ECF Cost Calculator

Reading Failure Is Costing Us Our Future:
Here Are the Numbers for Your School or District

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To use the calculator:

  1. Select your state, county, & district.
  2. Select a school or districtwide report.
  3. Read the Third Grade Enrollment, the Percentage of Students at the BASIC (partial mastery) level, and the Percentage of Students at the BELOW-BASIC (far-below mastery) level.
  4. Select a simple or detailed report and click Results to see the tax cost predictions. Help on interpreting reports

Note: Data from some states required additional work; see details on those states here. If you need help finding your school or district, visit NCES' School Finder. For other assistance, email



School District:


Number of 3rd grade students:

Percent of students at BASIC proficiency:

Percent of students at BELOW-BASIC proficiency:

Note:  Basic & Below-Basic are sub-proficient.
B + BB - 100% = percent proficient.
Brief report: Detailed report:

On average, over 2 out of 3 students who fail to master reading by third grade drop out or finish high school unprepared for college or the workplace. They are significantly more dependent on taxpayer funded healthcare, public safety, and welfare than their successful peers--a fact that has profound economic, cultural, and social implications for the future of the U.S. Sadly, educational interventions capable of altering this trajectory remain little used.

The calculator compiles only the added local, state, and federal outlays that arise as a result of the greater lifetime use of public services by these students, not the much larger costs of lost wages, lost tax revenues, and lost productivity. The calculator also cannot reflect the life-altering social and psychological costs of school failure to the individual and to the community.

Thanks to work by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and ACT, it is possible to predict the number of children who will either drop out or complete high school unprepared for college or careers on the basis of their third grade reading skills. Using publicly available data, this calculator estimates the future local, state, and federal expenditures that result from their disproportionate lifetime use of public services.

Click here to learn more about these reports and how their findings were adapted to this calculator.

The calculator is based on an economic analysis of the costs of schooling outcomes published by Teachers College, Columbia University. Its estimates are based on the number and percentage of students who have failed to master reading in the school, district, or state of interest. It can produce a basic summary of costs or a line-by-line analysis broken out by federal and state/local expenditures. These are only the direct taxpayer expenditures, not the full costs.



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