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November 2020 Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund Item 1

Approval of Costs to Administer the 2020–2021 State-Developed Assessments to Private School Students

November 20, 2020


SUMMARY: Texas Education Code, §39.033, allows a private school to voluntarily assess its students with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) and the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) assessments. The State Board of Education (SBOE) must approve the per-student cost to private schools, which may not exceed the cost of administering the same assessment to a student enrolled in a public school district. This item requests approval of these costs for the 2020–2021 school year.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY: Texas Education Code (TEC), §39.033.

TEC, §39.033 permits, through an agreement with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), private schools to administer adopted assessment instruments if private schools reimburse TEA the cost for administering the assessment. The per-student cost of administering adopted assessments is determined by the SBOE.

PREVIOUS BOARD ACTION: In November 2019, the SBOE approved the costs of administering the STAAR and TELPAS assessments to private school students for the 2019–2020 school year. These costs were determined based on the assessments administered during the 2018­–2019 school year.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND JUSTIFICATION: Since the spring 1996 test administration, private schools, including home schools, have been eligible to participate on a voluntary basis in the Texas assessment program. During the 2019–2020 school year, no private schools administered STAAR or TELPAS assessments because STAAR assessments were cancelled and TELPAS assessments were to be completed on an optional basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under TEC, §39.033, private schools that administer the tests must enter into an agreement with TEA. The agreement requires private schools, as determined appropriate by the commissioner of education, to provide the commissioner the information listed in TEC, §39.053(c) and §39.301(c), which includes information to be used as indicators of academic performance, and to maintain confidentiality as required under TEC, §39.030. Private schools that participate in the assessments must provide reimbursement for the cost of administering the assessments, which may not exceed the per-student cost of administering the same assessment to a student enrolled in a public school district. In addition, participating private schools must agree to test all eligible students and to administer the primary form of all subject-area tests available for a particular grade. 

A critical component of the contract with private schools is the per-student cost for each instrument, which must be determined by the SBOE. Due to the cancellation of STAAR in spring 2020, a per-student cost for administering the assessments in the 2019–2020 school year is not available. To accurately reflect the per-student cost of an administration, TEA recommends the use of the per-student cost for administering STAAR in 2018–2019 (the most recent costs available) be used for the 2020–2021 school year.

The attachment includes the recommended per-student cost for each test that will be available to private schools in the 2020–2021 school year. For STAAR, these figures were derived by taking the costs from the agency's contract for fiscal year 2019 and dividing by the number of testing booklets for each grade and test prepared for the 2018–2019 school year. For TELPAS, the same methodology was followed using available data from the spring 2020 TELPAS administration. Using this method for determining the per-student cost ensures that the cost for assessing a private school student will not exceed the per-student cost for administering the same test to a public school student. Costs cover developing tests and ancillary materials; printing, packaging, and shipping test materials; scoring tests; and reporting results. The attachment also provides assurances from both ETS and Pearson, the assessment vendors, that these costs do not exceed per-student test costs for the public schools.

FISCAL IMPACT: The figures provided in the attachment cover the costs of administering the STAAR and TELPAS assessments. There are no additional fiscal implications.

DATA AND REPORTING IMPACT: Private schools choosing to administer the statewide tests must agree to follow standard procedures for test administration, maintain security and confidentiality, and report to the commissioner their test results and other information outlined in TEC, §39.053(c) and §39.301(c).

MOTION TO BE CONSIDERED: The State Board of Education:

Approve the recommended per-student costs for administering the state assessments to private school students in 2020–2021 as listed in the attachment.

Staff Members Responsible:
Iris Tian, Division Director, Student Assessment
Julie Cole, Director of Policy and Publications, Student Assessment

Letter of Assurance from ETS and Pearson and Recommended Costs for Administering Assessments to Private School Students for 2020–2021