Despite relatively high enrollment rates at both primary and secondary schools in the Caribbean, recent assessments show that only nine percent of Grade 2 students are reading at or above grade level in the OECS Member States. This low proficiency in reading directly impacts student performance in other subjects and affects longer term prospects for employment or advanced education. Low reading proficiency levels are one of the drivers behind the region’s elevated school drop-out rates. Being a school drop-out puts youth at higher risk for involvement in crime and violence. To address these challenges, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports programs that improve the reading achievement levels of grade K-3 students in the six independent OECS Member States of Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
USAID's multifaceted approach targets early grade students and aims to cultivate a culture of reading to support literacy and academic attainment. The overarching goal is to promote positive youth development and to create a more prosperous Caribbean region. In this regard, USAID also contributes significantly to the region’s focus on evidence-based decision making by providing up-to-date data on regional reading performance and teacher education. In 2016, USAID conducted a comprehensive Early Grade Reading Assessment along with studies on reading and teacher education. Assessment results indicated that only 9% percent of Grade 2 students are reading at or above grade level, with 33% of students reading at the Grade 1 level, and 58% below the Grade 1 level. This low proficiency in reading directly impacts student performance in other subjects such as language arts, science and math. In addition to contributing to the regional knowledge base in reading, the assessment and studies support ongoing beneficiary country efforts to sustain critical program components while providing feedback to teachers and education officials on student achievement and how teacher professional development impacts student performance. For example, the assessment demonstrated that males consistently perform worse than females in key learning assessments, a noted trend in the region. To address this disparity, USAID expands teachers’ knowledge of instructional techniques equipping them to better respond to gender differences and ensure disadvantaged students are better served. Partnerships are central to USAID's approach , and achieving the goal of improving early grade reading achievement involves extensive collaboration with entities such as regional and national teachers’ unions, parent-teacher associations, the US Peace Corps and NGO partners.
- Improve early grade reading perfromance by creating a culture of reading
- Improve student teachers’ capacity to assess and teach early grade reading
- Develop current teachers’ capacity to assess and teach reading through training, coaching, and classroom observations
- Identify and formatively address student reading needs
- Support reading activities in the classroom and in libraries using student and teacher handbooks, library books, and whole-class learning aids
- Support the revision and endorsement of the OECS curriculum framework in each member state
- Fund community-initiated early grade literacy activities
- Support children learning to read in the language they speak and understand.
- Provide improved teaching and learning materials to primary schools