ROUND 1 REPORT
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF COMPETITION 7 ROUND 1 INFOGRAPHIC 8 FOCUS AREA 1: IMPROVED TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS 12 FOCUS AREA 2: IMPROVED EDUCATION DATA 17 EMERGENT FOCUS AREA 1: INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY
INTO TEACHING AND LEARNING 22 EMERGENT FOCUS AREA 2: IMPROVED PEDAGOGY AND
TEACHING PRACTICES 24 MAP: LITERACY INNOVATORS AT WORK 26 INNOVATION SCALING 28 MONITORING AND EVALUATION 30 LESSONS LEARNED 31 CONCLUSION
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF COMPETITION
Reading is the single most critical skill to learn in early education, the foundation for all future learning, and key to accessing paths to economic opportunity and full participation in society. Yet, in many countries, unacceptable numbers of children remain functionally illiterate after several years of formal education. Unless primary school systems can successfully build reading skills in children, increased enrollment will have little impact.
A GRAND CHALLENGE FOR DEVELOPMENT
Launched in 2011 by the US Agency for International
Development (USAID), World Vision and
the Australian Government, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) is
school systems can an ongoing series of grant and prize competitions that leverage science and technology to source and
disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries.
reading skills in children, increased
It is one of USAID’s family of Grand Challenges for Development, which is rooted in two fundamental beliefs about international development:
enrollment will have little impact.
1. Science and technology, when applied appropriately, can have transformational effects
2. Engaging the world in the quest for solutions is critical to instigating breakthrough progress
BARRIERS TO READING SUCCESS
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development focused on overcoming the following two critical barriers for success in reading:
■ Lack of On-Demand Access to Learning Materials: To overcome barriers preventing easy access to knowledge—like limited mobility, poor infrastructure, and ineffective formal education settings—low-
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cost approaches are needed to effectively disseminate high-quality educational materials and instruction for early grade reading.
■ Lack of Improved Education Data to Support Analysis, Transparency and Accountability: A lack of quality data on education (e.g., student and teacher performance and absenteeism) prevents effective analysis of educational policies. The quality and accessibility of education data must be improved to facilitate data-driven decision-making and transparency across an education system.
This led to the development of two focus areas for the competition:
1. Teaching and Learning Materials
2. Education Data
The response to the Round 1 grant call
resulted in more than 450 applicants, which
led to 32 innovators being selected to receive two-year grants of up to
COMPETITION FOCUS AREAS
The ACR GCD Round 1 competition was designed to allow innovators to suggest their approach to addressing these two focus areas but also allowed for the submission of proposals that would have an impact on reading acquisition in other ways. Some of the most innovative submissions did not directly address the two stated focus areas. As a result, some innovators’ approaches resulted in two emergent focus areas:
1. Integration of technology into teaching and learning
2. Improved pedagogy and teaching practices
Therefore, the competition funded promising ideas in these emergent focus areas as well.
32 INNOVATIONS PILOTED
The response to the Round 1 grant call resulted in full proposals of innovative approaches to improve early grade reading from more than 450 applicants, which led to 32 innovators being selected to receive two-year grants of up to US$300,000 each. Winning innovators included universities, local NGOs, international NGOs, and private sector businesses. Out of the 32 grantees, 10 had never previously received U.S. government funding, and 16 were from developing countries.
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This diverse group of innovators implemented projects across more than 20 countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East and made significant contributions to improving the teaching of reading to early grade students.
Among other grantee deliverables:
■ A total of 814,616 teaching and learning materials were distributed to students. Many of these materials were in children’s mother tongue, which is widely accepted as the best way for children at early ages to acquire literacy skills.
■ Support provided to 3,057 schools to integrate information and communication technology (ICT), ranging from basic cell phones to
computers or tablets, to assist with ongoing literacy efforts.
■ 5,249 teachers, educators, and teaching assistants received training, along with 125 School Management Committees or similar structures.
Scaling innovations was outside the purview of Round 1 of ACR GCD. Nonetheless, several projects with promising results began to be scaled during or shortly after the Round 1 competition.
Among other lessons learned for subsequent grant and prize competitions, the ACR GCD Partners recognized the importance of a specific focus on disabilities, dedicating more resources and establishing concrete requirements for monitoring and evaluation, a greater emphasis on mother tongue instruction and reading materials, and building a wider network of research, technical and funding partners. These lessons learned were incorporated into ACR GCD’s Round 2 grant and prize competitions, which was launched in 2014.
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Launched in 2011, Round 1 of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) funded 32 grants to improve early grade reading outcomes in developing countries. With a focus on teaching and learning materials as well as education data, grantees working across 22 countries on 4 continents delivered the following:
MATERIALS provided for teaching and learning
TEACHERS educators, and teaching assistants provided training
received reading interventions at the primary level
or similar school governance structures supported
schools supported in the use of
INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION
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FOCUS AREA 1:
IMPROVED TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS
Children struggle to learn to read well, unless they have something to read that is appropriate and interesting to them. In addition, reading materials should be in a student’s mother tongue and written at their skill level. In the beginning stages of learning to read, students need materials that are limited to the letters and letter combinations they have learned (referred to as decodable) and, once they have learned decoding, materials should be limited to a vocabulary and language complexity appropriate to their skill level (referred to as leveled). ACR GCD directly funded 32 organizations working to address this need in a variety of ways, as summarized below.
In Malawi, FHI 360 and local partners produced
In Rwanda, many teachers feel uncomfortable reading aloud to students in an engaging manner. Drakkar’s SchoolBased Mentors coached teachers to use participatory approaches to bring stories to life. Lower primary teacher Beatha Nikuze described the change: “I try to mimic the characters’ voices. If it’s a kid, I make a kid voice, if it is a cow, I make a cow voice. When I am doing this kids laugh and laugh. Seeing a teacher imitating a cow? Kids like that. They laugh at me at the same time [they are] learning, I like that, too.” Pointing out the benefits, she continued, “With these new teaching methods, everyone is active. When I use it, everyone is engaged in the lesson.
a package of decodable short stories in the most common mother tongue and found that the proportion of parents reading to children increased 13%, and the proportion of parents who read to their children at least 30 minutes per day increased 15%. The project also trained teachers and community leaders to conduct workshops with parents or older siblings to adapt handwritten copies of the short stories into homemade books for their children or siblings. Through this process, the Timawerenga! (“We Can Read”) project focused not only on creating materials but also on putting parents and household members at the center of the process. More than 45,000 community workshop participants created 88,074 decodable mini-books for students.
As long as you use this method, then the shy kids will also benefit from it. They end up raising their hands to answer on their own.”
In Rwanda, Drakkar Ltd. encouraged student authorship of original stories in the national language, Kinyarwanda. Through ACR GCD grant
funding, more than 3,000 stories were created by
primary school students. In collaboration with the
Rwandan Education Board and Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC),
Drakkar also translated more than 50,000 storybooks into Kinyarwanda,
which were printed and shipped to the project’s 240 primary schools. To
promote Rwanda’s culture of reading and writing, Drakkar and partners
then launched a national writing competition, Andika Rwanda, to inspire the
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writing of stories and poems by Rwandans for Rwandan children. Prizes were awarded to both child and adult authors.
In Cambodia, World Education, Inc., with its
local partner Kampuchean Action for Primary
Kampuchean Action for Primary Education
Education (KAPE), developed a reading toolkit with (KAPE) won an ACR GCD Round 2 grant to
interactive learning materials in Khmer, including continue developing digital reading materials
stories, board games, and other materials. The
in Khmer. KAPE is adapting the Ministry
project also developed one of the first-ever Khmer of Education, Youth, and Sport Grade 2
language educational mobile apps, which has 31 and 3 readers into electronic formats with
interactive units of phonemic skills for grades
interactive features. The e-readers integrate
1 and 2, each linked to the national curriculum.
digitized testing exercises that evaluate the
Struggling readers, supported by literacy coaches, child’s reading level and provide teachers
accessed the reading toolkits and mLearning app, with a valid student assessment.
along with other interventions (literacy coaches,
parental engagement and peer tutoring), comprising a Rapid Response
System. Eight schools, reaching 2,352 children in Grades 1 and 2, were
targeted with the intervention.
Other organizations that received ACR GCD grants in Round 1 to address mother tongue reading materials included the following:
■ In Ghana, the Olinga Foundation for Human Development trained teachers
to use a syllabic phonics approach that ensured children learned to read
in their mother tongue first, then learned to read in English. The approach
targeted students in upper primary grades who had not yet mastered basic
literacy. Olinga Foundation trained 447 teachers, started reading clubs
in 25 schools, and distributed more than 15,000 literacy primers in four
mother tongue languages.
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■ In Zambia, the Lubuto Library Project developed a set of 101 reading lessons in seven mother tongue languages and then developed computer and mobile phone applications that provided off-line audio-visual learning, including a feature to practice reading. More than 5,280 primary learners benefitted from the interventions.
Reading materials should be in a student’s mother tongue and written at their skill level.
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■ In Bangladesh, ECo-Development created reading materials in eleven mother tongue languages spoken by minority groups in hill districts, which led more than 90% of teachers to say they felt more comfortable integrating local language reading in their classrooms.
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■ In Haiti, Friends of Matènwa facilitated student creation of mother tongue books and identified the most popular books to be printed and packaged as part of a collection of 50 student-authored and -illustrated books in Haitian Creole, French, and English. In partnership with A Connected Planet, the stories were made into digital books, which included letter and word game applications and voiceovers in the three languages. Friends of Matènwa distributed more than 14,000 printed copies of the books through La Gonâve school system.
■ In Georgia, the Center for Civil Integration And Inter-Ethnic Relations (CCIR) created 416 leveled e-books in Georgian-Azerbaijani and GeorgianArmenian. CCIR also created a trilingual electronic dictionary containing 7,000 of the most frequent lexical units, software that aligns vocabulary to reading levels, and an e-module for organizing words by their frequency of use. The project trained more than 400 teachers and enhanced the literacy skills of approximately 30,000 ethnic minority students.
Assessment tools that teachers and others can easily use are vital to helping them quickly identify which students are
struggling to read and in which areas they are struggling to help teachers tailor
interventions to each child’s needs.
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FOCUS AREA 2:
IMPROVED EDUCATION DATA
Parents, teachers, and administrators need data and information for timely assessment and decision making. Too often, the end-of-term exam is the first time data is collected and teachers learn which students are struggling and in which areas they need additional support. However, by that time some students have failed to master foundational skills and fallen behind their peers. Assessment tools that teachers and others can easily use are vital to helping them quickly identify which students are struggling to read and in which areas they are struggling to help teachers tailor interventions to each child’s needs. Several ACR GCD-funded projects made student assessment and improved use of data a major focal point of their work.
In Senegal, Malawi, and Rwanda, Human Network
“DataWinners modernized our data
International introduced a cloud-based system for
collection. The primary School Directors now data collection, analysis, and dissemination. The
submit their data more quickly and with
DataWinners software allowed organizations to
fewer errors using their own mobile phones. transform paper forms into digital questionnaires
The Ministry has plans to use DataWinners so that data can be submitted in seconds using
to collect other education data in Senegal.” SMS, smartphones or the Internet. In Senegal,
~ Amadou Lamine Ndiaye, Data Administrator, Ministry of Education, Senegal
directors of 9,500 schools learned how to submit students’ standardized test results via SMS using mobile phones. As a result, the data was
inexpensively and quickly collected and available
for analysis. The standardized test results were easily accessed by data
administrators and regional and district officials for verification. By September
2014, local school district officials recorded data for 658,133 student tests.
In Cambodia, World Education, Inc. and the
Following Round 1, World Education,
Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE),
Inc. won additional funding through the
developed an easy-to-use benchmark assessment
DAI-administered and USAID-funded
system that identifies which students are falling
Development Innovations Ventures to
behind. The assessments, administered every
develop the pencil-and-paper benchmarks four to six weeks, are keyed to interactive learning
into an app. The app increases uniformity in activities that help students master skills. The
test administration, reducing scoring error system helps teachers identify appropriate learning
and bias, and automatically compiles student materials and literacy games and direct them to
scores to quickly identify struggling students. the specific assessment used to test the skill. The
benchmarks also link closely to the curriculum and
give teachers the lessons and page numbers in readers that correspond to
the specific literacy skill. Grade 1 and 2 benchmarks have been rolled out to
government schools nationally (see Innovation Scaling for more information).
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Typically, schools waited 12 months to receive their national test scores. Education Development Center’s innovative SMS and database system reduced the
In the Philippines, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) used low-cost mobile phone technology to enable time-efficient transmission and analysis of student National Achievement Test (NAT) scores at the school level. This helped school leadership become better informed about the relevance of NAT data in guiding decisions about addressing student learning gaps. School administrators and teachers also received pre-formatted text messages that provided simple analysis of their unique NAT results in Grade 3 reading. The project initially served 900 teachers in 50 schools in Mindanao. Initial results were so promising that the Department of Education requested that the program be scaled throughout other USAID-funded education programs, reaching more than 1,200 schools (see Innovation Scaling for more information).
wait time by six to
Several projects utilized ACR GCD grants for research:
■ In Ethiopia, Initiative Africa investigated the
role that action research could play in helping
teachers understand how reading assessment
results could be used to improve student learning. Through the project, 124
teachers received training in reading instruction and 16,000 children’s book
titles in Amharic and a mother tongue language, Afaan, were distributed.
Through the action research process, teachers began to see that reading
assessment results can be used to improve student learning, and action
research and feedback/corrective action are powerful methods to
■ In India, American Institutes for Research examined the process of acquiring literacy in multilingual environments by investigating how biliteracy skills are acquired. The project sought to determine if there was a threshold point of mother tongue reading outcomes at which children were more likely to transfer their knowledge to English for successful reading outcomes in both languages. The study, which included about 550 children from 13 schools, found that decoding in a mother tongue was one of the strongest independent predictors of English decoding. The research showed that children who can easily and accurately “sound out” approximately 60% of words in a grade-appropriate alphasyllabic language reading test are much more likely to succeed when formal English instruction begins than a child who scores lower than this threshold.
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Other projects developed assessments and brief screening tools to bolster their interventions:
■ In Ghana, Open Learning Exchange created a tool modeled on RTI’s Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) to conduct a five-minute assessment.
■ YMCA Senegal partnered with the Education Development Center, Inc. to develop individually-administered assessments that included letter reading, high frequency word reading, and passage reading. This assessment was used to place students in leveled reading groups.
■ In India, Pratham Education Foundation modified an existing assessment tool to produce a new tool based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scale, which provided a more comprehensive picture of children’s abilities to comprehend and write text. This facilitated placement of students into groups according to ability, rather than age or grade-level, and helped group leaders focus on teaching the needed skills.
■ In India, Pragya developed periodic, holistic assessments to track progress on education indicators and link them to processes for providing feedback to teachers and other stakeholders to support improvement. Teachers reported improved understanding of student learning outcomes and appreciated the holistic feedback focused on literacy, numeracy, cognitive abilities and social maturity. The project reached 330 schools with 6,972 children across 11 districts.
■ In India, the Sesame Workshop Initiatives India Pvt. Ltd. became one of the first organizations to adapt and contextualize the EGRA into Hindi. The assessment tool was field tested, revised, and loaded onto tablets, using RTI’s Tangerine software.
■ In Sri Lanka, Save the Children created a learning and cognition assessment tool to screen students, which identified students who were having trouble learning to read and the learning challenges that were causing underperformance. More than 500 Grade 3 students from 30 schools were screened.
■ In Armenia, the Step by Step Benevolent Foundation created an emergent literacy assessment tool that assessed skills related to concepts about print, alphabet knowledge, and phonemic awareness. This was
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