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Cost data for an intervention being evaluated should be collected using the “ingredients method,” described in detail by Levin and McEwan in their 2001 book Cost-effectiveness Analysis: Methods and Applications. The goal of the ingredients method is to determine all resources required to implement an intervention, including all personnel, facilities, equipment, and materials.

In order to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis to compare the productivity of different programs each addressing the same goal, it is necessary to collect data on both the costs and the effectiveness of the interventions being compared, as well as for the “business-as-usual” conditions. Effectiveness data may be obtained from existing evaluation reports or you may be designing your own impact study to collect these data yourself. Once you have determined the costs of a program using the ingredients method, you can combine the cost data with the effectiveness data to calculate a cost-effectiveness (CE) ratio for the intervention. CE ratios for multiple programs can be ranked to assess which program provides a given level of effectiveness at the lowest cost.

To facilitate the collection of cost data and the execution of cost and cost-effectiveness analyses, CBCSE has developed CostOut – The CBCSE Cost Tool Kit. CostOut was developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences (Award #R305U130001) with the goal of helping education practitioners, researchers, and policymakers conduct cost analyses and cost-effectiveness analyses of educational interventions in order to facilitate resource allocation decisions.

CostOut is an online tool freely available at It prompts the user to list all ingredients required for an intervention being evaluated and to assign appropriate prices based on the quantity and quality of ingredients needed. CostOut will automatically make any necessary adjustments for inflation, geographical location, and, for multi-year programs, time of investment. It will calculate the total costs of the program being analyzed, the costs per participant and, where relevant, the cost-effectiveness ratio. Excel reports are provided for each program analyzed and comparative tables and charts are available for programs being compared. Video tutorials, demonstration analyses, a User Manual, and various other resources are provided to help users apply CostOut to their own programs.


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