Associate 2020-21

Rebecca Thornton


Thornton imageSolid Foundations in Early Grade Literacy and Post-Primary School Transitions

Do foundational investments in early grade reading lead to improved learning outcomes in later years? If so, is one year of an intervention enough? Can a low-cost literacy program be as effective over time as a more costly one? This study will extend a longitudinal dataset of students who were participants in a randomized literacy intervention during grades 1-4, as they transitioned out of primary school and into their adolescent years. The original study involved students who entered the first grade in 2013 and 2014 in 128 primary schools in Northern Uganda. The study found that the literacy program raised reading by the equivalent of 6.3 grade-levels of learning by the end of the fourth grade in mother tongue reading—among the largest improvements ever achieved for a randomized education intervention. There were also large effects on English reading among students receiving the intervention. This proposed study will extend the data and contribute additional analysis to 1) measure the effects of foundational literacy skills in primary school—due to the intervention—on primary school completion, secondary school enrollment, and learning outcomes (while also measuring labor market participation, aspirations, motivation, and other measures of well-being); 2) compare the differential effects of two versions of delivery of the literacy program (a full-cost version and a lower-cost version) to estimate the differences in cost-effectiveness; and 3) compare two levels of exposure to the program (one year vs. four years) to estimate the differences in cost-effectiveness. The project will collect and analyze data from approximately 2,600 students in two cohorts in grades 7 and 8 to understand how foundational literacy skills affect school and life transitions.