In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus Center asked a group of the world’s top economists to identify optimal social “investments” that could best help reduce malnutrition, broaden educational opportunity, slow global warming, cut air pollution, prevent conflict, fight disease, improve access to water and sanitation, lower trade and immigration barriers, thwart terrorism, and promote gender equality.

The experts—including five Nobel laureates—examined specific measures to spend $75 billion on more than 30 interventions and indentified the most cost-effective: increased immunization coverage, initiatives to reduce school dropout rates, community-based nutrition promotion, and micronutrient supplementation.  Besides being resource efficient, some of these measures are also very low cost-per-user, such as micronutrient supplementation: providing Vitamin A for a year costs as little as $1.20 per child, while providing Zinc costs as little as $1.

This got us at UPD thinking: what would a Copenhagen Consensus in American K-12 look like?  After all, in an age of severe budget pressures, we need to know the best measures that boards and superintendents can implement to help boost student performance.  And it would be great if those high impact measures were low cost, so we pushed ourselves to find ideas that would not require vast new resources.

Our top nine ideas share two themes: leveraging existing data and technology investments to improve instruction and enhancing human capital management.  None of our suggestions require new expenses, though they will require changes in culture and time use. Here’s our top nine:

  1. Routinely examine data that comes from formative assessment data with groups of teachers, principals, and curriculum and instruction managers.  Provide the data ahead of time.
  2. Implement human capital reforms that bring mutual consent to all teacher hiring.
  3. Integrate student results into the performance evaluations of teachers.
  4. Establish performance management/accountability processes at all levels of the organization, from central office functions to RTI in classrooms.
  5. Improve targeting of professional development needs and resources in order to make average teachers better.
  6. Decentralize dollars and control to the school level coupled with changes in how principals are hired and evaluated (more like coaches in professional sports).
  7. Systematically capture data on student, teacher, principal participation in different interventions to effectively discern contributors to high performance.
  8. Leverage technology to automatically provide parents and guardians with content that helps them supplement the scope and pacing of student curriculum.
  9. Use predictive analytics to uncover students with likely future behavioral difficulties very early and mount high-impact interventions before its too difficult (JG).

What are your picks?