Designing for Scale
Reflections on rolling out reading improvement in Kenya and Liberia
Since 2008, the Ministries of Education in Liberia and Kenya have undertaken transitions from small-scale pilot programs to improve reading outcomes among primary learners to the large-scale implementation of reading interventions. The effects of the pilots on learning outcomes were significant, but questions remained regarding whether such large gains could be sustained at scale. In this article, the authors dissect the Liberian and Kenyan experiences with implementing large-scale reading programs, documenting the critical components and conditions of the program designs that affected the likelihood of successfully transitioning from pilot to scale. They also review the design, deployment, and effectiveness of each pilot program and the scale, design, duration, enabling conditions, and initial effectiveness results of the scaled programs in each country.
The implications of these results for the design of both pilot and large-scale reading programs are discussed in light of the experiences of both the Liberian and Kenyan programs. [Published in a special issue, Progress toward a literate world: Early reading interventions in low-income countries] Given the limited rigorous research in the area of improving literacy outcomes in southern contexts and the small subset of research in this area that attempts to make causal inferences regarding the effects of programs on student outcomes, both the EGRA Plus and PRIMR programs were designed using random selection and assignment methods at the zonal and school-cluster levels. In addition to randomization, the designs were structured to use a differences-in-differences (DiD) identification strategy.