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FORBES Quantifies the Unquantifiable: Return on Investment in Education



FORBES published a story called, “Here’s a Plan to Turn Around Education – and Generate $225 Trillion” that tasked a small group of education policy experts with a mighty order. FORBES asked them to find out what it would take, what it would cost, and what the return on investment would be for America to become one of the highest performers in the world in education.

The full story, printed in the December 15, 2014, issue of FORBES, is six pages long, but don’t worry: we’ll give you the overview right here in less than 500 words.

We would like to hear your thoughts, criticisms, and similar ideas to this effort in the comments below or through our Contact page.

The Question
FORBES asked what it would take to get America’s student to a top five global ranking in academics. They looked at math scores, graduation rates, and college acceptance and completion rates.

The Goals
The study had three big goals:
1. Identify the key policy changes America would need to make;
2. Estimate how much those changes would cost;
3. Estimate the national return on investment if the policy changes were successfully implemented.

The Answers: 1 – Policy Changes
Researchers identified five policies that the United States would need to address in order to reach a global top 5 ranking in education. Here are those areas and a basic description of each:

1. Teacher Efficacy
a. Attracting and retaining top college graduates.
b. Measure teacher effectiveness.
2. Universal pre-K
a. “Guaranteed pre-kindergarten for every American.”
3. Common Core Standards
a. Using current Common Core efforts as preliminary steps, create national standards that ensure students graduate college-ready and globally competitive.
4. Blended Learning
a. Provide national broadband coverage and put a computer in the hands of every student.
b. Deliver lessons that are personalized, matching each child’s needs and pace.
5. School Leadership
a. Empower principals and hold them accountable for educational results.

The Answers: 2 – Costs
To make necessary changes to those five policy areas would cost $6.2 trillion over 20 years. Or, as FORBES says, “$310 billion a year in today’s dollars.”

The Answers: 3 – National Return on Investment
The return on investment of these policy changes is good. Really good. According to FORBES, “If you were a for-profit investor, you could discount these findings as much as you want, and you’d still be falling over yourself to invest.”

How good is good? Somewhere in the ballpark of $225 trillion, spread over 80 years. For a $6.2 trillion investment, that’s a payoff we should all be willing to stand behind.

You can read the full FORBES story Here's a Plan to Turn Around U.S. Education -- and Generate $225 Trillion.

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