No More Dead End Scores for Kenyan Kids: Building a WISERBridge to Secondary School

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No More Dead End Scores for Kenyan Kids: Building a WISERBridge to Secondary School

Kenya
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

WISERBridge promotes equal access to higher education by improving primary students’ academic outcomes through remedial student revision courses, targeted teacher professional development, streamlined benchmark assessments, collaboration between students, parents and educators, and an incentivized pay system.  WISERBridge enforces accountability to student performance, empowering students, teachers and parents through its vision.

Unlike many educational programs, WISERBridge does not focus on resources like textbooks to increase educational outcomes.  Instead, it focuses on the interaction between the key people involved in education, the teachers and the students.  

Our main goal is to raise the KCPE exam scores to a 275 average by November.  Given a comprehensive baseline examination in January as a mock KCPE, students in Standard 8 scored a 193 average out of 500 possible points.  By the end of the first term in March, students increased their average on another comprehensive, mock KCPE assessment to a 230 average.  In only one term, Muhuru Bay is almost half way to their goal of a 275 average, an increase of nearly 20%. 

WISERBridge has spawned other ideas for development within the division.  Since communities in Muhuru Bay are held accountable to specific quantitative goals, many find innovative ways to improve the standard of education in the community.  For example, in order to increase the amount of time students are able to revise at night, parents and schools have invested in solar lighting.  The attitude of students, parents, and educators in the primary schools has shifted from hopeless to inspired, with educators and students competing against one another and working incredibly hard to achieve specific, measurable goals.

 

About You
Location
Project Street Address

P.O. Box 51

Project City

Muhuru Bay

Project Province/State

Nyanza

Project Postal/Zip Code

40409

Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:

Kenya

What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

YouTube Upload

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What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

<$10

Innovation
Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

WISERBridge promotes equal access to higher education by improving primary students’ academic outcomes through remedial student revision courses, targeted teacher professional development, streamlined benchmark assessments, collaboration between students, parents and educators, and an incentivized pay system. WISERBridge enforces accountability to student performance, empowering students, teachers and parents through its vision.

What makes your idea unique?

Unlike many educational programs, WISERBridge does not focus on resources like textbooks to increase educational outcomes. Instead, it focuses on the interaction between the key people involved in education, the teachers and the students. Master teachers at each primary school are provided with a supplemental incentive for teaching extra hours to prepare students for the KCPE exam. At each of the 11 primary schools now involved in the program, 7-8 extra hours of instructional time are added to the school week for Standard 8 students, with a heavy focus on the core subjects that will help students in secondary school – English, Mathematics and Kiswahili.

Selected by the headteachers to lead these revision courses, teachers are then kept accountable to the student results through a pay for performance metric. Teachers are expected to help their students grow a specified amount of points each term, and in turn, are rewarded when students achieve these measurable outcomes. While there have been several experiments to see the effects of pay for performance in Kenya, the focus on specific quantitative results, differentiated by the scores at the different primary schools, is unique. In addition, WISERBridge provides access to remedial revision courses for all students registered in Standard 8. There are no restrictions as to age, gender or geographic location. Thus, every child or adult enrolled in Standard 8 receives an ample opportunity to increase their performance.

Most importantly, WISERBridge has spawned other ideas for development within the division. Since communities in Muhuru Bay are held accountable to specific quantitative goals, many find innovative ways to improve the standard of education in the community. For example, in order to increase the amount of time students are able to revise at night, parents and schools have invested in solar lighting. The attitude of students, parents, and educators in the primary schools has shifted from hopeless to inspired, with educators and students competing against one another and working incredibly hard to achieve specific, measurable goals.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , At risk youth , Boys' development , Education , Education reform , Girls' development , Youth development , Youth leadership , Development & Prosperity , Community development , Economic development , Poverty alleviation , Rural development , Scholarships and grants , Sustainable development , Urban development , Rural , Urban , Health education , HIV/AIDS , Wellness , Human Rights & Peace , Civil rights , Gender equity , Men's issues , Vulnerable populations , Women's issues , Men's Issues , Transparency , Women's Issues , Youth leadership.

What impact have you had?

While the implementation of WISERBridge is only five months old, it has had an incredibly and measurable impact in the Muhuru Bay community. Our goal is to raise the KCPE exam scores to a 275 average by November. Given a comprehensive baseline examination in January as a mock KCPE, students in Standard 8 scored a 193 average out of 500 possible points. By the end of the first term in March, students increased their average on another comprehensive, mock KCPE assessment to a 230 average. In only one term, Muhuru Bay is almost half way to their goal of a 275 average, an increase of nearly 20%. In fact, one school increased their students’ average 71 points from their original baseline scores of the same children. And this is only after three months of intensified review. While the same jump in growth is not feasible for the next two terms, a 275 point average was an unthinkable number just five short months ago. Because of this growth, 100% of the girls selected to become a part of WISER are expected to be from the Muhuru Bay community.

In addition to these outcomes, there are numerous immeasurable outcomes that demonstrate the impact of WISERBridge. Attitudes toward education, school culture, collaboration amongst primary school teachers, and primary school competition have all been affected in a positive way by WISERBridge. While teachers are motivated to help their students perform with transparent outcome, and they are in direct competition with other primary schools, there is also a sense of shared responsibility amongst the teachers in the community. They realize that the goal is to increase the academic average and rigor in all of Muhuru Bay. This sense has even urged leaders in the community to monitor the results of their local schools, encouraging the entire community to play a part in increasing the academic standard for primary students in Class 8.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

In the beginning, WISERBridge was created as a supplemental program to address the problem that our larger organization, WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) was having in finding qualified candidates for our secondary school for girls. Currently, only 5% of girls in Muhuru enroll in secondary school. Most are forced into early marriages without hesitation; funds for secondary school are given to boys in the family or are even just used to survive. If a girl acquires the funds for secondary school, it is often through prostitution, where women are seen as selling their bodies to feed their mids. In fact, most girls in Muhuru Bay do not achieve the 250 point average required to even enter secondary school. The average for Muhuru Bay last year was only a 213, the lowest in all of Migori District, and arguably one of the lowest in the country.

Muhuru Bay is not unique, however. According to a speech made on 18 February 2009 about the enrolment rates of children in schools, President Kibaki of Kenya stated, “At secondary level, the net enrolment rate stands at 25.2 percent for boys and 23.2 percent for girls." While Kenya suffers from a low net secondary enrolment as a country, in hardship areas like Muhuru Bay, the problem is much worse. Thus, in order for girls to even qualify to enter the doors of a secondary school like WISER, an institution rearing to be one of the best secondary schools in the country, we needed to increase the academic rigor of the community. The headteachers and administrators of the 9 public primary schools in the area and the Executive Director of WISER created the idea for the program, WISERBridge.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

What makes WISERBridge a successful program is that all important steps were designed and implemented from the key stakeholders and community members in Muhuru Bay. In addition, WISERBridge is always soliciting feedback and adjusting course based on this feedback in order to make it as effective as possible. Most importantly, every step is taken carefully so as to ensure that it is moving students towards making substantial academic outcomes. The steps that have been involved in these ongoing processes are as follows:

1.) Initial Brainstorming of Program – Critical thought and strategic thinking took place between master teachers, educators, community officials such as chiefs and divisional officers, and WISER Board members to make the program as simple and effective as possible with a limited amount of resources. The focus became on the people involved in the program, with two-thirds of the budget going directly to the supplemental payments of the teachers. From these ideas, the WISERBridge determined its quantitative and qualitative goals as well as its strategic plan.

2.) Acquiring SEED Funding – In order to acquire the $10,000 USD needed to fund the initial year of the program, a grant was written and fulfilled through the Goldman Sachs Foundation.

3.) Organizing Logistics - The basic components of the program consist of 7 hours of extra instructional time, before or after school with a heavier focus on English, Mathematics and Kiswahili, the subjects that students score the lowest in. The WISERBridge Director and headteachers also coordinated: the creation and distribution of streamlined assessments, differentiated schedules of instructional time for each of the nine primary schools in the area, the distribution of additional resources, the pay for performance metrics, a handbook of teacher and student expectations.

4.) Investing Teachers and Students – WISERBridge gauged the best way to invest teachers and students in the program, providing positive reinforcement for the teachers with the pay for performance metric. Teachers receive a food allowance that increases term to term if their students reach benchmark goals. Students receive awards for improvement and performance based on their end of term exam results. Awards range from solar powered flashlights to movie viewings in town, and have proven extremely effective in increasing student motivation. In addition, they also participate in “student exchanges,” in which they visit the highest performing primary school in the division so that they are motivated in achieving.

5.) Increasing Rigor in the Classroom – After logistics and investment were secured, the WISERBridge Director focused on the rigor in the classroom, ensuring that lessons are organized, relevant and effective, teachers are following schemes of work, teachers are engaging students in lessons, assessment data is utilized from formative assessments, and students have ample time for independent work. Teachers are scored on a 3-point rubric for each of the topics above by both the WISERBridge Director and other educators that observe the lessons.

6.) Increasing Parental Awareness and Involvement – Parents are given opportunities to learn more about WISERBridge and their students’ performance. They are invited to awards ceremonies, receiving awards for their children’s performance. In addition, several schools have increased parental involvement through the use of their school committees, inviting parents for informational sessions on WISERBridge, the KCPE, and scholarship opportunities for secondary school.

7.) Continually Increasing the Effectiveness – WISERBridge realizes that it is still a new organization and it encourages formal and informal feedback from the community. Teachers continually fill out surveys to provide concrete feedback, the WISERBridge Director solicits direct feedback from each headteacher and deputy weekly as well. WISERBridge then uses this feedback to adjust course when things are not working or can be made better. For example, when teachers were complaining that their food supplement was not enough for the amount of time and effort put into WISERBridge, our program responded immediately, using a focus group to uncover the idea of a pay for performance type system. In addition, when students at the two lowest schools seemed discouraged after the first end of term exam, the WISERBridge Director met with these schools to create action plans for students and teachers to become reinvested in the program. One of the reasons that WISERBridge has been so effective is because it has been successfully incorporated into each of the schools in a different way. It adapts and adjusts course based on the schools’ needs instead of following a rigid model.

Impact
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

While WISERBridge has already demonstrated an impact in its first few months, we need to ensure that teachers, students and other stakeholders are continually invested in meeting the goals of the first year. Goals for 2009 are as follows:
1.) Increase KCPE exam scores by an average of 82 points for the Standard 8 students in Muhuru Bay primary schools. (This is a 42% increase, with the beginning measurement being a baseline examination, in which the average score was 193 points out 500. If students in Muhuru meet their goal, they will have increased to a 275 average.)
2.) Ensure that over 70% of admissions to WISER are from the local community.
3.) Build measurement tools that increase data-driven instruction in the community to increase the awareness of academic standing for the students, parents, and teachers and to increase the level of rigor exhibited by the students.
4.) Ensure the success of a Teacher Resource Center and student study centers so that teachers and students are empowered with the tools to increase KCPE exam scores.
5.) Increase collaboration between and among teachers, students, parents and administrators in the community.
6.) Ensure the program’s self-sustainability through entrepreneurial endeavors and businesses.

Because WISERBridge is already funded until January 2010, we are focusing exclusively on these goals to ensure its success.

Success in Year 2:

In order for WISERBridge to continue its success in its second year, teachers, students, parents, and administrators need the tools to increase the rigor and standard of education in the primary schools. To be successful in Year 2, WISERBridge must continue to promote equal opportunities for girls and boys to advance to higher levels of education. While part of this goal involves continually improving KCPE exam scores for Standard 8 students, WISERBridge also aims to narrow the “gender gap” in the primary schools in Muhuru in the following ways:
1.) Expand WISERBridge to other upper primary classes (Classes 5-7), utilizing differentiated goals for particular grade levels that are meant to increase rigor in the classroom, benchmark successes, and invest students in performing at higher levels.
2.) Professionally develop teachers with technology training, expert seminars, school visits, and other means to improve the quality of instruction.
3.) Assist schools with entrepreneurial endeavors that will help them to generate extra income for student groups, materials, teacher incentives, and other investments.
4.) Increase communication, collaboration and competition amongst the primary schools in Muhuru Bay.
5.) Create opportunities for students in Standard 8 to receive funds for secondary schooling.

WISERBridge relies on a $15,000 USD budget that will also need to be fulfilled through WISER NGO donations, outside grants, and income generated from small business endeavors.

Success in Year 3:

In Year 3, WISERBridge must focus on tightening all of the programmatic initiatives set out in Years 1 and 2. While Year 3 may have different quantitative goals, it will still follow along the same vision as set out from the beginning. Most importantly, Year 3 must ensure the shift in funding from external sources to internal sources. Our goal is to have 75% of funding come internally from within the schools, with 25% coming from outside sources, mostly to fund the salary of the WISERBridge Director.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)

Yes, we have a strategic plan for the next 3 years. We also have strategic plans for 2009 and for each term within 2009 in order to ensure progress to our long-term and short-term goals.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

Shift the funding from external, grassroots donations to internal sources, with funds coming directly from the schools themselves. In order for this project to be sustainable without the support of the WISER NGO and school, it is essential that schools develop entrepreneurial initiatives to help them secure funding for their individualized needs of the program. By doing so, they will be able to expand the program in ways that they see fit for the school. Several schools are interested in launching such entrepreneurial intiatives and are acquiring venture capital to do so. We are helping them to seek small loans or venture capital grants from organizations such as SolarAid and Caleb Bank to get them started in this process.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Include an additional motivational factor in the program by providing greater opportunities for students to gain scholarships for secondary school. While WISERBridge motivates students with a clear, measurable goal, it has been difficult for students to see beyond primary school simply because of secondary school fees. Working in conjunction with the businesses that WISERBridge wants to include in each of the primary schools, we also think it is vital for primary schools to provide its students with greater opportunities for secondary school in the form of scholarships. Because the average salary earned in Muhuru Bay is around 80 KSH ($1 USD) per month, funding secondary school is not an option for many families. If primary schools are able to incentivize the students with monetary support, however, this could increase student motivation and lead to even higher academic outcomes.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Continually increase the effectiveness of the program, proving its feasibility so that it can serve as a model for other high-need communities in Africa. In order to do so, it is important for the program to grow programmatically and achieve the goals and results expected in its first two years. This is an action that is already ongoing, but is of utmost importance. Teachers are solicited for feedback consistently and thoughtfully, and adjustments are continually made to ensure the program is working. Programmatic changes that are occurring include the expansion of WISERBridge to all upper primary classes, increased amount of resources for students and teachers, increasing parental involvement, and increasing the rigor in the classroom.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

If schools are able to fund the project internally, they will be able to expand the program in ways that they see fit for their school. For example, schools that are extremely isolated from any roads or markets can help fund fieldtrips for students to travel to such areas in order to gain more exposure to the outside world. This will help with student motivation and teacher motivation, thereby driving up student results. As mentioned, schools will also be able to fund scholarship programs for its primary students. This motivates students to perform, and gives them a concrete way of acquiring the funds desperately needed to attend secondary school.

By tightening the programmatic elements already in place, we expect that the academic outcomes of the students will continue to rise. After proving its success over two full school years, WISERBridge could be an effective model for other hardship areas to utilize in Kenya and throughout Africa.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In May of 2008, our WISER Board realized that while we were building a secondary school for girls, very few of the girls in our community would even qualify to enter the doors of WISER. Worried that we wouldn't be able to serve the very population we were building a school for, I had a brief conversation with one of the headteachers of a nearby primary school, Senye. When I asked him what the solution he thought we needed to raise the admittance of girls in secondary he suggested the idea of "bridging" them from primary to secondary school through a supplemental program. Hence, the idea for "WISERBridge" was born.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

WISERBridge itself is a true community project, being formulated from meetings and brainstorming sessions with government officials, headteachers, teachers, WISER Board members, and students. The social innovator behind the project is the community, and it has been so successful so quickly because of this.

WISER, however, is an organization that was founded from a partnership between a Duke University professor, a Duke student, and me. I am currently the Director of the Institute for Gender, Poverty, and Development at Egerton University, and I grew up in the Muhuru Bay community. In fact, I am the only woman from Muhuru Bay to ever earn a university degree, and I am the only person from Muhuru to earn a Philosophical Doctorate. I do not want to be the anamoly. Together with this community partnership, I am ready to make a systemic change and sustainable impact in Muhuru and Kenya.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

I first heard about Changemakers through a friend.

Sustainability
What would prevent your project from being a success?

Even a teachers’ strike in Kenya could not stop it from being a success! Key organizers of the program must believe in its vision and have a sense of possibility that this program can change the standard of primary education in Africa. If key organizers are not convinced or not invested in the project, it is difficult to motivate educators, administrators, and community members to invest in it as well. Just like any great teacher invests her students in the work that is being done in the classroom, the key organizers must also lead the stakeholders in WISERBridge to continually believe in, support, and work hard to achieve the goals of the project.

Financing source

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

WISER (Women's Institute for Secondary Education and Research)

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

1-5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

We have a Board of Directors.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)

Yes.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)

Yes.

The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)

Yes.

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Our partnership with SolarAid, Kenya has been critical in providing our community with affordable lighting for classrooms, homes, and churches. In addition SolarAid is also providing macro solar installations at two of the primary schools in the area, giving them the venture capital necessary to start small businesses at their schools. In this way, these schools will be able to start funding their WISERBridge programs without the help of the WISER NGO.

Because our WISERBridge Director is affiliated with Teach For America, we also have a fantastic partnership with staff members of this U.S. NGO. Teach For America has provided many of the ideas and instructional materials utilised in teacher seminars, and following its focus on measurable outcomes has been crucial in the success of WISERBridge.

Our partnership with the local government in Kenya has been crucial to our success. All of the four local chiefs and the divisional officer of Muhuru Bay have been instrumental in promoting WISERBridge at each of the local schools. In addition, councilors, the area education officer, opinion leaders, and even the local Member of Parliament in Nyatike Constituency have all recognised WISER as a leader in educational development in the community of Muhuru Bay, and Nyanza and in general.

Several small businesses have also partnered with WISER in order to help provide materials and resources for the WISERBridge classrooms such as printer ink, paper, textbooks, and other office supplies. One of the largest business partners is called the YSE (Young Social Entrepreneurs), which donates 15% of its proceeds directly to WISER. This partnership was started in the community by the youth leadership and has been an incredibly monetary support network in Muhuru Bay.

WISER also partners with numerous partner schools in the U.S. that are invaluable in terms of providing volunteer support, monetary support, and ideas for the school itself. They also volunteered within WISERBridge classrooms, helping to increase the rigor and expectations of the students in Standard 8.

How many people will your project serve annually?

For the first year, our project serves 400 students, with access given to all students in Standard 8. We also serve 42 teachers. If you include the families of the students and the impact that this will have in the community, we indirectly serve 36,000 people in Muhuru Bay. By 2010, we aim to also include standards 6 and 7, which is 1500 students in the community. With expansion to other communities in Kenya or Africa, this project could serve millions of students throughout the continent annually.

What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

150, mostly consisting of volunteers.

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) .

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