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.