Using Evidence on Cost-Effectiveness

Type: Article
Topics: Advocacy & Policy, American Rescue Plan, District & School Operations, Finance & Budgets, School Administrator Magazine

August 01, 2021

The influx of federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan warrants careful attention by district leaders to higher-value investments
Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis works as a research assistant for the Center of Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. PHOTO BY JASON LAMARRE

Schools across the country are searching for ways to provide targeted learning supports to students who have fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One example of a program that might be considered is the Reading Partners program, which helps elementary students who are behind on their literacy skills to catch up to classmates. The program matches students with a volunteer reading tutor two times a week for one-on-one support.

The program is unique, not in its goal but in that it has been the subject of a study that measured both its effectiveness and the costs associated with those effects. A team of researchers with MDRC, led in 2016 by Robin Jacob, evaluated the program with a rigorous randomized design to understand the costs and effects of improving literacy. The study found Reading Partners improves student reading at a cost that is lower than many alternatives.

This kind of evidence illustrates how study findings on costs and effects can benefit school systems nationwide, especially in the dynamic funding landscape of the COVID-19 era as federal recovery funding flows into schools. Careful attention to such evidence will better ensure the recovery funds help school leaders achieve their goals and result in improved outcomes for students.

This Content is Exclusive to Members

AASA Member? Login to Access the Full Resource

Not a Member? Join Now | Learn More About Membership


Rebecca Davis & Brooks Bowden

Rebecca Davis is a research assistant at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brooks Bowden is director of the center and a faculty member at the Graduate School of Education at Penn.