Learning to Thrive: Education, opportunity and foundational skills in El Salvador [CIES 2021]

The El Salvador Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) was conducted in 2018 in late June and early July 2018 (toward the end of the El Salvador school year, which runs from January to October). The objective was to provide the Government of El Salvador with information on the reading performance of public school students in second and third grades. The sample was designed to represent government schools at the national level with a minimum enrollment of six students in each of the second and third grades and all of the second and third grade students in these grades. EGRA is an individually administered oral assessment of foundational reading skills; in Spanish, the skills tested include letter sound identification, familiar word reading, and oral reading fluency, among others. Closing early learning deficits in contexts like El Salvador is critical to improving economic development. According to a World Bank review of the causes of dropout in Central America, skills gaps that are not corrected through additional support and remediation compound over time. Students with weak foundational skills are more likely to struggle and become disinterested as content becomes more complex. As students age, they also face rising direct and opportunity costs and increased risk of teenage pregnancy and violence. Together these factors are associated with higher levels of grade repetition and school dropout. Analyzing El Salvador household survey data, the same report indicated that 40% of youth who had left school cited lack of interest while 25% reported economic causes as the main reasons for dropping out of school. Among girls, personal reasons, including pregnancy and caring for younger siblings, are the highest reported cause at 32%. The EGRA results indicate that 49% of second graders and 40% of third graders are reading at or below a rate of one correct word per second. Students performing at this level for oral reading fluency are identified as “At Risk” for developing later reading difficulties, and potentially school failure. This means that additional remediation steps, such as intensive instruction and frequent progress monitoring, are needed to increase the chances that these students catch up with their peers. Early skills gaps are associated with higher levels of grade repetition and in contexts like El Salvador, where primary completion is not universal, school dropout. On nearly every component of the assessment, boys, students in rural schools, students from lower-income groups, and students with some form of self-reported disability all scored lower than their more advantaged peers. Income disparities were especially noteworthy: Students in the lowest income group were more than three times as likely to score zero on the oral reading fluency passage relative to students in the highest income group (20% versus 6%).

What works in early reading materials

Access to books is key to learning to read and sustaining a love of reading. Yet many low- and middle-income countries struggle to provide their students with reading materials of sufficient quality and quantity. In this paper, we seek to capture the practices RTI has developed and refined since 2008, particularly in response to the challenges inherent in contexts with high linguistic diversity and low operational capacity for producing and distributing instructional materials. These practices constitute our approach to developing and producing instructional materials for early grade literacy. We also touch upon effective planning for printing and distribution procurement, but we do not consider the printing and distribution processes in depth in this paper. We expect this volume will be useful for donors, policymakers, and practitioners interested in improving access to cost-effective, high-quality teaching and learning materials for the early grades.

Evaluación de Lectura Inicial en El Salvador: Infome Final

La Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID) decidió financiar este estudio para proporcionar información actual al Ministerio de Educación (MINED) y al Gobierno El Salvador sobre el desempeño en lectura de los estudiantes de segundo y tercer grado a nivel nacional y, específicamente, en las escuelas ubicadas en los municipios del Plan El Salvador Seguro (PESS). PESS es un plan nacional para ayudar a 50 municipios cuyos índices de violencia y delincuencia son altos. La vinculación entre educación (tanto matricula como aprendizaje) y la violencia es una de las razones clave por la cual tanto el MINED como USAID quieren obtener más información sobre el estado de las habilidades lectoras en los grados iniciales. El MINED destacó su compromiso en mejorar la lectura cuando se inauguró el año escolar 2018 con una promesa de terminar con el analfabetismo. Para entender el desempeño en lectura de los grados iniciales, USAID solicitó a RTI que efectuara el presente estudio utilizando la Evaluación de Lectura Inicial (EGRA, por sus siglas en ingles), un instrumento adaptado y validado en más que 70 países. EGRA mide las habilidades básicas para poder leer con fluidez y con comprensión, que es el objetivo final de la lectura.

Annotated bibliography of scientific-stature publications produced by RTI’s International Education Division with internal research and development funding, by year, 2016–2019

This annotated bibliography, originally created as a supplement to a research poster, compiles the output from an RTI internal research and development (IR&D) award. Each fiscal year, RTI considers staff-submitted proposals for innovative products or services that would advance a field of research but are not likely to be covered by external sources, and selects some to receive IR&D grants. Beginning in 2016, staff of RTI’s International Education division took on the challenge of significantly increasing the unit’s internal funding, production, and publication of peer-reviewed research. The urgency was driven by three significant factors: (1) Omission from meta-analyses—During the previous 10 year period, several broadly distributed retrospectives were published on “what works” in learning assessment and improvement—none of which covered RTI’s extensive experience, because it was available only as gray literature (primarily reports for the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID). Thus, a decade of learning from the administration and analysis of Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Assessments (EGRA and EGMA), in particular, was not well accounted for. (2) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—In 2015, the global community adopted the SDGs and began determining metrics to monitor progress. Unless RTI moved to publish its findings on potential use of alternative assessments, including EGRA and EGMA, country-driven approaches to measurement for low- and lower-middle-income countries could be excluded from options for monitoring and tracking progress toward the new global goals. (3) Absence of external funding—The primary sponsor of the relevant project work, USAID, did not have funding to support following up with additional analyses, particularly those involving multicountry comparisons. The IR&D award responded to these gaps. As led by Dr. Amber Gove, the primary intent of the effort was to ensure that the Institute would lead the field in using and disseminating EGRA and EGMA data, the majority of which RTI had collected and analyzed. The IR&D funding covered multiple years, and the result by late 2019 was 16 peer-reviewed publications, with several more submitted and under review. Some key lessons learned during the process—as reflected in the listed works—were: (1) Start with client-funded reports and analyses; (2) pair first-time authors with more experienced writers; (3) ask key questions across countries and/or languages; (4) collaborate with colleagues from other organizations; and (5) prioritize broad (open) access. More information: Amber Gove, e-mail: agove@rti.org; Twitter: @AmberGove

The Early Grade Reading Barometer: Increasing access to and use of data on learning outcomes- CIES 2018 Presentation

CIES 2018 Presentation, given by Amber Gove and Helen Jang. The Early Grade Reading Barometer offers a wealth of actionable Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) data to help to change the lives of young children. With 40 datasets from 19 places, the Barometer supports data transparency. The Barometer is designed for USAID education officers, policy makers, education staff in host countries, implementation partners, education researchers, and practitioners. It is designed primarily for users who may have limited knowledge about early grade reading, and no or little sophisticated statistical knowledge. This presentation was an interactive demonstration of the Barometer, highlighting the vast amount of data available to the public and how the information can be used to improve learning outcomes.

Persistence and Fadeout of Preschool Effects: Evidence from 16 LMICs- CIES 2018 Presentation

CIES 2018 Presentation, given by Amber Gove. With few exceptions (Aboud & Hossain, 2011; Gertler et al., 2013), much of the published research on the impact of preprimary participation stems from high-income countries (Campbell et al., 2014; Heckman, Moon, Pinto, Savelyev, & Yavitz, 2010). Few studies have examined preschool and later learning across multiple countries (Raikes, Devercelli, & Kutaka, 2015). This paper seeks to fill this gap by examining the relationship between preprimary participation and early primary reading outcomes, as measured by Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) (Dubeck & Gove, 2015; RTI International, 2016). Drawing on a unique set of data using student-level learning assessments from sixteen low and middle income countries, we use preprimary participation to explain primary reading outcomes.

Measures of quality through classroom observation for the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from low-and-middle-income countries

Background paper prepared for the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all With the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global education agencies are grappling with how quality can and should be measured for global reporting purposes. Several factors at the education system, school, and classroom levels shape education quality, including the limited information available at the global level about what is happening in the classroom. Such information can only come through observation-based measures that record teacher practices, either through routine monitoring conducted by system actors or through surveys. Classroom observation is used extensively in not only teacher education and professional development, but also in evaluation studies. However, there are fewer cases where classroom observations are used for system monitoring purposes—particularly in low- and middle- income countries. This paper reviews what has been learned from observation instruments in low- and middle-income countries and what opportunities (i.e., scope) there are to systematize these countries to that they can monitor quality at both the school and system levels.

CIES 2017 Presentation: Measurement of early reading under the SDGs

Measurement of learning is central to the Sustainable Development Goals for education, both in early primary (grade 2/3) and in early childhood (under the age of 5) (IAEG 2016). Of particular concern is the ability of global measurement approaches to reflect the social and linguistic differences of a diverse range of societies, including traditionally marginalized groups. This presentation relies on literacy assessment data to answer the following question: can results from non-equated national assessments be used to report against global goals?

What Have We Learned? Improving Development Policy through Impact Evaluation (Presentation)

From the CGD Website on the event: "Please join the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to take stock of the evidence and impact evaluation movement and its promise for improving social policy in developing countries. In 2006, CGD released a working group report titled “When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation.” It described an evaluation gap and proposed an international effort to systematically build evidence on “what works” in development with the aim of improving the effectiveness of social programs. Ten years later, we will reflect on progress toward these goals. Despite a host of challenges, hundreds of millions of people across the world have benefited from programs that have been rigorously evaluated and scaled up. Impact evaluation has generated knowledge about poverty and public policy leading to better programs. At the event, policymakers and evaluators will discuss examples of how evaluation has helped enhance effectiveness, and a panel of evaluation funders will reflect on lessons learned and the way forward. In a time of political transition, we seek to re-energize the movement for increased evidence and value for money in public and aid spending. Among others, the event will feature: Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Amanda Glassman (CGD), Rachel Glennerster (J-PAL), Markus Goldstein (World Bank), Amber Gove (RTI International), Rema Hanna (Harvard), Emannuel Jimenez (3ie), Michael Kremer (Harvard), Darius Mogaka (Government of Kenya), Santhosh Mathew (Government of India), William Savedoff (CGD), and Bambang Widianto (Government of Indonesia)." Download the presentation slides from the Kenya case study using the "Download" link, or click on the external website link for more information on the event.

Measurement of Early Childhood Development and Learning under the Sustainable Development Goals

Article published in the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities Volume 17, 2016 - Issue 4: Investing in Early Childhood Development. Published abstract: "Children’s early development serves as the foundation for later health, learning and well-being. The inclusion of early childhood development (ECD) in the Sustainable Development Goals implies that countries must report on the percentage of children under 5 years of age who are “developmentally on track.” This note briefly reflects on the history of global ECD goals and their measurement and outlines the challenge ahead: creating a workable strategy for ECD measurement that balances the need for national relevance with globally comparable data. The global variation in the timing and nature of early childhood skills acquisition presents an important opportunity as countries set their own standards for what it means to be developmentally on track. Country-driven measurement and standard setting, derived from measurement approaches that meet international expectations for quality, can have an important influence on policy and practice. Countries can measure the development of their youngest citizens in a way that is most relevant and useful to them, so that they may use those data to ensure that all children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential."