What We Have Learned in the Past Decade: RTI's Approach to Early Grade Literacy Instruction

Over the past decade, RTI International has pursued the goal of quality, inclusive, differentiated early grade literacy instruction in nearly 30 early grade reading or early grade literacy programs in low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. Across our diverse portfolio, we have supported Ministries of Education (Ministries) in diverse contexts in their development and implementation of research-based early grade literacy programs and have learned important lessons based on our experience working with Ministries to design, develop, and implement early grade literacy programs. This paper describes the core elements that we have found to improve early grade literacy instruction and learner outcomes: the approach to teaching (Teach), the availability of quality, relevant learner materials (Text), the effective use of instructional time (Time), the use of formative assessment to guide instruction (Test), and provision of instruction in the most effective language (Tongue). This paper focuses on the acquisition of literacy in alphabetic and alphasyllabic languages in the early primary years (most typically, academic levels 1 through 3) and the kinds of exposures, instruction, and support learners need to become fully literate. These are the elements of a literacy program that can be taught, that should be present in teaching and learning materials and in teacher trainings, and that relate specifically to what happens in a classroom.

Using EGRA data for differentiated instruction: Learning profiles and instructional needs in Uganda

Presentation delivered at CIES2017 (Atlanta). A challenge of large-scale education research projects in international development is determining the most appropriate way to effectively report findings for a wide variety of audiences (e.g., researchers, ministry officials, donors, and other relevant stakeholders). It is important to consider technical rigor and accessibility, while ultimately providing results that can be used to inform policy and instruction. Using Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) data from Uganda in two languages, we are replicating an approach for categorizing students into learning profiles, which are directly tied to their particular instructional needs. We have conducted this analysis previously with data from Indonesia. We had conceptualized on the framework to be used across different context This study reports on the efficacy of using the same method with this sample with Luganda speakers. We divided students into five learning profiles based on their reading ability (Next Grade Ready, Fluent, Instructional, Beginner, and Nonreader) and then examined the relationship among these profiles and their reading skills on a variety of EGRA subtasks to determine the instructional need required to promote students from one profile to the next. Our learner profile method has been used with data in two countries and two languages. EGRA has been used in over 70 countries and in more than 100 languages. This study is an initial attempt to explore the value in this method.

“I failed, no matter how hard I tried”: A mixed-methods study of the role of achievement in primary school dropout in rural Kenya.

Article published in the International Journal of Education and Development, Volume 50. From Journal abstract: "Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region."

The Early Grade Reading Assessment: From Design to Dissemination

An infographic describing the key steps and timeline involved in conducting an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA).

Improving Literacy Instruction in Kenya Through Teacher Professional Development and Text Messages Support: A Cluster Randomized Trial

Article published in Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. Published abstract: We evaluated a program to improve literacy instruction on the Kenyan coast using training workshops, semiscripted lesson plans, and weekly text-message support for teachers to understand its impact on students’ literacy outcomes and on the classroom practices leading to those outcomes. The evaluation ran from the beginning of Grade 1 to the end of Grade 2 in 51 government primary schools chosen at random, with 50 schools acting as controls. The intervention had an impact on classroom practices with effect sizes from 0.57 to 1.15. There was more instruction with written text and more focus on letters and sounds. There was a positive impact on three of four primary measures of children’s literacy after two years, with effect sizes up to 0.64, and school dropout reduced from 5.3% to 2.1%. This approach to literacy instruction is sustainable, and affordable and a similar approach has subsequently been adopted nationally in Kenya.

Designing a program of teacher professional development to support beginning reading acquisition in coastal Kenya

Article published in the International Journal of Educational Development. Published abstract: "What should be considered when developing a literacy intervention that asks teachers to implement new instructional methods? How can this be achieved with minimal support within existing policy? We argue that two broad sets of considerations must be made in designing such an intervention. First, the intervention must be effective by bridging the gap between current teacher practice and the scientific literature on effective instruction. This broad consideration is detailed with 10 design recommenda- tions. Second, the intervention must be amenable to being scaled-up and mainstreamed as part of government policy. This involves being (i) simple and replicable; (ii) well received by teachers; and (iii) cost effective. The paper describes how these factors were considered in the design of a literacy intervention in government primary schools in coastal Kenya. It also includes reactions from teachers about the intervention and their change in knowledge."

The early grade reading assessment (EGRA): Its theoretical foundation, purpose, and limitations

Article published in the International Journal of Educational Development. Volume 40, January 2015, Pages 315–322. Published abstract: The rise and widespread adoption of the early grade reading assessment (EGRA) has produced an ample supply of critics and converts. This paper seeks to clarify the purpose of EGRA and its limitations. EGRA was created to inform education systems and programmes and alone, is not an intervention. Designed to measure some of the foundational literacy skills that readers need for beginning reading, EGRA is a collection of subtasks, each with a specific purpose. This paper includes a description and rationale for each subtask, as well as the conceptual framework that underpins the assessment. Key results from multiple surveys provide informative, grounded examples of how the assessment results are being used to inform both classroom practice and system-level policy. We conclude with a brief discussion on the potential uses of EGRA and similar oral assessments of early learning for informing the monitoring of the post-2015 education indicators.