How would you spend 250k?

From our friend and partner Jens Ludwig at U of Chicago, with his colleague Jonathan Guryan at Northwestern.  Writing on CNN:

The cost of providing students with both intensive individualized math tutoring and the opportunity to participate in BAM was about $4,400 per student per year. While this may seem expensive, the benefits of the program were so large that the cost-effectiveness of these programs compares favorably to other social investments that have been shown to be effective (e.g. early childhood education, cash transfers from the Earned Income Tax Credit, or reductions in class sizes).

That's important.  Often interventions are reported entirely in terms of "effect," not cost-effectiveness.  Of course that's really what policymakers should care about.  How can we best use limited resources to help kids?

We think there are two important lessons here. The first is a policy lesson for urban school systems: They need something individualized and intensive, like Match tutoring, as a safety net to help prevent students who start falling behind from falling completely through the cracks.

But there is also a larger lesson here that is relevant for social policy and criminal justice, not just education: It's not too late to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds even once they reach adolescence.

More about the Chicago work here.

I think Jens' second point needs amplification, because of the current policy narrative around early childhood.  The unintended message can sound like "We must invest early, because with teenagers, it's too late."

It's more challenging, but not too late.  Plus: it's not automatic that it's always better to spend more limited resources early. 

I think if you handed a Boston parent the whole $250,000 pre-K to 12 budget that will be spent on their child, to control from birth, she'd probably "hold something back" for some sort of intervention/investment in the high school years, both as protection (my teenager seems to be going down the wrong path) and as upside (my teenager develops a passion that needs to be nurtured, whether robotics or voice lessons or sports).  Wouldn't you?