The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Read Liberia Activity is working with Liberia’s Ministry of Education (MOE) to gradually institutionalize components and functions of the evidence-based early grade reading (EGR) system.
Read Liberia has had considerable positive impact on students’ reading performance. For instance, following two years of learning in a Read Liberia–supported school, on average, a student can read twice as many words per minute as a peer in a non–Read Liberia school. Student comprehension levels are also 12% higher in Read Liberia–supported schools compared with non-supported schools [Read Liberia Impact Evaluation Endline Report. NORC 2021].
In addition to improving early grade students’ literacy levels and kindergarten students’ oral vocabulary, Read Liberia has actively partnered with the MOE to build capacity of its staff and the Liberian education system.
This success story outlines the key activities Read Liberia has undertaken with the MOE to sustain EGR results beyond the life of the Activity.
National Teachers Professional Performance Standards For Liberia
The National Teacher Professional Performance Standards for Liberia describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes a teacher must have to effectively teach in the Liberian schools. Read Liberia supported the MOE in developing and validating these standards, which will serve as a key reference for teacher assessment and evaluation, continued teacher accreditation, continuous teacher professional development, and curriculum reform, while helping to ensure that pre-service training institutions prepare teachers to adhere to these standards.
Non-monetary Incentive Program for Teachers and Schools
Read Liberia combined efforts with the MOE to build a unique non-monetary incentive program to recognize high-performing teachers and schools. This activity complements the MOE’s efforts to create sustainable community-based relationships to reward both schools and teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching reading, with the goal of encouraging more teachers and schools to offer quality reading instruction. Winners are publicly recognized for their achievements and given meaningful non-monetary awards from local businesses. The Deputy Minister for Instruction at the MOE, Alexander Duopu, stated that, “the Ministry is excited to be part of the National Level Non-monetary Incentive Awards (program) and will continue to support the initiative.”
National Reading Benchmarks for Students
Read Liberia supported several years of policy development between the MOE and partner programs that culminated in the approval of National Grade 1–4 Reading Benchmarks for students. These benchmarks establish targets for three core reading skills: non-word reading fluency, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension. The Minister of Education announced the approved benchmarks in 2020, and the benchmarks were included in the 2020/21 national academic calendar - a first for Liberia and a clear demonstration of the MOE’s commitment and intentions for the future.
National Reading Strategy
A National Reading Strategy is key to documenting the MOE’s EGR goals and communicating its strategy for meeting those goals. Read Liberia, as part of the National Reading Technical Working Group, has provided technical support to the MOE’s ongoing efforts in developing this critical document.
Parent and Community Engagement in EGR
Using an evidence-based social behavior change campaign, Read Liberia strengthened the ability of parent–teacher associations and community-based organizations to support EGR activities. Read Liberia School Community Mobilizers also engaged families and students to tune into the MOE’s Teaching by Radio program that Read Liberia helped to develop during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the social behavior change campaign, teachers’ knowledge of how caregivers can support their children’s reading improved, as did their interactions with parents. The MOE has the technical skills to expand this intervention further, employing MOE County and District Education Officers to continue engaging caregivers and other stakeholders in the community to support children as they learn to read.
Coaching and Supervision Support for Teachers
Over the life of the Activity, Read Liberia coaches provided instructional support to grade 1 and 2
teachers to help them gain proficiency in using the Read Liberia teaching and learning materials and pedagogical approach. During the Read Liberia kindergarten pilot, specially trained Read Liberia coaches supported kindergarten teachers as well. Coaches worked with teachers throughout each school year, observing their instruction, discussing instructional challenges, providing mentoring feedback and modeling lessons, and monitoring the quality of the classroom and school learning environments. Beginning in Read Liberia’s fourth year, Read Liberia trained principals and vice principals of instruction to assume this coaching role with support from Read Liberia coaches and coach supervisors. With full buy-in from the MOE, Read Liberia also trained DEOs to support, supervise, and monitor the principals and vice principals of instruction in this coaching role. Read Liberia has recommend to the MOE that budget should be allocated to sustain DEOs’ visits beyond the end of Read Liberia.
The MOE and Read Liberia designed the District Education Monitoring Approach and Group Administered Literacy Assessment (DEMA-GALA) as a cost-effective model to enable MOE Education Officers to assess teacher practices, school inputs, and student reading performance. Before the DEMA-GALA, there was no integrated school assessment tool available within the MOE system to assess teacher, school system, and student performance. The Activity trained MOE Education Officers to conduct DEMA-GALA assessments, and expectations for them to do so on an annual basis have been formalized within the MOE’s data collection processes.
National Policy Framework for Institutionalizing EGR
To sustain and extend the EGR model beyond the life of the Activity, the MOE has worked closely with Read Liberia to gradually institutionalize the core components and functions of the evidence-based EGR system. In partnership with the MOE, Read Liberia developed a National Policy Framework for Institutionalizing EGR that sets out the roles and responsibilities of education actors at the central, county, district, school, and community levels in the quest to standardize EGR provision. It also mandates the teaching of reading as a standalone subject in the national curriculum—an advancement that Read Liberia advocated for following an MOE curriculum review in 2018.
The USAID Read Liberia Activity is a five-year (September 2017–September 2022) program that aims at improving EGR skills for Liberian students in 640 public schools in grades 1 and 2. Read Liberia also pilot tested a program to develop emergent literacy skills for Liberian students in 60 public kindergarten schools. The Activity is implemented in six targeted counties—Lofa, Bong, Grand Bassa, Nimba, Margibi, and Montserrado. Read Liberia is funded by USAID and implemented by RTI International with subcontractors Another Option, Brattle Publishing Group, and Diversified Educators Empowerment Program through direct partnership with the Liberian MOE.
USAID/Liberia | Read Liberia Activity | Chief of Party: Trokon Wayne
This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Read Liberia Activity. The contents are the responsibility of RTI International and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
Authored by: Tierra Vazquez, Trokon Wayne, Patience Suah