Iowa’s Common Core Implementation Costs

Guest post by Henry Burke

It will cost Iowa $184 million (net amount) to implement the Common Core Standards (CCS). Where will Iowa find $184 million to implement the mediocre Common Core Standards?

I will call your attention to an excellent Pioneer Institute report, "National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards," dated February 2012 (PI report) and my report, "States’ Taxpayers Cannot Afford Common Core Standards.”

I encourage you to realistically evaluate the costs versus the benefits for the State of Iowa.  I will focus only on the cost of implementing the Common Core Standards (CCS) versus the dollar awards received from the federal government.

I thought I would offer a little insight into the CCS implementation costs.  This explanation includes the Pioneer report figures and my assumptions.  Obviously, I cannot speak for the Pioneer Institute nor its partners in the white paper, Accountability Works and Pacific Research Institute.  These are strictly my thoughts, assumptions and calculations.

The Pioneer Institute (PI) report identified four cost categories for CCS implementation.  The categories are: Testing, Professional Development, Textbooks, and Technology.  Pioneer calculated the total CCS implementation cost over a 7-year time period.

The PI report included bar graphs (without dollar figures) for each state in Professional Development, Textbooks, and Technology.  The Appendices to the PI report showed exact dollar figures for each state in only the Textbooks and Technology categories.  This is the link to the Pioneer Institute Appendices.

Consequently, I had to derive figures for Testing and Professional Development for each of the 46 states.  My goal was to duplicate the Pioneer figures as closely as possible.  My nationwide totals for the four categories agree quite closely with the Pioneer Institute report.

A.  Iowa CCS Loss

The State of Iowa submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program and received a rank of No. 24 in Phase 1 and a rank of No. 22 in Phase 2 of that competition.  The 12 "winning" states under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of RTTT received a total of $3.94 billion.  Iowa did not receive any funds under the Phase 1 and 2 competitions.  In subsequent competitions, Iowa received $9,035,380 ($9.035 million) for competitive stimulus awards.

In the Burke Table 1, CCS Loss Per State, the CCS Total Cost for Iowa is $192.565 million; and the federal competitive award total is $9.035 million.  The difference is $183.530 million.

[$192.565 million – $9.035 million = $183.530 million]

This means Iowa will have to find $184 million to pay for the implementation expense of CCS.

B.  Iowa CCS Cost

In the Burke Table 2 (See below) , CCS Cost Per Student, we can see that Iowa has a CCS Cost per Student of $392.  This is slightly above the average cost per student of $379 (average cost for the 46 CCS states).

Table 3, Total CCS Cost, lists the components making up the Total CCS Cost of $192.565 million for Iowa.  Testing cost is $14.596 million; Professional Development cost is $69.211 million; Textbook cost is $28.483 million; and Technology cost is $80.275 million.

In round numbers, Iowa will spend $15 million on Testing, $69 million on Professional Development, $29 million on Textbooks, and $80 million on Technology.  The Total CCS Cost for Iowa will be $193 million.

Explanation of Figures

1.  Testing

a. Nationwide CCS testing Cost

Testing is a function of the number of students tested.  Table 5 in my report shows the Total Nationwide Cost for the 46 CCS states.  My Table 5 duplicates Pioneer Figure 2B (on page 2 of the PI report).  Figure 2B shows a Total Testing Cost of $1,240,641,297.

Table 6 (Burke report) lists the number of students and teachers in each of the 46 states; the total for the 46 states is 41,805,062 students.  I obtained all of the numbers in Table 6 from the Pioneer report Appendices (NCES: 2009 – 2010 School Year).

When I divided $1,240,641,297 by 41,805,062 students, I obtained a factor of $29.67681993 per student.  This Testing cost factor was applied to each of the 46 states to get the Testing cost for each state.  My Total Testing Cost of $1,240.641 million agrees with the Pioneer Figure 2B number.

b. Iowa CCS Testing Cost

Iowa has a total student enrollment of 491,842 students (Burke Table 6).  When I multiplied 491,842 students by the $29.6768 factor per student, I obtained $14.596 million.

[491,842 students  x  $29.67681993 per student = $14,596,306]

2.  Professional Development

The purpose of Professional Development is to train the teachers on the new Common Core academic standards.  Professional Development is a function of the number of teachers that must be trained.  Pioneer used a Professional Development cost of $1,931 per teacher.

Iowa has 35,842 teachers (Burke Table 6).  When I multiplied 35,842 teachers by $1,931 per teacher, I obtained $69.211 million.

[35,842 teachers  x  $1,931 per teacher = $69,210,902]

Incidentally, my calculations produced a Professional Development Cost forCalifornia of $605.938 million.  The PI report bar graph showed the number $606 million for California.  This verifies that my calculation assumptions and methodology are correct.

3.  Textbooks

I obtained the Textbook cost for Iowa directly from the Pioneer Institute Appendix.  The Table in the Appendix showed a Total Textbook Cost for Iowa of $28,483,017 ($28.483 million).

The PI Appendix listed the following numbers for Textbooks and Instructional Materials:

Iowa Textbook Cost (Millions of Dollars)

Grade Textbook Cost
K 2.789
1 2.349
2 1.905
3 1.948
4 1.773
5 1.762
6 2.036
Subtotal K-6 14.562
7 2.092
8 2.131
Subtotal – 7-8 4.223
9 2.326
10 2.320
11 2.516
12 2.536
Subtotal – 9-12 9.698
Total K-12 28.483

4.  Technology

I obtained the Technology cost for Iowa directly from the Pioneer Appendix.  The PI Appendix lists the Total Technology Cost for Iowa as $80,274,926 ($80.275 million).

The PI Appendix provides the following information:

Iowa Technology Cost (Millions of Dollars)

Description Technology Cost (Millions) Total Technology Cost (Millions)
One-Time Costs 32.899 32.899
Year 1 Operations 3.441 3.441
Years 2-7 Operations (Annual) 7.32258
Total for 6 Years (Years 2-7) 43.935 43.935
Total Technology Cost 8.275

C.  Urgency of Decision

We know that the total cost to implement CCS in Iowa will be $192.565 million ($193 million), but we have not said anything about the timing.  The timing for the expenditures is extremely important!

A sizeable portion of the total CCS implementation cost is spent early in the implementation.  In the Pioneer Report Figure 2B, two-thirds (about 66 %) of the Total Cost falls into the up-front, one-time cost period.  Pioneer shows a one-time cost of $10,522,885,028; the Total Cost is $15,835,121,347.  When I divide these two numbers, I get 66 %.

For Iowa, the figures are as follows:

Timing of Iowa CCS Costs (Millions of Dollars

Cost Category Up-Front One-Time
Years 1-7 Cost
Total Cost: Up-front & Years-1-7 (Millions)
Testing 14.596 14.596
Professional Development 69.211 69.211
Textbooks 28.483 28.483
Technology 32.899 47.376 80.275
Total Cost 130.593 61.972 192.565
Percentage of Total 68% 32% 100%

As this table shows, 68 % of the total cost ($130.593 million) is incurred as an up-front, one-time cost.  If Iowa has any interest in dropping the CCS, the state should act very soon.  Much of the CCS implementation expense (68 %) hits very early in the process.  If the state delays the decision to drop CCS, it could waste $131 million on a system that it is not going to use.  The decision is urgent!

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.


  1. tiredofgarbage says:

    Shane/Henry – Getting questions on the real need/requirement for new textbooks under the common core. And where there be different tests? What about the Iowa Assessments? Are those going to be dropped/changed?

    • From what I’ve heard thus far from the Department they will continue with the Iowa Assessments as that also includes subjects beyond ELA and math. The assessments are expected to align with the Iowa Code. What kind of questions are you getting related to textbooks?

  2. Shane, I disagree with many of the premises in this article. First of all, the Iowa Core for math and English IS the common core. It has been since 2010. See

    Secondly, the Iowa Core is not a ‘textbook curriculum’. It is a set of ideas, a framework, that can be adopted by local schools in different ways. So one school might use a non-fiction reading from John Adams and another might use a voting rights act reading from Martin Luther King, depending on the teachers. That is a far cry from a lockstep, scripted classroom environment that has been proven repeatedly not to work well. That means the textbook costs are irrelevant, as the schools that still use usually have a 5 to 7 year replacement cycle for them, which is within the adoption timeline you list. That said, many teachers no longer use textbooks at all.

    Professional development is not designed to teach teachers to implement the Common Core. Instead, it is designed to help teachers become better at helping students achieve at high levels. Research indicates it is a critical piece of the process to make schools better. See the Leaning Forward report at for more information. Furthermore, Iowa schools have at least 10 days of PD built into master contracts currently, and that time is used at the discretion of the District, invalidating your primary argument about the ‘cost’ being one time and upfront. It’s already an established part of current contract cost.

    The technology decisions in local schools are important. However, the reality is that Iowa has a robust 1:1 technology initiative, with tons of schools having such access Iowa 1:1 school access. While we could talk about bandwidth, that is not a one-time cost, either, as tech advocates like Scott McLeod have been talking about that expansion issue for years for educational activities.

    Finally, the cost of the tests are high, and that is a great conversation topic, especially as Governor Branstad has been advocating them, and the Common Core, for years. But if the cost of a test snapshot is high, so is the cost of ignorance. I am fine with not having a snapshot of data IF formative and summative assessments that are provided in lieu of such a digital test are used instead. That would allow us to shift to competency-based education and away from standardized tests. However, to do so would shift away from external validity to internal validity which would negate comparisons among districts, ala NCLB and RTTT. I’m fine with that.either. It also shifts the focus from Competent Private Instruction away from the baseline test and to a measurement of what homeschooling is actually measuring. That’s a great idea!

    • Yes the Common Core was adopted in 2010, but it is just being implemented. (I don’t need the history lesson.)
      Textbooks and curriculum will need to help teachers meet the standards, Governor Branstad said as much yesterday. So new curriculum will be needed in most cases.
      I’ll have to research the teacher development aspect more.

      Bandwidth, systems, etc… Most schools are not at 1:1 yet and frankly we can argue whether that is a worthwhile expenditure.

      • Shane, I always assume when I am discussing with someone that I should support my points with evidence. I was not giving you a history lesson, but perhaps you would find more success if you assumed the best of me rather than the worst.

        Your primary cohort of stakeholders is home school. I am well aware of that. The premise of your article, and correct me if I am wrong, is that it would be a case where we threw out the old curriculum and brought in a new. That’s not the case Curriculum is never taught the same way twice by a teacher that understands students. That’s a critical point: we empower people to learn on their own, we do not pour knowledge into heads as if they were a container to be filled.

        Secondly. there is a systemic curriculum review cycle that usually occurs on a 5 to 7 year rotation. And new resources are introduced at that time in terms of textbooks because schools plan for change. That was the model for a print-based world. Now, in a digital world, teachers are always adjusting their curriculum and making tweaks to meet the needs of their learners. Just as good home school instructors do, they care about the needs of the student. I will agree with you on the data set discussion as a point that needs to be addressed, but data is endemic in our life today. It’s not just education.

        Finally, bandwidth and systems are a local control issue, which you endorse as your primary premise. Iowa is behind the national average in bandwidth, particularly. I, however, will prepare my students for a digital and global world that allows them to think critically and interact with #stem opportunities or whatever their passion is to make the world a better place.. As an advocate for private, competent instruction, you are welcome to teach differently, and your group certainly scored victory for your constituents in the 2013 session of the Legislature. Peace to you.

Leave a Reply