International Education Projects: Liberia

Liberia Teacher Training Program II (2010–2015)

Client/Agency

United States Agency for International Development

Description

The Liberia Teacher Training Program II (LTTP II) assists the Liberian Ministry of Education to comprehensively address the needs of the teacher training and support system for basic education, with a particular focus on early grade reading and mathematics instruction. The program is building on lessons learned and best practices of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia project implemented by RTI.

RTI is a subcontractor to FHI360. Under LTTP II, RTI is responsible for developing the national standards-based model for reading and mathematics instruction in grades 1-3, as well as the curriculum, textbooks, teaching and learning materials, tests and continuous assessments to support that instructional model. RTI is overseeing the roll-out of in-service training and support for practicing teachers to begin following the new reading and math instructional models in approximately 2,000 schools across Liberia. RTI is leading workshops in the instruction methods for Liberian trainers, in-service teachers and pre-service trainees. The pre-service trainees are pursuing certification as primary grade teachers through the Rural Teacher Training Institutes that are also receiving institutional capacity building under LTTP II. In year one of the project, the workshops had 1000 participants. RTI is also developing video lessons of exemplary teaching practices to reinforce the in-service teacher training.

Meanwhile, RTI is training teachers and school supervisors in how to conduct student assessments in early grade reading and math and helping develop student and school report cards in reading and math to appraise parents and communities of learning outcomes. RTI is building the capacity of national education ministry staff to conduct EGRA and the early grade math assessment (EGMA) to measure the impact of the new instructional models on student learning.

LTTP II is an associate award under the EQUIP 2 Leaders with Associates project.

Core Education Skills for Liberian Youth (CESLY) (2009-2011)

Client/Agency

United States Agency for International Development

Description

Core Education Skills for Liberian Youth aims to assist Liberian youth in developing the skills and attitudes necessary to progress in the conventional academic and employment system, maintain healthy lifestyles, participate in their communities, and access education.

As a subcontractor to Education Development Center, RTI is tasked with administering Early Grade Reading and Math Assessments to monitor students' progress in literacy and numeracy. Information gathered through these assessments is used for overall monitoring of the project's success and for improving basic literacy and numeracy among youth through traditional formal education programs and non-formal education programs for out-of-school youth.

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The Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia Program (2008-2011)

Client/Agency

United States Agency for International Development

Description

The Liberian Ministry of Education requested assistance to improve student reading skills in English in the early grades of school through evidence-based instruction. In response, USAID funded RTI and the Liberian Education Trust to design and conduct a randomized controlled trial, Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) Plus: Liberia, as both an intervention and an experiment in early reading improvement in seven districts.

Two levels of intervention—a "light treatment" and a "full treatment"—were applied in schools and then compared against a control group of schools that followed the standard reading instruction approach in Liberia. Pre- and post-tests in all three groups showed whether students receiving the treatment made reading gains significantly greater than those of students in the control group.

In the light treatment group, the project assessed reading levels using an EGRA adapted to the Liberian context, informed schools of the results and showed them how to share the results with the community through report cards. This minimal intervention was designed to test an "accountability" hypothesis—that simply receiving information about students' reading levels would motivate teachers and parents to focus on reading instruction and lead to student reading gains.

In the full treatment group, the project assessed student reading levels; informed parents and communities; trained teachers on how to continually assess student performance; and provided teachers frequent school-based teaching support, specified lessons plans, resource materials, and books for students to use in class and take home.

RTI conducted the EGRA Plus experiment in 180 schools divided into three groups of 60 corresponding to the light treatment, full treatment, and control groups. Grades 2 and 3 were the target of the interventions. A baseline early grade reading assessment found that students in all three groups were starting from similar reading levels. The intervention began in January 2009.

Results

At the final student assessment in June 2010, RTI found that after one-and-a-half years of intervention students in the full treatment group (grades 2 and 3 combined) outperformed their peers in all reading skills:

  • The average student in the full treatment group had increased their oral reading fluency and reading comprehension at four times the rate of students in the control group.
  • More than 40% of students in the full treatment group read a passage with 80%–100% comprehension, compared to less than 20% of students in the control group.
  • The average student in the full treatment group also improved in nonsense word fluency—sounding out invented words that resemble English words—12 times as fast as the control group, indicating that EGRA Plus had a particularly large impact on improving children's decoding skills, which is a key intermediate step to unlocking fluency and comprehension.


The overall effect size of the full intervention was a standard deviation of 0.8, considered large for social science projects. This effect was gender, age, and grade neutral.

The light treatment group did not significantly outperform the control group, indicating that even though assessment can focus teachers on the importance of reading, accountability alone did not improve the teaching and learning process.

Based on the remarkable success of EGRA Plus: Liberia, RTI will support the Ministry of Education to scale up the intervention to nearly 2000 schools in nine counties as an implementing partner on the USAID Liberia Teacher Training Program 2.

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