• Tony Wold, Ed.D.

Prevention vs. Remediation: A Sample Case Study

A case study on a Districtwide Proactive communication campaign on improving attendance habits—Imagine, a 10,000 enrollment LEA that provides remediation for 40% of their students (last year's chronic absentee levels) at an ongoing cost of $550 per student, implements a prevention communication plan at $25/student with outcomes that reduce the group needing remediation by 25%. This LEA now does not need to spend $300,000 on remediation after investing a total of $25 ongoing per student for the prevention program.

In year 2, that LEA now has $25 per student budgeted ongoing for a prevention messaging campaign. This LEA was immediately able to reprioritize $300,000 for innovative programs or additional ongoing support staff. At the end of year 2 of the proactive campaign, they not only sustained the first 25% not needing remediation, but this LEA also reduced another 25% from those who were still assigned remediation. For $0 additional cost, the LEA has an additional ongoing amount of $412,500 to reallocate to other priorities.

Entering year 3, the number of students who are assigned remediation has decreased by 12.5% of the total LEA enrollment (1,250 students removed from 4,000). The LEA was spending $2,200,000 on remediation and $0 on prevention messaging when we began. After these 2 years, the LEA is spending only spending 56.25% of the original budget on remediation. The LEA is spending 11.35% of that original amount on proactive messaging and has shifted 32.4% ($712,500) of its ongoing funds to new innovative programs or staff.

Continuing through years 3 and 4 the LEA ultimately has reduced chronic absenteeism, and the number of students who end up requiring remediation by over 70% and has approximately 1,200 students that continue to require additional support and remediation at 30% of the total original cost annually to that was being spent to support 4,000 students. Of the original $2.2 million, 30% is still funding remediation ($660,000); 11.35% is supporting positive messaging ($250,000); and 58.6% has been reallocated to other district priorities ($1,290,000).

For any State-funded based upon average daily membership (enrollment), this “found” $1.29 million can implement many additional ongoing supports for all students. In addition to the significant student achievement benefits, there is an additional fiscal benefit for states that are funding on average daily attendance (ADA) in the reduction of the percentage of students with chronic attendance. Using a conservative funding factor of $6,500 per student (this is close to the general fund allocation per pupil in many States) the LEA has removed 2,800 students from the chronic absentee category. The average chronic student missed over 190 hours of instruction in 2021-22 which is more than 32 days (82.22% ADA). Assuming the average days absent is now 13 at a 92.77% ADA, the total number of additional instructional days for those 2,800 students is 53,200 days and 114 additional hours of instruction per student. For the LEA, this increase in ADA is 295.55 ADA which provides an additional $1,921,075 in ongoing yearly funding in addition to the $1,290,000 that was reallocated.

Many people will ask if this scenario is real, and the answer is yes (see image), there is research to prove that positive messaging and support for attendance can create the results described here. The real question all parents, board members, and community members should be asking their Educational Leaders is why every LEA is not spending $25 per student on prevention? I’ll address that question in my next post.