The most prominent goal of schools is to facilitate student academic achievement. A major responsibility of policymakers and practitioners is to make decisions about educational programs on which to spend limited resources in order to support this goal. At the local, state, and federal levels, these individuals must decide which programs are most effective for their purpose and weigh student outcomes against the cost of the programs. For this reason, cost-effectiveness analysis (as well as cost-benefit, or return on investment, analysis) is a logical component of program evaluation. As policymakers are called upon to choose effective programs within budget constraints, cost analyses are useful in that they indicate successful strategies to improve student learning, address the economic feasibility of interventions, and ultimately speak to political salience, or whether stakeholders are likely to support implementation. Further, the cost framework used in cost-effectiveness studies supplies policymakers with the detailed information they need about whether a program that has been implemented in a different institutional context will fit within their local budget. This analysis makes it possible to judge whether the program can be afforded elsewhere, where the ability of an organization to supplant costs may be different. In the end, this part of a cost-effectiveness analysis is necessary to understand the replicability of effective programs and policies.
Several program elements have been shown to relate to student learning and the implementation of these programs is under the control of teachers and administrators (e.g. class size, length of reading and math classes, use of instructional aides, use of tutors for students struggling to meet standards, teacher qualifications/salary, principal qualifications/salary, school size, teacher professional development experiences, availability of summer school programs, full day kindergarten). Tying performance measurement to the cost of programming allows evidence towards decision making. Whether reforming practice with current resources or effectively utilizing an infusion of funds, policymakers and practitioners must have available measurement and cost research to make informed programmatic decisions.