Principles for Phone-Based Assessments of Learning
School closures affecting more than 1.5 billion children are designed to prevent the spread of current public health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they simultaneously introduce education risks as well as new, longer run health risks, via lost education. While some studies measure student involvement in educational activities during the crisis through phone-based surveys, the literature on assessing learning by phone is almost nonexistent, despite the fact that learning loss has major implications for school dropout and rising inequality. In this article, we draw on our pilot testing of phone-based assessments in Botswana, along with the existing literature on oral testing of reading and mathematics, to propose a series of preliminary principles to guide researchers and service providers as they try phone-based learning assessments. We provide guidance to help teams (1) ensure that children are not put at risk, (2) test the reliability and validity of phone-based measures, (3) use simple instructions and practice items to ensure the assessment is focused on the target skill, not general language and test-taking skills, (4) adapt the items from oral assessments that will be most effective in phone-based assessments, (5) keep assessments brief while still gathering meaningful learning data, (6) learn from the speed and confidence of responses, (7) use effective strategies to encourage respondents to pick up the phone, and (8) build rapport with adult caregivers and youth respondents.