The ECF Cost Calculator: Praise from Educators and Researchers

Everyone agrees that good teachers are important to learning; but when you see the dollar amounts brought to light by the Education Consumers Foundation’s online calculator, you begin to appreciate their true economic worth.

There are differences of thousands per student and millions per school in the tax burden created by effective and ineffective teachers in the early elementary grades.  Third grade reading skills predict dropouts and minimally qualified graduates, and the calculator projects the lifetime cost of those academic deficiencies to local, state, and federal taxpayers.

Bottom line:  Considering that teachers have 20-30 year careers, excellent teachers may literally be worth their weight in gold.

William L. Brown, Ph.D.
Former Coordinator of Test Development
Michigan Educational Assessment Program


Voters seldom pay attention to school board elections, but the Education Consumers Foundation’s online calculator may cause them to reconsider.  It retrieves a school or district’s reading scores and forecasts the federal, state, and local tax burden created by its dropouts and marginally prepared graduates.

Even a single low performing school can have a significant impact.  A dropout, for example, absorbs around $90,000 over a lifetime in added public assistance for health care, public safety, and welfare.

School budgets and tax rates are often prime issues in board elections, but the calculator shows that this emphasis may be misplaced.  The quality of a school’s learning outcomes and the hidden tax that they create may be of far greater economic importance.

J. Martin Rochester, Ph.D.
Curator’s Distinguished Teaching Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Missouri-St. Louis


Everyone has seen the reports on the increased earnings that come from getting an education.  The Education Consumers Foundation’s online calculator looks at the other side of the coin–the cost of educational failure.

All I can say is that I am not surprised.  The “dropout factories” cost megabucks, but even the good schools produce a steady drip of adults who won’t be able to make it on their own.  Virtually all end up receiving some kind of public assistance.  The applicants for disability benefits whom I see are overwhelmingly the products of failed schooling.

Local and state officials–especially school board members–should give these numbers careful consideration.  Student who finish their school years unprepared for college or productive employment are well on their way to becoming an unhappy and expensive statistic.

Robert S. Spangler EdD
Licensed Psychologist
Diplomate ABVE and ABDA


So long as our own children are doing well, most of us think only in passing about educational failure and school dropout rates.  Now we can see why every parent–every taxpayer–should not only dwell on it, but fixate on it and urge their school board to do something about it.

The loss of talent and potential is frightening–especially when one considers that there is a new cohort every year.

The ECF calculator brings the number and hidden cost of dropouts and academically unqualified graduates into high relief.

Dr. Mark Y. Herring
Dean of Libraries
Winthrop University


Because there is a connection between early reading proficiency and later education outcomes, it is possible for this online program to estimate the lifetime amounts of public assistance that will be consumed by a school’s failing students.

And it does so with speed, simplicity, and ease of use.

I recommend it to anyone interested in the economic implications of local school performance.

George K. Cunningham, Ph.D.
Assessment In The Classroom: Constructing And Interpreting Tests