Improving teaching and early-grade learning in Jordan through the USAID Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Initiative (RAMP)
To help Jordan’s Ministry of Education improve the reading and mathematics skills of students in kindergarten through grade 3 (K-3), and ensure integration of gender, disability, and refugee issues into its activities and materials.
RAMP supports the Ministry of Education to (1) improve early grades curricula, develop and distribute improved learning materials; (2) train and coach school personnel and administrators to provide more effective instruction; (3) promote parental involvement in reading and mathematics education; and (4) support nationwide adoption of early grade reading and mathematics policies, standards, curricula, and assessments.
RAMP has reached over 600,000 public school students and trained 18,000 teachers, including refugees from Syria and elsewhere. The proportion of grade 3 students who can do grade-level math with understanding increased from 20% in 2015 to 29% in 2019, while the proportion of grade 3 students who can read and understand grade-level text increased from 29% in 2015 to 33% in 2019. The proportion of grade 2 students who meet benchmarks for reading and understanding grade-level text almost doubled (from 8% to 14%) between 2015 and 2019.
The Government of Jordan has worked hard to increase access to education and has achieved nearly universal primary enrollment. But an influx of refugees, a quickly growing population, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to mounting stress on the country’s schools and teachers. Although access to education is high, learning outcomes remain disappointing: By third grade, only around one third of students in Jordanian schools are able to read at grade level.
Launched in 2015 with support from USAID and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Initiative (RAMP) launched nationwide after a successful pilot intervention that supported teachers to provide deliberate, structured, and developmentally appropriate daily instruction to improve students’ foundational skills for reading and mathematics.
The core approach of RAMP is to strengthens Jordan’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and works through it to deliver instructional reform and improve student outcomes in ways that can be scaled and institutionalized.
To date, RAMP has changed the learning trajectories of thousands of children, including refugees and children living with disabilities, by making high-quality learning materials and instruction available—even as the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person education impossible.
For example, between 2015 and 2019, the proportion of grade 3 students who can do grade-level math with understanding increased from 20% to 29%, while students who can read and understand grade-level text increased from 29% to 33%.
The gains in grade 2 were even higher: the proportion of students who meet benchmarks for reading and understanding grade-level text almost doubled (from 8% to 14%) between 2015 and 2019.
In addition, in 2021, there was a significant reduction in the literacy ‘zero scores’ for Grade 2 and Grade 3 students compared to 2019, despite the school closure of more than one year caused by COVID-19. These positive results in 2021 suggest that RAMP and Ministry of Education strategies to target low-performing students with additional support are succeeding.
Supporting Teachers through Training and Improved Teaching Guides
A fundamental aspect of RAMP was the support it lent the MOE to provide regular training and intensive in-class coaching to all active kindergarten through third grade (K-3) teachers in Jordan. The program facilitated almost 179,000 classroom visits to coach teachers in the implementation of research-based teaching methods.
As a result, teachers are now more systematically teaching phonics and phonemic awareness, helping children expand their vocabulary and improving their reading fluency and comprehension. In mathematics, children now learn through practical activities where they manipulate numbers to solve problems.
RAMP also equipped teachers with rapid reading and math tests to help them identify the needs of their students so they can differentiate instruction and meet each child’s academic needs. And it provided comprehensive in-service training for supervisors and administrators, who are now equipped to support teachers through regular classroom coaching and performance monitoring.
The methodologies of RAMP opened our eyes to all the possibilities and activities through which we can develop the reading and writing skills of our children and how we can do it," - Administrator at the Um Farwa elementary school in Amman’s Um Al-Soosa suburb
RAMP reached an important milestone in 2017, when the MOE accredited the program’s in-service and induction teacher training program. And the next year, RAMP and the MOE developed and distributed new teacher guides and learning materials, which integrated the RAMP approach to literacy and mathematics instruction.
All early grade teachers in Jordan are now required to complete RAMP training—ensuring that incoming teachers are trained using evidence-based and validated reading and mathematics instructional methods and materials.
In 2020 and 2021, RAMP and the MOE piloted and then expanded a new Senior Teacher program. This program selected and trained more than 300 experienced teachers and 2,500 principals to serve as school-based coaches, providing their peers with in-class visits and support. Senior teachers also facilitate Teachers’ Community of Practice meetings to exchange teaching experiences, discuss best practices and plan instruction. The pilot successfully improved student performance, and the MOE institutionalized the new Senior Teacher position in its licensing system and career path.
Improving Use of Data at the Field Directorate Level
With the support of RAMP, the MOE has put significant emphasis on strengthening the capacity of its Field Directorate personnel to use data about school, teacher, and student performance. RAMP supports these MOE personnel to review quarterly data from instructional coaching visits conducted by supervisors, as well as schools’ and students’ performance collected during annual surveys. Reports from coaching visits reveal critical information about teacher practice, such as use of teacher guides and learning materials, application of differentiated instruction, and inclusion of students with disabilities.
Analysis of school performance helps administrators to direct their resources and effort toward the schools and teachers needing more support. The Supervision Directorate and Field Directorates now use the Coaching and Supervision Management System to monitor the implementation of supervision and coaching plans, school performance and to increase accountability of stakeholders at all levels.
These data, along with performance indicators for more than 21,000 K-3 teachers and their students, are housed in a RAMP database now being adopted as a data management system completely operated by the MOE to facilitate continuous use of data for decision-making.
The difference between [the old supervision system and the new one] is that the latter reveals performance gaps among teachers and supervisors. Have the teacher’s needs been met? Did the supervisor adhere to the scheduled program? Did the supervisor rely on the teacher’s database of specific needs? This helps us, as decision-makers, take timely actions.” - MOE official
Promoting a Culture of Reading
To encourage children to read more—at school and home—RAMP supported the MOE to pilot reading incentive kits for over 2,500 schools. The kits consisted of storybooks, guidelines for teachers and parents, and reading log sheets for students and teachers. Students who turned in completed reading logs received certificates during special awards ceremonies. Teachers who applied RAMP methodologies also received special recognition at award ceremonies.
I would apply the initiative again because I have some weak [students] who improved significantly. They even compete with each other now and rehearse at home prior to reading in class. This developed their vocabulary and made them better [readers]." - Teacher
The results from the reading incentive kit pilot showed that in treatment schools, students read more frequently than in control schools, and interestingly, this was solely attributed to increases in boys' reading frequency. Data showed that girls in treatment schools did not read more frequently than girls in control schools. This was an important finding because girls had already been reading more than boys, so this activity helped to close the gender gap in reading.
The reading incentive program was scaled up and fully integrated with RAMP in 2017. In the 2021-2022 school year, RAMP piloted the usage of a series of decodable books as an integral part of the instruction process and will measure the effect on students’ reading performance. The introduction of decodable readers that are sequenced to align with the MOE syllabus will help beginning readers across different dimensions of reading, while sequentially building essential phonics concepts one upon another.
We read a story every day to expand our imagination and look further into our world. Parents may sometimes feel that attending a meeting for parents is an unnecessary burden, but I find it a means to follow up with my children and make sure I understand their strengths and weaknesses so I can work with the teacher hand in hand for the sake of my kids." - Parent who participated in pilot program
Preparing Students for Early Success
One of the primary goals of Jordan’s National Human Resources Development Strategy is achieving universal kindergarten enrollment by 2025. According to data from an MOE study supported by RAMP in 2018, approximately 16 percent of five-year-old children do not attend kindergarten because of cost, low quality, or distance.
RAMP is supporting the MOE to provide services for children entering first grade through a School Readiness Program, a three-week learning experience for children who did not have the opportunity to attend kindergarten, and for their parents. Each classroom received a "School Readiness Kit" of toys, games and activities designed to develop academic and social-emotional skills.
Preparing students for first grade requires that parents have knowledge and skills to support their children's learning at home. Embracing that idea, the School Readiness Program also trains parents on their children’s developmental and educational needs and how to support school-based learning.
In its first year, the program was implemented in 69 schools, trained over 1,800 parents, and helped over 1,900 children prepare to enter first grade. By August 2021, more than 5,800 children attended the School Readiness Program, including more than 1,000 refugee children.
We learned about the developmental characteristics and needs of the children, how to support their learning, and how to teach them as parents." - Mother who participated in the School Readiness Program with her son
Sustaining Reading Gains during the COVID-19 Pandemic
When COVID-19 struck Jordan in 2020 and all schools in the country were closed suddenly, RAMP helped the MOE to quickly adapt. RAMP experts collaborated with MOE specialists to design a quality early grades distance education program with online support and resources for teachers and parents. RAMP assisted the MOE to equip teachers with guidelines for distance instruction and provided all early grades students with workbooks for homework.
RAMP provided 20,000 home learning kits to the most vulnerable children in Jordan, including Syrian refugees. With support from RAMP, the MOE designed and launched an e-training platform for all teachers of all grades for professional development training. This e-training platform will be a foundation of the host the MOE’s continuous professional development program in the long term. RAMP and the MOE conducted a national assessment when schools briefly re-opened in March 2021 to measure students’ reading and math skills and determine the degree of any learning loss that may have occurred during the pandemic. The results of this assessment have been used to develop a remedial education strategy that the MOE began implementing at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Despite COVID-19 school closures, RAMP managed to stem potential learning loss in literacy skills for struggling students through distance learning and support strategies that reduced ‘zero scores’ for second and third graders between 2019 and 2021. In the next phase of RAMP, the program will increase its focus on supporting teachers to better meet the needs of struggling students.
- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
- Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
- Jordan Ministry of Education
- Queen Rania Teacher Academy
- Change Agent for Arab Development and Education Reform
- Dajani Consulting
- The Kaizen Company
- Mercy Corps
- Prodigy Systems
- We Love Reading
- Queen Rania Foundation (QRF)
- Integrated International
- Edvise ME