Monitoring and Evaluation is Hard*
A primary component of the Millennium Villages Project education strategy is to improve the quality of education. But are MVP interventions such as school feeding programs, classroom construction, and teacher training truly having an impact on student performance? On Wednesday I attended a planning meeting for an evaluation designed to measure just that. The standardized test will measure knowledge in a variety of subjects and will be launched by the end of the year to all 6th and 8th graders in the zone, including students from four schools which did not receive MVP interventions, who will act as a control group.
The four hour meeting attended by teachers, MVP staff and interns went over, detail by detail, the costs necessary to execute this evaluation which will reach around 2,000 students. What struck me was the amount of teacher participation in executing this evaluation, the results of which will be distributed to not only the MVP team, but the schools and the teachers, allowing them to measure individual student, school, and class performance across the zone and reward high performers. If the level of teacher involvement struck me, the more mundane challenges of executing such an evaluation floored me. Proof-reading, cross-checking, transportation for proctors and correctors, stationary costs, communication, compilation, if classrooms even had enough desks for the test; all costs had to be considered, tallied up, compared against the available budget. If the costs were greater than the budget, strategies to bridge the gap had to be developed.
Critics have charged that MVP’s monitoring and evaluation system isn’t comprehensive enough, and during my first three days in the Sauri MVP I have been surprised to hear constant discussions on surveys, evaluations, and sustainability planning. From what I have seen in a short amount of time, the M&E process extends beyond official community evaluations performed by MVP into participatory evaluation systems that integrate community members.
*But extremely important