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Group Submission Type: Highlighted Paper Session
The 2018 USAID Education Policy emphasizes quality education for all children. USAID’s focus on improving learning outcomes for the foundational skill of reading (and more recently math as well) has created a lasting shift in perspective and programming for early grade education programs. Great strides have been made toward decreasing illiteracy around the globe by focusing resources and attention on this most basic skill. Although curriculum reforms and revised teaching and learning materials and methods have been developed in numerous countries and we have seen dramatic increases in learning outcomes, these improvements often stop at the top 25% or so of learners. Addressing the learning needs of all learners in the classroom has remained a challenge. There are too many persistent “zero scores” despite nearly a decade of concerted effort to teach reading. Our student demographic data from multiple projects show that the top students are more likely than their peers to have books at home, to be exposed to literacy practices outside of school, to have regular meals, and to speak the language of instruction (see for example Park, 2008 and RTI International, 2014). The students who are struggling are more likely to leave books behind at the school door, learn and use the language of instruction only at school, and have more chores at home. The challenge facing teachers and education systems is how to level the playing field so that all children can master the fundamental academic skills. As this year’s conference theme discusses, if we do not address the needs of the most marginalized, we cannot expect a future where our planet is healthy and peace and prosperity are the norm.
Many projects have searched for new ways to support struggling learners and in many cases struggling schools. Improved data collection methods and increased use of data has helped to inform teachers and education officials about learning outcomes at the individual and/or the school level much more rapidly and frequently than ever before. Using relevant data, understanding teachers’ abilities and constraints, taking into account language and other demographic information, and providing appropriate tools and guidance can contribute to development of remediation programs that can help all children be successful. Limited resources, though, force us to make difficult decisions in program design. It is hard to know what will be most important and effective for each context and what the best use of resources is when budgets are tight. This panel is designed to share some early experiences from a variety of contexts to help participants grapple with these decisions.
The four papers on this panel describe efforts to improve learning for all children by working with teachers to find ways in their busy days and often crowded classrooms to understand how children learn in order to meet their diverse needs. The first paper is from FHI 360’s USAID-funded Learning activity in Ghana. The project provided focused support to schools that were underperforming but deemed most likely to improve performance with additional support. Data suggest that these intensive support visits contributed to improved learning outcomes in these schools. The second paper presents Room to Read’s work in supporting remediation activities in India. It will present results from a case-study research project in India, sharing insight into teachers’ experiences in engaging students in remediation activities and providing suggestions on best practices and on potential ways to enhance and improve remediation activities. The third paper, from IRC, describes a project in Lebanon wherein the professional development program for teachers integrated aspects of improvement science in an effort to help teachers appropriate best practice methodology to attain greater learning growth among their students. The fourth paper, from EDC, describes a peer tutoring program under the McGovern-Dole FFE3 effort in Mali, which provided continued learning engagement for students when schools were closed by violence and teachers’ strikes. The program was designed to engage older learners to work with the youngest and most academically needy children in tandem with classroom instruction, but it ended up serving as the primary practice opportunity for many children because of the crisis context.
At the end of the panel, participants will consider thematic questions that include:
• What data is most important to collect, and with what frequency, in order to allow for timely intervention where remediation may be necessary?
• Is it more effective and/or more efficient to focus on struggling schools or struggling individual learners? Do we have to make this choice?
• What does a remediation program demand of teachers, inspectors, communities, and school systems and how can resources be maximized to provide the support necessary to all students and schools?
A focus on equity: Providing intensive support visits to improve student learning outcomes in Ghana USAID Partnership for Learning Program - Marcia Davidson, FHI 360
What about the struggling students? A case study of remedial support programming for early grade reading - Patrick Curry, Room to Read
Continuous quality improvement: Integrating improvement science into remedial support - Autumn Brown, International Rescue Committee
Harnessing peer tutoring to support learning continuity and improvement in conflict-affected Mali - Carrie Louise Lewis, Education Development Center; Almougairata Hamidou Maiga, Catholic Relief Services