Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Teacher Sells Ad Space on Tests

This is so outrageous that it is mind boggling. Aired on NBC in Los Angeles (where the video seems to freeze, it is now popping up around the country. Here are two versions.

NBC Los Angeles

RANCHO BERNARDO, Calif. (NBC) -- Driven by
state budget woes, one California high school
teacher found a provocative way to pay for
classroom supplies: ads on test papers.

Due to a state budget not keeping pace with
rising costs, calculus teacher Tom Farber was
finding the cost of paper prohibitive.

So on Back to School Night, he asked if parents
could "sponsor" a test or quiz.

It's come to this: selling ad space on school

Farber collected checks for $270 that night.

It might seem like a nominal haul, but the
teacher was ecstatic.

"It's pretty standard that we don't have enough
money from the state for supplies every year,"
says Farber, a nine-year veteran of the Poway
Unified School District, one of the more
affluent districts in the county. "But this
year was the worst ever. This is the first time
I've ever addressed the budget with parents.

It's outrageous. Something has to give."

Farber says Rancho Bernardo parents have the
means and the motivation to step forward.

"Hey, I've got smart kids - and good kids - and
the parents don't generally have to worry about
these kids studying hard and getting good
grades," he says. "But when I look at the
budget situation and how it hits here, I can't
help but be concerned about how this affects
schools where the parents don't have the means
to step in."

Look at the numbers.

Farber has 167 students.

He teaches seven chapters to his classes each

He gives a quiz and a test for each chapter,
and a five-page final exam.

That's 9,018 test pages each semester. Each
sheet of printed, collated test paper costs 3

That means his total paper cost is $270.54 per

His semester allotment for "publications"
(including paper) is $158.10.

So forget the practice sheets Farber used to
pass out.

And even if you add the $62.50 a teacher gets
for all other supplies (markers, overheads,
lightbulbs, etc.) the paper cost alone still
isn't covered.

So Farber took a cue from the corporate world:

The going rate to sponsor a quiz is $10; $20
for a chapter test.

The semester final exam is a premium buy, at

Sponsors/parents get one line at the bottom of
the first test page.

They may pick an inspirational quote, such as
this from the chapter-five quiz: "Good luck,
but remember knowledge is more important than
luck." This sponsor remained anonymous.

Another went for inspiration mixed with
promotion: "Brace Yourself for a Great
Semester!" Braces by Henry, Stephen P. Henry,

What hath been wrought?

Test sponsorships currently are not a problem -
they are one man's solution, a pragmatic but
slippery-slope approach to an unwieldy fiscal

If you need paper to teach kids, is it okay to
sell ads on their tests?

If your family is starving, is it immoral to
steal a loaf of bread to feed them?

Sorry. Is there money in the budget to keep
philosophy in the curriculum?

Farber Student's have a refreshingly informed
take on their commercially tinged calculus test

"Academically, it didn't affect me," says Alex
Flood, a 16-year-old junior. "But it was weird
to know someone had paid to advertise on a math
test. I wouldn't like it if huge companies
started doing this in public schools. I'm okay
with local stores doing it."

Friends Ena Hodzic and Kristy Foss are 17-year-
old seniors.

Foss is here in Farber's tidy classroom to take
her quiz; Hodzic is waiting to see if Farber
has graded hers, taken in an earlier period.

"If it's necessary to provide the test, I guess
I don't mind ads," says HodzicDriven by state
budget woes, a California high school teacher
uses creativity to pay for classroom supplies:
ads on test papers.
On back to school night, he collected $270 from parents who sponsored a test or quiz

Funds sliced, teacher sells ads on tests
Money helps pay for printing costs after budget cuts

By Linda Lou, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 22, 2008

RANCHO BERNARDO â Kevin Change said it was strange the first time he saw an advertisement across the bottom of his calculus test. But now he and his classmates look for them. âIt's really interesting to see what it is each time,â said Change, 16, a junior at Rancho Bernardo High School.

Some are pithy one-liners, hawking the names of local businesses: âBrace Yourself for a Great Semester! Braces by Henry, Stephen P. Henry D.M.D.â

Others are inspirational quotes, like âKeep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it â Vaclav Havel.â

They only appear on the first page of an exam.

The unusual advertising may be here to stay, said calculus teacher Tom Farber, who came up with the idea to pay for his printing costs.

Farber said the money he gets for printing was cut this year to about $300 for two semesters. Printing the quizzes and tests costs more than $500, he said, and doesn't include handouts that students download and print on their own.

To reduce expenses, the Poway Unified School District chose to trim materials and supplies instead of personnel, Superintendent Don Phillips said. Each high school in the district reduced its budget for such items by 30 percent, but how that was accomplished was left to each campus, he said.

Phillips said teachers have been reaching out to parents for donations for a while, but Farber's idea is âone of the more creative ones.â

Farber's customers pay $10 for an ad on a quiz, $20 to be on a chapter test and $30 for a spot on a semester final. Some of the quotes, either personal ones or by famous people, are paid for by parents.

The messages must be appropriate and in good taste. Farber hasn't received sponsorships from any major retailers or store chains, but he hasn't ruled them out. He said he would prefer to get ads from local mom-and-pop stores, such as a tuxedo shop around prom time.

Farber said he could have decided to give fewer tests to save money, but that would have meant students had less practice for passing the Advanced Placement calculus exam near the end of the school year.

Farber, a teacher in the Poway Unified district since 1992, said he has never had to ask parents for help until this year. But with the state of the economy the way it is, he said, schools might have to depend even more on parents.

Farber said he came up with the idea over the summer. He saw ads on public buses and sponsorships at Qualcomm Stadium and decided to promote his idea at Back to School Night in September. He collected $270 from parents at that event.

âI haven't heard any negativity,â he said.

Farber said he has sold about $350 in ads, more than enough to make up what the school budget doesn't pay for. He said he still has ad space for next semester, and whatever extra money he collects will go to the math department for other teachers to use. Checks are made out to the department.

Colleagues haven't copied his idea yet, Farber said, but some have been asking parents for donations.

Students said they are paying attention to the messages.

Lauren Meyer, 17, a senior, said the ads are a good solution to the budget problem.

Her classmate, Chris Nunez, 18, a senior, always looks at the ads before he starts working on the questions. Both said they enjoy the quotes.

âThey're inspirational,â Nunez said. âSometimes, they help when the test is stressful.â

Luke Shaw, 17, was less enthusiastic. The senior said a recent sponsorship that was the name of a structural engineering company didn't do anything for him.

âI'm always hoping that someone will sponsor it with a trig formula or something useful,â he said.

— staff and Linda Lou
NBC Los Angeles & San Diego Union Tribune




This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.