Assessment

New USAID Strategy Addresses Quality Along With Access

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 07, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The federal agency that helps underwrite schooling in developing countries has released a new education strategy that broadens the agency’s traditional focus on increasing access to pay more attention to the quality of schooling.

The strategy provides a framework for the U.S. Agency for International Development to become more involved with informal education, secondary education, workforce development, and higher education.

“We want to discipline ourselves to say, ‘It’s not just the number of classes and kids,’ but rather, ‘Are they really learning?’ ” John Grayzel, the director of the office of education in the USAID’s bureau for economic growth, agriculture, and trade, said in an interview. “They have to be learning what’s truly relevant to their lives.”

“Education Strategy: Improving Lives Through Learning” is available from the United States Agency of International Development.

Mr. Grayzel said the strategy would be followed for at least five years. He and other USAID officials publicly released a report late last month outlining the strategy during a daylong meeting and forum here at the National Press Club. The Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, which is made up of leaders of international-development organizations, hosted the event.

The 21-page education strategy includes two objectives for the USAID’s education projects: continued promotion of equal access to a high-quality basic education, and help for countries in moving beyond basic education to equip people with specific job skills.

Under the new strategy, for example, the USAID may support more projects like the kind it subsidized in Egypt. In that North African country, the federal agency helped companies identify the skills needed in the tourist industry and provide training for those skills.

Influencing the Curriculum

The game plan doesn’t clarify the extent to which the USAID will get involved in influencing education curricula in other countries, which has been a particularly sensitive issue in the Muslim world.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings told reporters during a trip to Jordan last month that the United States was not trying to “influence or interfere” in curricula in Middle Eastern countries, according to a May 24 article in the Jordan Times.

USAID officials announced last school year that the agency would not take part in writing a curriculum for Iraq, where an education overhaul has been under way since the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. At the May 25 gathering at the press club, agency officials gave a less definitive answer than Ms. Spellings did about U.S. policy on curriculum development in other countries.

The decision to “not get involved in curriculum development is specifically for Iraq,” said Norman Rifkin, an education policy adviser for the USAID.

Two panelists at the meeting, Stephen F. Moseley, the president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Academy for Educational Development, which operates education programs abroad, and James Wile, the director of the international division of the Newark, Del.-based International Reading Association, said they didn’t think Americans should be writing curricula for other countries. But, they said, it is appropriate for the United States to help countries improve their curricula in other ways, such as through teacher training.

Short Shrift?

Those same panelists embraced the shift in the USAID education strategy, while also pointing out aspects of education development that they believe have been given short shrift.

Mr. Moseley said the report should have talked more about how to measure learning achievement. “We’ve been very good at measuring inputs,” he said, noting that the USAID provides statistics on how many girls are enrolled in schools and on graduation rates. “We haven’t been good at measuring the learning gains in schools.”

Mr. Moseley said the report also should have devoted more attention to how schools can include people with disabilities. “That’s something this country is good at,” he said. Although Mr. Moseley doesn’t usually advocate transplanting U.S. strategies to other countries, in the case of special education, he said, it might be worthwhile.

Mr. Wile said the new strategy doesn’t talk about how the USAID can support the availability of reading material in poor countries. “We can invest a lot of money in teachers and in helping people to become literate, but they have nothing to read. … The United States could provide support for printing.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Don’t Use State Tests ‘Punitively,’ Ed. Secretary Cardona Warns
As federal accountability restarts after two years, guidance from the department underscores how complicated that could be.
5 min read
Image of data, target goals, and gaining ground.
iStock/Getty
Assessment Latest Round of Federal Grants Aims to Make States' Assessments More Equitable, Precise
The U.S. Department of Education awarded over $29 million in competitive grants to 10 state education agencies.
2 min read
Assessment review data 599911460
vladwei/iStock/Getty<br/>
Assessment Opinion Are There Better Ways Than Standardized Tests to Assess Students? Educators Think So
Student portfolios and school community surveys are but two of the many alternatives to standardized tests.
3 min read
Illustration of students in virus environment facing wave of test sheets.
Collage by Vanessa Solis/Education Week (Images: iStock/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Whitepaper
Empowering personalized instruction with a three-tiered approach to learning evidence
Navvy is the first classroom assessment system designed to empower personalized learning by providing granular, reliable, and proximal le...
Content provided by Pearson