Margaret Goertz presented a framework for considering the costs, providing an analysis of what states actually do in implementing a standards-based K-12 education system (Goertz, 2008). Douglas Harris and Lori Taylor followed with a detailed investigation of the challenges of estimating the costs of this kind of enterprise, as well as empirical estimates of the costs incurred in three states: Florida, North Dakota, and Texas (Harris and Taylor, 2008b).
Goertz organized her framework around what she identified as the six primary activities that constitute a standards-based reform system, although she noted that others might define the major activities differently (see Box 5-1). Goertz cautioned that the first four activities, which describe the mechanics of the standards themselves and the accountability system, generally receive most of the attention, but that the last two activities, which describe the ways in which the standards and accountability system may affect teaching and learning, are equally important.
Goertz used these six activities as the basis for a discussion of ways in which variation in implementation may affect the costs to states. Looking at the first three activities, she identified several primary sources of variation with cost implications. The frequency with which a state reviews and revises its standards and updates its assessments (as well as the number of subjects for which there are standards and the number of assessments) is one factor. A second factor is the process used for setting and reviewing content and performance standards, which varies in complexity, in part because of the number of people and groups involved. States may rely primarily on their department of education staff and volunteers, for example, or hire a contractor, use paid experts, or perhaps do all three.
With regard to rewards and sanctions (activity 4), there is a large range of approaches and of potential costs. Reponses to classifications of schools or districts as falling short of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) performance targets might begin with instructional audits or needs assessments. Interventions might include developing school improvement plans, measures to build capacity at the district level, or professional development in such areas as curriculum and instruction, data analysis, assessment, and leadership. For failing students, states vary in terms of how they determine eligibility and in how they structure and deliver remediation, as well as in how much funding may be available from the state for this purpose.
The characteristics of a state also play a significant role. Readily apparent differences, such as the size of a state and the demographics of its student population, affect costs in predictable ways, but other factors are important as well. States vary in their mechanisms for funding