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

To use the calculator:

  1. Select your state, county, & district.
  2. Select a school or districtwide report.
  3. See the number of third grade students, the percentage of students at the “BASIC” reading level (partial mastery), and the percentage of students at the “BELOW-BASIC” reading level (far-below mastery).
  4. Select a simple or detailed report and click Results to see the tax cost predictions.
  5. Interpreting the reports

Note: Data from some states required adjustments to fit NAEP proficiency levels. 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 reading level:

Percent of students at BELOW-BASIC reading level:

Note:  Percent of students at or above the PROFICIENT
reading level = 100% - (Basic + Below-Basic).
Brief report: Detailed report:

On average, over 2 out of 3 students who fail to reach the proficient reading level by third grade drop out or finish high school unprepared for college or the workplace. As a result, 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. Interventions capable of altering this trajectory are often negligently delayed.

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 graduate from high school unprepared for college or career from their third grade reading skills. Using publicly available data, ECF’s calculator estimates the future local, state, and federal expenditures that result from their disproportionate use of public services.

The calculator uses an economic analysis of schooling outcomes published by Teachers College, Columbia University as the basis of its estimates. The number and percentage of students who have failed to master reading in a school, district, or state are used to produce a line-by-line locally-adjusted cost analysis broken out by federal and state/local expenditures. These costs are only the direct taxpayer expenditures, not the full costs.

More about how the findings of the Teachers College report were adapted to this calculator.

The calculator compiles only the added local, state, and federal outlays that result from lifetime use of public services by these students, not the much larger costs of diminished wages, lost tax revenues, and lost productivity. Neither does the calculator assess the life-altering social and psychological costs of school failure to the individual and society.