DLS can free up resources in education

The 
Davis Learning Strategies (DLS) program is the result of six years of classroom research and observation. In a pilot study, published in 2001 and conducted among two California public schools, the program was introduced in successive years to children in grades K-2. Three classroom groups were compared with demographically matched groups, who had received the same basic language arts curriculum without the supplementary Davis program.
The results were encouraging across all levels. For example, first grade students scored significantly higher than the control group for the mastery of 100 basic sight words. Follow-up data showed that no special education referrals had been made two years after initial Davis intervention for any of the three pilot classrooms. At the same time, gifted referrals from these same classrooms were on average four times higher than the typical school population. 


Immediate Excellence in Two American Schools
In the year 2006, Elbert Elementary school's third grade reading scores went straight from the worst to the best of all schools in the Pikes Peak district in Colorado, US, - immediately after 17 staff members were trained in using DLS. Two years later the school had still retained their leading position. See more here.

Walsh Elementary is a small, rural school in Colorado serving preschool through sixth grades. They introduced DLS in 2003, and four years later - against all odds - they had the highest reading scores in the state of Colorado, with 89% of the children scoring at or above grade level proficiency. See more here.


Below is a short video featuring interviews with learners, teachers, and parents of Walsh Elementary School.

For more information go to the Davis Learning Strategies website.

Could we free up 30% of UK's special needs budget?
We estimate that the UK could free up £1.5 billion worth of special needs annual resources by introducing DLS in all primary schools.

A one-off 0,3% increase (or re-allocation) in the special needs budget can permanently free up as much as a third of the total annual special needs resources (3% of the total education budget). Based on the UK average primary school budget, this translates into an £8,000 one-off investment per school, which can free up over £50,000 per school every year from then on.

About £4bn are spent annually on special needs in primary and secondary education
In 2002-03, the total expenditure on seven million students in primary and secondary education in the UK was £30.5 billion, or on average about £4,500 for each average student. 13% of the total budget for primary and secondary education was spent on special needs, or about 3.6 billion, which is an on-going annual expense.  We do not have data on exactly how this budget spreads over the various special educational needs in the UK, but according to a study published by the US Center for Special Education Finance in 2001, each learner in the USA with SLD or SLI (dyslexia and related learning difficulties), receives on average about $4,000 every year, over and above the average learner (about 65% on top). The above two special needs categories (SLD and SLI) receive 60% of the total special needs budget in the USA. If we assume the UK spends the same proportion of the special needs budget on what in the USA is called SLD or SLI (60%), then we are looking at the UK spending about £2 billion every year on SLD or SLI (dyslexia and related learning difficulties) in primary and secondary education.


About £7 billion are spent annually on special needs in UK government-funded education as a whole
According to the Department for Education, the total cost for education in 2002-03, up to and including university, was £53.8 billion. UK’s total special needs costs are 13% of this figure, or close to £7 billion. If we assume again that the proportion of this figure spent on SLD and SLI 
in USA (60%) mirrors the UK, then we can expect that the UK spends a total of £4 billion every year on dyslexia and related learning difficulties in government-funded education from grade one through university. This represents about 7,4% of the total education budget.

We could free up £1.5 billion every year in the UK
If DLS is introduced at a primary level, we can expect a significant reduction in special needs as the DLS children filter up through the whole education system right through to higher education. If the 
reduction in special needs referrals is less than half of what the initial Californian DLS study indicates, we can reasonably hope to be freeing up as much as 3% of the £53.8 billion total national education budget within 15 years. This amounts to £1.5 billion worth
"1,000% return on investment."
of special needs resources freed up every year in our total education budget from a one-off investment of 
less than £150 millionFor every pound spent on DLS we can reasonably expect to free up resources worth 10 pounds every year from then on, which represents 1,000% return on investment (ROI) every year. This return is cumulative, so if we look at a 10 year period, we would see 100 pounds saved for every pound invested, or 10,000% ROI. Because this is on on-going return for a one-off investment, obviously the longer period you look at, the greater the return on investment. Very few investment opportunities come close to that kind of return.

Further £billions saved in the social and justice systems
This potential saving may be exciting, but we haven’t even begun to look at a figure which The Dyslexia Institute estimates to be around £1 billion annually in the UK, and we deem to be a very conservative estimate. This is the cost to society when young people drop out of education and sign up for unemployment benefits or get tempted by a life of crime which can offer instant short-term gratification for a person with broken self-esteem and a poor sense of consequence. A recent study commissioned by the British Dyslexia Association showed the percentage of dyslexics among young offenders to be almost 60%. This study mentioned a larger study - also commissioned by the BDA - where the early indications are considerably higher, or close to 80% dyslexics among offenders. A recent survey amongst people in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres showed over 90% dyslexia, and early indications of a pilot intervention programme (not based on Davis) showed re-offending rates dropping 90% in a group of prisoners, where dyslexia was successfully addressed. The Davis methods have been shown to successfully address the issue which often is at the root of anti-social behaviour – a diminished sense and understanding of consequence. This issue is at the root of denial, when people do not realise how their behaviour affects their own prospects and other people’s lives. If DLS was introduced nationwide, we could reasonably expect to see significant savings in policing, the justice system and the prison services, as well as in social services - what happens when the group that makes up most of our offenders is significantly reduced?

Other benefits likely from increased numbers of gifted students
These are the potential savings for society as a result of introducing DLS, but that is just one side of the coin. The previously mentioned study in the seven schools in California showed that the average for gifted students quadrupled. Instead of the national average of 5% gifted referrals, the DLS classrooms had an average of 20% gifted referrals. This may be an indication that the picture thinkers manage to harness their gift when the teaching methods cater for their needs, but perhaps also indicates that Davis Learning Strategies enhance learning for every single student in the classroom. As a result of a nationwide introduction of DLS we can reasonably hope to see a significant rise in innovation, productivity and growth, which could well amount to more value than the £1.5bn we could free up in special needs education.

DLS cost only 0.3% of one year’s education budget
The average total cost of introducing Davis Learning Strategies is less than £8,000 in each primary school. By making this investment, the average school can expect to free up special needs resources worth at least £50,000 every year from then on. 
For all of UK’s 17.700 primary schools, this amounts to a total investment of less than £150 million – one off cost – about 0.3% of one year’s education budget, in order to free up as much as 1.5 billion pounds worth of special needs resources on a national level. 

This formula can be applied to a school’s budget, local education authority or a whole nation. We are then looking to allocate 0.1% of the budget to DLS for three consecutive years only, with the aim of permanently freeing up resources worth 3% of the total budget. 

This is based on the conservative assumption that we can only partly achieve the success indicated by the seven year research study in California.

The above calculations are all based on government-funded schools, but data from the USA suggest that the cost of private education is on average four times higher than state-funded schools; nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that the same percentages will apply in private schools.


These calculations are based on the total education expenditure in the UK and USA, but of course the same formula can be applied to any country, local education authority, or even a school. Even when an education institution is not spending 15% of their budget on special needs, DLS can be used to AVOID needing to spend that amount in the future.
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Axel Gudmundsson,
24 Apr 2015, 23:51
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