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Caring School Community (formerly Child Development Project)

Public Health & Prevention: School-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated April 2018.
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Caring School Community (formerly called the Child Development Project) is a schoolwide program aimed at promoting positive youth development in elementary schools. The program attempts to promote prosocial values; improve academic achievement; and prevent drug use, violence, and delinquency by encouraging collaboration among students, staff, and parents. Caring School Community includes four components originally designed for the Child Development Project, including: 1) Class meetings, which promote communication and decision-making between teachers and students to improve the classroom climate; 2) “Cross-age buddies” activities, which pair classes of younger and older students together to participate in academic and recreational activities to facilitate supportive relationships; 3) “Homeside” activities, which include parent-child activities completed at home that reinforce the program's school components; and 4) Schoolwide community-building activities, which include activities designed to link parents and their children to the community. The studies reviewed in this analysis evaluate the Child Development Project and include additional classroom management and literature-based reading and language arts components. On average, students in this analysis received the intervention for period of about two academic years.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $3,245 Benefits minus costs $13,066
Participants $7,632 Benefit to cost ratio $11.61
Others $4,035 Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($614) benefits greater than the costs 61%
Total benefits $14,298
Net program cost ($1,232)
Benefits minus cost $13,066

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
10 1 472 0.109 0.172 12 0.065 0.189 17 0.109 0.526
10 1 826 0.002 0.145 10 0.002 0.145 13 0.021 0.886
10 1 826 -0.012 0.145 12 -0.012 0.145 13 -0.098 0.501
10 1 826 -0.003 0.145 12 -0.003 0.145 13 -0.023 0.874
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Test scores Labor market earnings associated with test scores $3,240 $7,632 $4,023 $0 $14,895
Smoking before end of middle school Health care associated with smoking ($1) $0 ($1) ($1) ($3)
Mortality associated with smoking $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Cannabis use before end of middle school Criminal justice system $5 $0 $12 $3 $20
Health care associated with cannabis abuse or dependence $1 $0 $1 $1 $3
Alcohol use before end of middle school Property loss associated with alcohol abuse or dependence $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Mortality associated with alcohol $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($616) ($616)
Totals $3,245 $7,632 $4,035 ($614) $14,298
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $623 2016 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($1,232)
Comparison costs $0 2016 Cost range (+ or -) 15%
The per-participant program cost estimate includes material costs reported from the developer’s website ( and teacher compensation costs (including benefits) for time spent implementing intervention components. Teacher salary and benefits figures were retrieved from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). This cost estimate represents the weighted average per-participant program cost of interventions reported in studies in this analysis, represents an intervention period of about 20 months, and includes additional components previously implemented under the Child Development Project.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Battistich, V., Schaps, E., Watson, M., Solomon, D., & Lewis, C. (2000). Effects of the child development project on students' drug use and other problem behaviors. Journal of Primary Prevention, 21(1), 75-99.

Muñoz, M.A., & Vanderhaar, J.E. (2006). Literacy-embedded character education in a large urban district. Journal of Research in Character Education, 4(1&2), 27-44.