Saturday, November 29, 2014

Report Shows Huge $$ In Ed Testing

I know, I know. Later I'll do a post in which we learn that water is wet.

This report comes from the education division of the Software and Information Industry Association, "the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries." (h/t to Jim Horn at Schools Matter) It's an extension of their annual survey of their members, so this is how the education market looks to the people who hope to make money from it. This is not the hypothetical fretting of those of us in the education biz.

The survey covers a three-year span, and the findings are simple and stark. During a period marked by "difficult economic times during an overall PreK-12 budget and spending decline," the industry saw an increase in testing and assessment sales of 57%. And the three years in the survey are 2010-2011 through 2012-2013. Anybody want to place bets on how the trend continued in 2013-2014?

In dollar amounts, the 2012-2013 dollar figures is around $2,500,000,000. Two and a half billion. With a "b."

The executive summary is available on line (the full report seems to have been released only to member companies), and there's not a great deal to see there. It's not even very slick and pretty, kind of like it was an actual industry group report and not some sort of thinky tank advertising brochure masquerading as a report. At any rate, that means we can only see the broad outlines, and those simply confirm what common sense already told us.

Participants in the survey identified four factors contributing to the huge mountain of money they now find themselves perched atop.

1. The Common Core Standards are changing curricula
2. The rollout of Common Core Assessments are [sic] galvanizing activity
3. There is widespread demand for more and better formative assessment
4. Testing and assessment is [sic] leading the transition from print to digital

I'll subtract points for the subject-verb agreement problems, but they get some back for using "galvanizing." Nice word. In other words, Common Core has cracked open the market so that money can pour out. Note also that as far as these guys are concerned, Common Core Assessments are a thing, so those who insist that the standards and the tests are two discrete and unconnected issues are contradicted for the sixty gazzilionth time. The mandate that testing be done on line is having the expected effect of making huge money for the digital stuff industry. The widespread demand for more formative assessment? I'm not sure who out here is hollering for more tests, but these four factors were noted "almost universally" by respondents. Four less commonly noted factors were

1. School districts are requiring interoperability
2. Big Data and Analytics are driving infrastructure
3. Real-time digital assessments are actionable
4. Linking assessments to content holds the promise of personalization

The first two reinforce the idea that our Data Overlords and their government minions continue to holler "Feed me!" The third item reinforces that English is a second language to these guys; it means, I believe, that getting instant test results is a thing that could be done. Four is the unicorn hunt of personalization; the idea that a program can look at all of a student's answers on the computer-based assessment and then spit out just the right instructional plan for that student is exactly the sort of thing that people who don't have any real knowledge of teaching and education think would be really cool and actionable.

The report ranks various product lines in terms of revenue generation. Summative testing is most of the mountain, which serves as one more sign that the reformster baloney about how one purpose of the High Stakes Testing is to guide and tweak instruction is Just Not So. That would be formative testing, which is runner up in the Making Us Money contest, followed distantly by psychological testing and test prep products.

They also offer two cautions against irrational exuberance. First, people are starting to get seriously antsy about the massive threats to and violations of student privacy. Second, the market for summative testing seems to be slowing and perhaps close to filled.

The full report appears to address all ten of these points in greater detail. If anybody's got a copy lying around, I'd be glad to have a look. But it appears that this report offers less Shocking Surprise Revelation and more Confirmation of What You Already Were Pretty Sure Was True.


  1. Of course, to people like Paul Ryan who worship at the altar of capitalism, this is a good thing.

  2. CC has nothing to do with capitalism and everything to do with Italian style fascism which is a next door neighbor to communism.

    Great post C!

  3. No, Rebecca De Coca. I won't defend Paul Ryan, but those who favor capitalism do not see common core as a good thing. As the iconic defender of capitalism Milton Friedman said, he did not favor large government because that is when industrialists and politicians form a coalition to take over. Common Core is exactly the opposite of what Friedman advocated.

    1. I'm not talking about Common Core per se. I'm talking about the testing as education profiteering. It's the same thing with charter schools, with everything privatized and run by corporations. And it seems to me the new capitalism is using politicians and government to make government not for the people but for the profiteers. They just pretend they're not.