ACR GCD Round 1 Report


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Report on ACR GCD Round 1

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ROUND 1 REPORT (2011-2013)


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© FRIENDS OF MATÈNWA 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 Unless primary 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 successfully build 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- 4 |


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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 US$300,000 each. 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. @ReadingGCD | 5


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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. THE RESULTS 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. © PRAGYA SCALING 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. LESSONS LEARNED 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. 6 |


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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: 5,249 814,616 MATERIALS provided for teaching and learning TEACHERS educators, and teaching assistants provided training 449,414 LEARNERS received reading interventions at the primary level 125 PTAs or similar school governance structures supported 3,057 schools supported in the use of INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY @ReadingGCD | 7


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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 8 |


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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. © LUBUTO LIBRARY PROJECT ■ 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. @ReadingGCD | 9


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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. © FRIENDS OF MATÈNWA ■ 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. 10 |


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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). 12 |


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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: eight months. ■ 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 accomplish that. ■ 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. 14 |


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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 © PRAGYA @ReadingGCD | 15



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