This study uses data from the Health and Literacy Intervention (HALI) program evaluation, an in-service teacher training program focused on early grade literacy instruction for class one teachers. We assess how changes in classroom instructional processes impacted by the HALI teacher training were associated with improved early literacy outcomes for children. We find that experimentally induced increases in exposure to print—measured both through changes to time spent reading in class and through print displayed in the classroom—were associated with improvements in students’ reading fluency and reading comprehension. Implications for global education efforts to improve learning outcomes are discussed.

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March 08, 2018

In 2015-2017 Twaweza East Africa implemented KiuFunza II, a randomized performance pay trial in the early grades of public primary schools in Tanzania. This trial is part of an experimental program to improve learning introduced by Twaweza in collaboration with J-PAL/IPA.

KiuFunza implemented two different teacher performance pay systems. The first system is called Stadi (levels) and rewards teachers based on the number of students that reach specific proficiency levels. The second is called Mashindano (gains) and rewards teachers based on their students’ test score ranking relative to children with the same starting level. 

The performance pay learning impact was studied in a nationally representative sample of 180 schools (60 schools randomly selected into each of the two incentive pay programs, and 60 control schools). The evaluation finds that both teacher performance pay systems improved student test scores. The simpler “levels” system was at least as effective in raising student learning as the more complex “gains” system.

Furthermore, the levels scheme had a more equitable distribution of benefits, improving learning across all initial ability levels.

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February 20, 2018
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Can outsourcing improve government services in fragile states? To answer this question, we present results from a field experiment to study the Partnership Schools for Liberia program. This program delegated management of 93 public schools — staffed by government teachers and run free of charge to students — to private providers. We randomly assigned treatment at the school level and sampled students from pre-treatment enrollment records to identify the effectiveness of the treatment without confounding the effect of endogenous sorting of pupils into schools. After one academic year, students in outsourced schools scored .18σ higher in English and mathematics than students in control schools. Private providers improved significantly reduced teacher absenteeism (“better management”), but also spent more per student and employed more teachers than control schools (“extra resources”). Non- experimental mediation analysis suggests better management and extra resources played roughly equal roles in improving student performance. Our design allows us to study heterogeneity across providers: While the highest-performing providers generated increases in learning of 0.26σ, the lowest-performing had no impact on learning. In line with program rules, there is no evidence that providers engaged in selective admissions, which was explicitly prohibited. However, one provider shifted pupils from oversubscribed schools and underperforming teachers to other government schools. This provider was the only one whose funding was not linked to the number of students enrolled, and whose contract did not forbid direct dismissal of teachers. These results suggest that using the private sector to improve government services in fragile states is promising, but also highlight the importance of procurement rules and contracting details in aligning public and private interests.

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February 06, 2018

We report results of a randomized control trial in which parents of primary school leavers were encouraged to open a convenient bank account operated over a mobile money platform. A lock savings account (LSA) was randomly promoted to half the treatment group. Treatment boosted account take-up by 25 percentage points. Intent-to-treat estimates show that being offered either account increased savings on the mobile phone. Total financial savings increased by 3-4 times, suggesting access to the mobile bank account crowded in other forms of savings. High school enrollment was 5-6 percentage points higher – representing a one third increase for compliers.

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January 23, 2018
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Do social networks matter for the adoption of new political communication technologies? We collect complete social network data for sixteen Ugandan villages where an innovative reporting mobile platform was recently introduced, and show robust evidence of peer effects on technology adoption. However, peer effects were not observed in all networks. We develop a formal model showing that while peer effects facilitate adoption of technologies with minimal externalities (like agricultural practices), it can be more difficult for innovations with significant positive externalities to spread through a network. Early adopters might exaggerate benefits, leading others to discount information about the technology’s value. Thus, peer effects are likely to emerge only where informal institutions support truthful communication. We show that the observable implications of our model are borne out in the data. These impediments to social diffusion might help explain the slow and varied uptake of new political communication technologies around the world.

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January 23, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its final bulletin from 2017. This bulletin features updates from our Saving for Safe Delivery study and the scale-ups of the food constraints and Catch Up projects. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's dissemination events for the "Making Ghanaian Girls Great!" and "Interpersonal Communication to Encourage Use of Female Condoms in Zambia" studies.

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January 16, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system.

Evidence Day, a part of the Ghana Ministry of Education's Education Week, will bring together policymakers, researchers, and practitioners to: a) share rigorous evidence about improving accountability and learning outcomes in education, in Ghana and internationally; b) identify ways in which evidence from evaluations can be used for better decision- making; and c) share monitoring and evaluation tools that can inform a framework of accountability for Ghana’s education sector.

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January 12, 2018
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Improving learning outcomes is a key policy priority in Ghana. To ensure that well-intentioned policy goals translate into improved learning outcomes, decision-makers are eager to: (1) evaluate the success of education programs through rigorous research; and (2) build sector-wide frameworks of accountability through improved monitoring and feedback mechanisms. Both forms of evidence are necessary for a strong education system.

The Ministry of Education is therefore calling for proposals for presentations on research relating to the aforementioned topics. Authors of accepted proposals may be invited to present their work at the Ghana education evidence summit scheduled to take place in July 2018.

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January 12, 2018
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Educators and policymakers want to strengthen teacher preparation in order to improve student learning, but evidence is lacking about what makes training most effective, especially in early childhood education. Researchers evaluated a pre-service mentoring and training program for student teachers of kindergarten in Ghana’s Western region. 

Preliminary Key Findings

»  The training program significantly improved student teachers’ implementation of the curriculum and knowledge of early childhood education and development.

»  The program’s impacts on teachers’ professional well-being were mixed: FTTT teachers had higher levels of motivation and feelings of personal accomplishment, but lower levels of job satisfaction when placed as full-time teachers.

»  One year after being placed as full-time teachers, these improvements had not translated into improved child learning or development outcomes.

»  An additional four-day head teacher sensitization training did not have any impacts on teaching quality or child outcomes. 

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October 23, 2017
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“Partnership Schools” are free, public schools managed by private operators. After one year, public schools managed by private operators raised student learning by 60 percent compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across operators, and contracts authorized the largest operator to push excess pupils and under-performing teachers into other government schools. Read the full paper here.

A brief detailing results after three years is available here.

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September 07, 2017
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After one year, public schools managed by private contractors in Liberia raised student learning by 60 percent, compared to standard public schools. But costs were high, performance varied across contractors, and contracts authorized the largest contractor to push excess pupils and underperforming teachers onto other government schools. (Download the full paper at the right, and online appendix from lower button).
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September 07, 2017
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Improving learning among low-achieving students is a challenge in education. We present results from the first randomized experiment of an inquiry-based remedial science education program for low-performing elementary students in a developing-country setting. Third-grade students in 48 low-income public elementary schools in Metropolitan Lima who score at the bottom half of their school distribution in a science test taken at the beginning of the school year are randomly assigned to receive up to 16 remedial science tutoring sessions of 90 minutes each. Control group compliance with assignment is close to perfect. Treatment group compliance is 40 percent, equivalent to 4.5 tutoring sessions, or a 4 percent increase in total science instruction time. Despite the low treatment intensity, students assigned to the remedial sessions score 0.12 standard deviations higher on a science endline test, with all gains concentrated among boys. We find no evidence of remedial education producing within-student spillovers to other subject areas (math or reading) or spillovers on other students in the classroom. We conclude that low-intensity remedial education can have an effect on science learning among low-achieving students

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September 01, 2017
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its second quarter bulletin of 2017. This bulletin features updates on our research projects on improving public services by improving staff allocation; trust, spontaneous clusters, and the growth of urban small- and medium-sized enterprises; and interpersonal communication to encourage use of the Maximum Diva Woman's Condom. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's presentation of preliminary results from the Girls Negotiation study in early May.

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August 22, 2017
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In lower- and middle-income countries, including Ghana, students in rural areas dramatically underperform their urban peers. Rural schools struggle to attract and retain professionally trained teachers (GES 2012; World Bank 2012). We explore one potential solution to the problem of teacher recruitment: distance instruction. Through a cluster randomized controlled trial, we estimate the impact of a program that broadcasts live instruction via satellite to rural primary school students. The program equipped classrooms in 70 randomly selected Ghanaian schools with the technology required to connect to a studio in Accra. An additional 77 schools served as the control. Instructors in Accra provided math and English lessons to classrooms in the treatment group. The model is interactive, and students in satellite classes could communicate in real time with their remote teachers. We estimate significant gains (p<.05) in rural students’ numeracy and foundational literacy skills. We find no impact on attendance and classroom time-on-task (as measured through unannounced classroom observations), suggesting that these gains may result from improved instructional quality rather than from increased instruction time.

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August 01, 2017
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In Liberia, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work described in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Liberian poor.

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June 08, 2017

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