Cara Matthews for Albany Watch, May 17, 2011:
Faced with continued shortfalls for Regents exams, the state Board of Regents voted today to make a total of $8 million in reductions to the program for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The state Education Department asked the state to provide $15 million from the general fund, but it only received $7 million.
The cuts will eliminate the January administration of Regents exams, which will save $1.4 million and eliminate the Italian, French and Spanish exams, which will save $700,000. Postponing the development of English/language arts tests for grades 9 and 10 will save $1.2 million, and continuing the elimination of grades 5 and 8 social studies exams will reduce costs by $800,000. (They were also eliminated this school year.)
The Board of Regents will save $3.9 million of the $8 million through administrative steps as follows:
—Identifying additional production cost reductions, leveraging other funding streams and making necessary workforce changes, $2.3 million.
—Reducing the number of assessments printed and shipped (Regents and No Child Left Behind) to better align with the actual number of tests administered, $700,000. Districts that order surplus exams will be responsible for the extra cost.
—Reviewing vendor contracts to improve cost-effectiveness, and canceling contracts and in-source exam activities where possible, $600,000.
—Expanding electronic distribution of related exam materials, including teachers guides and scoring instructions.
In recent years, the state Education Department has been able to use federal funds to fill the funding gap, but they are no longer available, according to the agency. But this is not the first time the Board of Regents has had to slash Regents exams.
Regents voted in June 2010 to cut costs by more than $6 million by eliminating grades 5 and 8 social studies exams; grade 8 second-language proficiency exams; component retesting in math and English/language arts; high school foreign-language exams in German, Hebrew and Latin; and Algebra2/Trigonometry and chemistry exams given in August. They continued cost-savings measures that had been put in place in 2009 to save $4 million.
For 2010-11, Regents were able to restore the proposed cuts of the January administration of the exams, exam translations and the high school Italian exam through a one-time revenue transfer of $2.5 million.