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From Assessment to Action:
Designing Reading Interventions to Reach Goal 1
August 22, 2011 — 3:45 p.m.

Presenters:  David Bruns, USAID/Mali
Sylvia Linan-Thompson, RTI International

Moderator:  Mitch Kirby, USAID Bureau for Asia and the Middle East

This session provided an overview of the key technical issues to consider when designing reading programs and aligning education programming with Goal 1 of the new 2011 USAID Education Strategy: Improved reading skills for 100 million children in primary grades by 2015. Mitch Kirby shared an anecdote from USAID/India to illustrate the challenges that arose when aligning a project to Goal 1 of the new strategy and to describe the process of designing an aligned program from the beginning. USAID/India’s education program focused on teacher training, but did not provide for measuring students’ learning outcomes until year eight of the program. In short, this meant that the program was not focused on student outcomes and therefore could not be considered in alignment with Goal 1. USAID/Washington and USAID/India decided to look into what an aligned program might look like if it were created from scratch.

Sylvia Linan-Thompson affirmed that knowing what constitutes effective classrooms and effective systems is essential to successful program design. She reviewed the key components of reading programs: (a) assessment and measurement; (b) teaching the teachers; (c) aligning standards, curriculum and materials; (d) school management, governance and accountability, and community participation; and (e) going to scale (making sure systems are in place to ensure sustainability). Linan-Thompson illustrated the steps for analyzing the type of evidence-based programming needed in a brief discussion of each of these components.

Programming elements include: (a) reliable data; (b) in-service and pre-service teacher training in pedagogy, assessment, and content; (c) management capacity and shared goals, distributive responsibilities, and accountability processes; (d) willingness within the system to change; (e) the time needed to teach reading; and (f) building experimentation into design. Key points for further consideration were: (a) renewed emphasis on analysis, evidence-based programming, and analytic rigor; (b) determination of the appropriate mix and sequence for reading interventions (curriculum, standards, materials in context); (c) analytic approach (including appropriate metrics to measure the right kinds of things at the right times); and (d) the identification of entry and exit points in country context in order to increase sustainability.

David Bruns provided a perspective from the field that confirmed the importance of the mix and sequence of reading interventions. He noted that the decision tree for a reading program in Mali touched on all of the aforementioned program elements. The program was eventually scaled up to the national level. Bruns also highlighted the importance of understanding the local context when training teachers. The teachers in Mali, for example, did not expect their children to read until the end of primary school. When teachers’ classroom behavior did not change, USAID/Mali had to provide more training to change their attitudes.

Key take away points Goal 1 programs focus on and measure success through learning outcomes. Emerging evidence shows that in effective classrooms, teachers: (a) are knowledgeable about how children learn and how to teach children to read, (b) have materials that support teaching and learning, (c) have adequate time to teach reading, and (d) use formative and summative assessment in making decisions. Effective systems: (a) use assessment data to identify strengths and areas for development, (b) ensure that there is adequate time for teaching, (c) support teachers to continue to grow as professionals, and (d) commit resources. Measurement and evaluation should be considered from the start and there is a renewed emphasis on analysis, evidence-based programming and analytic rigor.

To view the presentation, please click the link below:

The ABC’s of Designing Reading Programs PPT (1 MB)

For questions related to the 2011 Education Workshop,
please contact Rachel Kozolup at rkozolup@jbsinternational.com