Fiscal Effect of Reading Failure: Any US School


According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only a third of 4th grade students in the U.S. read at a proficient level.  Approximately 70% of the two-thirds who are not up to speed in reading will either drop out or graduate unprepared for college or the workplace (i.e., they will require remedial studies or struggle with on-the-job training).  

Dropouts and unprepared graduates are an economic burden to themselves and taxpayers.  Their educational attainment is a barrier to self-sustaining wages.  Over a working lifetime, they absorb substantially greater than average levels of publicly subsidized welfare, health care, public safety, and training. 

ECF’s online calculator estimates costs and potential savings.  Users need only to select the state, county, district, and school to estimate the number of dropouts and unprepared graduates per year and the estimated taxpayer costs. 

Even modest levels of improvement can result in very substantial annual savings.  Lifetime subsidies are approximately $90,000 for dropouts and $30,000 for unprepared graduates. 

The ECF Cost Calculator: Determining the Cost of the Failure to Teach Reading

Reading failure is imposing a hidden annual surtax: Find out how much your schools are contributing to the problem


Students who can’t read by the end of third grade pay a terrible price for the rest of their lives but the hidden costs to their communities may be greater.

For every student who fails to master reading, the public is saddled with what amounts to a hidden annual surtax imposed at the local, state, and federal levels – one that cumulates with each succeeding class of students.

The Education Consumers Foundation’s NEWLY AUTOMATED calculator can tell you how much the schools in your district or state are contributing to the problem and how much you are paying in added taxes for welfare, criminal justice, healthcare and education as a result.

Visit our new calculator here; see a worked-out example detailing the input page and simple report here. A brief study of the calculator’s outcomes is presented here, and praise from scholars and researchers can be found here.


How Large is the Early Reading Instruction Problem?  Very!


Some say that children with social and economic disadvantages can’t learn. However, the Education Consumers Foundation’s analysis of data in various US markets contradicts that conclusion: there are schools in every market that greatly outperform those with virtually identical student populations. See here to review school performance charts in states across the US.



 Addressing the Reading Problem: Change is Possible and Proven


While reading challenges seem impossible to overcome, at least based on the stagnant scores seen in state and federal reading assessments, the reality is that bold change agents have made remarkable strides – and have the hard data to prove it. School board members in Kennewick, WA have documented their dramatic progress in the book Annual Growth, Catch-Up Growth; more information on the approach they used can be found here.


Clear Teaching – The Book


Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

Those wanting a print version of Clear Teaching can order it from Amazon or download this order form; those interested in bulk copies for distribution to staff, parents, community leaders or others can contact ECF for order details.


 How Rigorous Are Your State’s Proficiency Standards?


Each state defines for itself what “proficient” means; some states have a rigorous definition, while others are less strict in their standards. To see how states compare, ECF has published charts showing the percentage of students deemed proficient in various subjects and grade levels and compared them to percentages reported for each state by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, or “The Nation’s Report Card”), considered to be the gold standard.


 Reversing American Decline: An Overview

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Reversing American Decline links America’s current economic, social, and cultural directions to decades of failed public schooling, especially to ineffective reading instruction.  A huge swath of the electorate has been excluded from the literate culture.  The problem is correctable but can’t be solved overnight.  Public awareness and community focus on local school board leadership are the keys to change.

Reversing American Decline: Steps You Can Take – Actions you can take at the local level to address the schooling/leadership problem

Learning Is Our Business – An article from the American School Board Journal showing one school board’s efforts to ensure high-quality instruction

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us through our contact page; a representative of the foundation will contact you shortly.

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Education Consumers Foundation

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