Costs Associated with the Common Core State Standard

One of the first questions state legislators ask about the Common Core State Standards often revolves around costs. Answers are neither easy nor straightforward. Estimates vary widely, and, depending on a state’s readiness for computer-based assessments, so will the costs. A number of factors will determine the cost states will ultimately incur due to Common Core State Standards implementation. For instance, states with a dated or sparse computer inventory will face higher upfront costs but may have fewer operating costs in five years due to a newly purchased inventory. The same scenario may play out with states’ technological infrastructure.

Additionally, if states’ existing curricula do not align with the Common Core State Standards, schools and districts may need to purchase new textbooks and instructional materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Professional development initiatives, materials, and programs to instruct teachers and school leaders on the Common Core State Standard may also be costly.

However, because the states will work collaboratively with each other within the assessment consortia to develop assessments, instructional and professional development resources, and reporting systems, states will likely experience cost efficiencies.  Specifically, both consortia have pledged to maintain open digital libraries of formative assessments, tools and resources for training educators and providing professional development, model curriculum frameworks, tutorials and practice tests for students and educators, training modules for scoring, and other tools to support educator collaboration. These efforts should help to mitigate the cost of implementing the Standards.

Two Cost Categories

Implementation of new standards and assessments broadly fit into two categories:

1. One-time (or upfront) transition costs and investments
  • Examples of one-time costs include:
► New instructional materials aligned to new standards,
► Professional development for educators' transition to new standards, and
► New assessments to test students' proficiency against the new standards, including procuring and/or updating the technological infrastructure to administer the assessment instrument.
  • Depending on the state, upfront costs are borne between states and school districts.
  • One-time costs do not occur in one fiscal year alone but rather over the course of the implementation period (i.e., over multiple fiscal years).
2. Recurring costs and investments
  • For recurring costs related specifically to the Common Core State Standards, these costs will be folded back into preexisting state and district annual expenditures related to state standards and assessments; as mentioned above, through cross-state and -district collaboration, opportunities to enjoy economies of scale may lower current recurring costs associated with implementing stateside standards.
  • Recurring costs include:
► Maintenance and repair of assessment medium,
► Technological obsolescence,
► Updating instructional materials, and
► Ongoing professional development.

Specific Cost Estimates

Legislative Resources

Non-Legislative Cost Estimates

Below are links to different studies (in chronological order) that draw upon different methodologies to quantify the costs associated with Common Core State Standards implementation and/or assessments.

PDF iconChingos, Matthew M. "Standardized Testing and the Common Core Standards: You Get What You Pay For?" Washington, D.C.: Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, October 2013.

PDF iconTopol, Barry; John Olson; and Ed Roeber. "Getting to Higher-Quality Assessments: Evaluating Costs, Benefits, and Investment Strategies." Stanford, Calif: Stanford University, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, May 2013.

PDF iconDarling-Hammond, Linda and Frank Adamson. "Developing Assessments of Deeper Learning: The Costs and Benefits of Using Tests That Help Students Learn." Stanford, Calif: Stanford University, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, May 2013.

PDF iconMurphy, Patrick and Elliot Regenstein. "Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core: How Much Will Smart Implementation Cost?" Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Institute, May 2012.

PDF iconPioneer Institute and American Principles Project. "National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards." Boston, Mass.: Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, February 2012.