Data-driven decentralized school support: the use of student learning data to direct management support in Tanzania [CIES 2024 Presentation]

On mainland Tanzania, most resource allocation decisions are centralized. The President’s Office - Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) recruits and assigns teachers, supplies teaching and learning materials and funds capital construction projects. Local Governments are provided limited funds for training support or redeployment of teachers among schools. Their main resource, therefore, is to provide management attention and support to schools. With an average of 140 schools in a District and a staff of 5 individuals, only a few schools can be supported. In 2016, The Ministry of Education and Sports developed a School Quality Assurance Framework to guide local administrators on key areas of focus and guidance for school support. The framework focuses on six areas: school inputs, teacher practice, student learning outcomes, school environment, school leadership and community engagement. To facilitate the monitoring of these areas, USAID Tusome Pamoja project piloted a data collection tool that allowed measurement of progress through indicators. Of particular interest was the use of a group administered learning assessment that established benchmarks for success for grade 2 learners across six sub-tasks for reading, writing and mathematics. Due to limited resources, this assessment was only applied to a sample of schools in each district. Districts could assess their overall performance against these indicators and as a result developed somewhat generic district level support plans.. This presentation will explore how initial challenges of vague district plans were overcome through the critical data collection process leading to the establishment of benchmarks for success. o Under a subsequent activity, USAID Jifunze Uelewe, software was developed that allowed districts to capture group administered learning data for every grade 2 student and to aggregate this information at the school level. Districts were then able to rank order all schools in the district by scores on learning sub-tasks and then select the lowest performing schools for additional management attention. At the same time, districts were able to pair high-performing and low performing schools. The result of the access to school specific data was to allow districts to direct their attention to the development of plans at the school level to address low learning performance, and the ability to track progress of these schools over time. Schools enter data on Government provided tablets and the data can be synched when headteachers have access to Government provided wifi. Decentralized administrators have long been seen as critical for translating national policy into local action. However, they are frequently hampered by a combination of distracted management attention and unclear targets or benchmarks for key inputs, which encourages a laissez-faire status quo. In Tanzania, local governments in four regions have been able to contextualize data to meet their needs and use simple technology to prioritize their attention and decision-making. Our presentation showcases the significance of data driven decision making and continuous improvement of the system. We further highlight the important of simple and meaningful change and fostering proactive decision making at the local level.