In collaboration with International Child Support (ICS), researchers evaluated three nested interventions that addressed the large class sizes and heterogeneity in student preparation in the Kenyan school system: (1) the addition of locally hired contract teachers to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio; (2) the empowerment of parents within PTA committees through School-Based Management (SBM) training; and (3) the sorting of students by initial level of preparedness to reduce heterogeneity within the classroom.
Out of 210 primary schools, 140 were randomly assigned to receive the Extra Teacher Program (ETP). The ETP program provided funding to hire a local contract teacher to address classroom overcrowding. The remaining 70 schools served as a comparison group. In each school, ICS held a meeting with parents and teachers to explain the program rules regarding the hiring of an additional teacher. School committees were responsible for hiring the contract teachers and were free to replace or keep the original contract teacher based on performance. The contract teachers were paid approximately one-quarter of the salary of regular civil service teachers, but had the same educational qualifications.
In 2005, the first year of the program, the ETP contract teacher was assigned to grade 1. Two sections were created for grade 1, one taught by regular civil service teachers (with multiple teachers rotating in an out of the class, teaching different subjects) and one taught exclusively by the contract teacher. As a result, average class size in grade 1 was only 44 in ETP schools, compared to 82 in comparison schools. In the second year of the program, the ETP teacher moved to grade 2, such that the cohort of first graders that benefitted from the ETP program continued to benefit once in grade 2.
While in half of the ETP schools (the “non-tracking ETP schools”), students were divided into sections at random, in the other half (the “tracking ETP schools”), students were divided into sections based on students’ level of preparedness (as measured by exam scores during the first term). For all schools, which section was taught by the ETP contract teacher was then decided by random draw.
Finally, half of the schools assigned to ETP, including both tracking and non-tracking schools, were randomly selected to receive School-Based Management (SBM) training. The training was designed to empower parents (within the PTA committee) to ensure a fair and objective recruiting process for the ETP teacher, as well as to monitor teachers’ performance. Two parents of grade 1 students were asked to perform attendance checks on teachers on a regular basis.
Standardized tests covering math and literacy questions were administered to each school just before the program ended and again one year later. Four unannounced visits were also made to each school to measure teacher effort and to observe the classroom environment.