests that states have implemented under No Child Left Behind, rather than the added tests that school districts administer.)

School districts and states strapped for cash are more likely to use multiple choice tests, which tend to measure less depth of thinking, than to spend money on tests with short answers or essays that cost more to grade, said Thomas Toch, co-director of the think tank Education Sector. Spending more on more elaborate and complex tests might be a better option than using cheaper, simpler tests that may encourage teachers to dilute their instruction, he said.

“The more human hands that have to touch these things increase the cost pretty dramatically,” Toch said. He estimated the costs of testing between $15 and $50 per student depending on the test. “That is a very small fraction on what we spend in public education. And that is ironic because testing now is at the center of the education enterprise. It is driving what happens in the classroom. You would think we would want to spend enough on testing to ensure the quality of instruction.”

Thoughts on testing and its costs? Feel free to e-mail me at


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