This report describes the use of Direct Instruction in a Liberian elementary school that serves children from very impoverished backgrounds, with limited supplies and infrastructural support.
The school began using Direct Instruction in the fall of 2004 with training from U.S. based educational consultants and supplies donated by schools in the U.S. In fall, 2009, a random sample of 43 second to sixth graders were administered DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) probes. As a comparison group, 19 students in two nearby schools with similar populations, but which had not used Direct Instruction, were also tested.
These data were compared to DIBELS scores obtained from students in three Midwestern elementary schools. The students in the Liberian DI school had markedly higher ORF scores than the students in the other Liberian schools, with differences that were more than a standard deviation in magnitude at each grade level. In comparison to students in the United States, the Liberian DI students had lower ORF scores in second through fourth grade, but ORF scores within one-tenth of a standard deviation of their American counterparts at the upper grades.
When the U.S. data were disaggregated across school districts comparisons indicated that the average Direct Instruction Liberian fifth grader had higher ORF scores than the average fifth grader in two of the Midwest communities. The average Liberian DI sixth grader had a higher score than sixth graders in one of the communities and came close to the average score in another community.
Comparison of DIBELS scores with established U.S. benchmarks indicated that about one-third of the Liberian DI students would be termed “at risk” of having future academic difficulties, while all but one of the students in the comparison schools fell in that category. None of the comparison Liberian students were deemed “low risk,” while a third of the Liberty students were in this group.
These differences were highly significant. There was markedly less variability in DIBELS scores in the Liberian DI school than in the U.S. schools. Results are reported to replicate those found two decades earlier in South Africa, another English speaking African country (Grossen and Kelly, 1992).