A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Early Literacy Interventions

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From the abstract: "Success in early literacy activities is associated with improved educational outcomes, including reduced dropout risk, in-grade retention, and special education referrals. When considering programs that will work for a particular school and context; cost-effectiveness analysis may provide useful information for decision makers.

The study provides information about the cost-effectiveness of four early literacy programs that the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), a government agency that evaluates effectiveness research in education, has determined show evidence of effectiveness: Accelerated Reader, Classwide Peer Tutoring, Reading Recovery, and Success for All. By using meta-analytic techniques to combine effect sizes for different studies and weighting literacy outcomes, the study provides new information about the relative effectiveness of early literacy programs. In particular, by weighting literacy outcomes, the study casts new light upon the relative importance of different kinds of literacy outcomes for creating successful beginning readers. Costs are often ignored, but are a necessary consideration given budget constraints. Rigorous measurement of program costs and presentation of cost-effectiveness ratios provides information about the relative cost-effectiveness of four "effective" programs.

Using meta-analytic results with confidence intervals, Accelerated Reader -- a relatively small add-on software program -- appears to be more cost-effective than Reading Recovery, a one-to-one tutoring program. Using point estimates for all four programs, Accelerated Reader and Classwide Peer Tutoring, two relatively small add-on programs, appear to be more cost-effective options than Reading Recovery and Success for All, two relatively more intensive interventions. Cost-effectiveness analysis should be one tool considered by decision makers, considered alongside goals for different subpopulations, individual contexts, and needs."

Citation: Simon, J. (2011). A cost-effectiveness analysis of early literacy interventions (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Columbia University, New York.

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