An evaluation of the long-term impact of school-based literacy interventions in coastal Kenya: The effects on literacy performance and enrollment status eight years later

An evaluation of the long-term impact of school-based literacy interventions in coastal Kenya: The effects on literacy performance and enrollment status eight years later

First Author: Margaret (Peggy) Dubeck -- RTI International / Univ. of Virginia
Keywords: Intervention studies, Assessment, Drop out, Biliteracy, Spelling
Abstract / Summary: 

Using tracer methodology we evaluated the long-term impact of an experimental literacy intervention in 101 schools in coastal Kenya on academic achievement, school status, and life outcomes. The HALI interventions consisted of three treatments - systematic and explicit literacy instruction in grade 1 and 2, buddy reading in grade 3, a combination, and a control. Five years later when the sample (n=9,375) should have reached grade 8, we traced and interviewed half (n=5,068) to their current public school or home.

One objective was to assess the impact of the literacy interventions on academic achievement. To make a valid comparison between baseline children who persisted to grade 8 to those who dropped out of school, we administered reading and spelling achievement measures regardless of condition. To compare children who were in the literacy interventions to control who persisted to grade 8 in 2017 or 2018, we collected national primary leaving exam results. We find mixed treatment effects which we partially explain through attrition. We find that all the code-based measures administered in grade 1 are predictive of English and Swahili performance in grade 8 (p < 0.0001).

A second objective was to understand the impact of the literacy intervention on school dropout. In our earlier work with this sample, we found differential attrition between conditions which we did not continue. To understand reasons for dropping out, we interviewed 379 participants to learn that most based the decision on poor academic performance which challenges some perceptions that dropout is caused by finances or family situations. Baseline characteristics that predicted dropout were grade 1 spelling, language status, books in the home, and socio-economic status.

Following this large sample eight years after the initial literacy intervention offers a significant opportunity to understand the role of improved literacy instruction in a context that has minimal longitudinal studies.