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The Uganda School Health and Reading Program (SHRP) was a 7-year USAID program implemented by RTI in Uganda from 2012 through 2019. The 2015 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) represents the midline (second) assessment of the program.

The goal of the program was to improve student reading outcomes in the early grades through mother-tongue instruction before the students transitioned to learning to read in English in later grades.

EGRA Subtasks

An EGRA measures children’s pre-reading and reading skills. The subtasks used in this assessment are described below.

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)

The oral reading fluency (ORF) subtask measures how quickly and accurately a student can read. It is a core component of EGRA because it brings together lower-level reading skills (such as decoding and familiar word recognition) with how quickly and easily the student can read a given word (called automaticity).

Students were given a short, written passage on a topic that was familiar to them. They were asked to read it out loud “quickly but carefully” and were given 60 seconds from when they begin to read. The EGRA administrator timed the student, making note of any mistakes the student made while reading the words aloud. The score is reported as correct words per minute (cwpm).

Letter Sounds

The letter sounds subtask tests students’ ability to recognize letters and speak their corresponding sounds.

Students were presented with a sheet listing 100 letters and asked to say out loud the letter sound for as many as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could, in 1 minute. The EGRA administrator timed the child and recorded the number of correct letter sounds per minute (clspm).


The nonword subtask tests students’ skill in using letter-sound connections to figure out (“decode”) words. While many students learn to memorize a broad range of "sight" words, they need skills to decode less-familiar words.

In this subtask, students were given a list of 50 made-up words that do not exist in the language tested but follow a typical spelling/sound combination of the language. This ensures that the student is not recognizing the whole word and must “sound-out” the non-word in order to correctly read it. The student was asked to read out loud as many words as they could, as quickly and carefully as they could. The EGRA administrator timed the student and recorded the number of correct words per minute (cnwpm).

Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is a measure of students’ oral language skills, which also contributes to reading.

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator read a passage to the student, who did not see it. The student then responded to questions or statements read by the EGRA administrator. The listening comprehension score is the total correct answers, with a maximum possible score of five.


Vocabulary is words and their meanings; this subtask measures what words students know. Research suggests children need to understand at least 90% of the vocabulary in a passage for comprehension to occur.

In this subtask, the EGRA administrator spoke words aloud and asked the student to “point” to their meaning (e.g., a body part, a simple object). The administrator recorded the number of vocabulary words the student got correct, with no time limit.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension is the main goal of reading—understanding what is read. Comprehension is a complex task that requires some ability in all other reading skills.

This subtask is paired with the ORF subtask. Depending on how much of the ORF passage the student was able to read, the EGRA administrator asked the student up to five questions about the story. The EGRA administrator recorded the number of questions answered correctly.

Year 2015
Grade(s) 2, 3
Language Ateso, Lebacoli, Leblango, Lhukonzo, Luganda, Lugbarati, Lugwere, Lusoga, Ngakarimojong, Runyankore-Rukiga, Runyoro, Rutooro
Assessment Type Reading Program
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Study Map

Map of Uganda

Key Findings

  • 1/4

    The average oral reading fluency (ORF) rate for grade 2 students in English was 2 correct words per minute (cwmp). There was no difference between the fluency rates of boys and girls.

  • 2/4

    The average oral reading fluency (ORF) rate for grade 3 students in English was 15 correct words per minute (cwpm). Girls had a higher average fluency rate than boys (16 cwpm vs. 14 cwmp).

  • 3/4

    The percentage of grade 2 students unable to read a single word of connected text was 78%, while 45% grade 3 students were unable to read a single word of connected text.

  • 4/4

    Almost all grade 2 students (96%) could not answer a single reading comprehension question. About 75% of grade 3 students could not answer a single reading comprehension question.

Program Design

SHRP worked with Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) to develop both curricula and teaching and learning materials in 12 local languages. Teachers were then trained to implement the program across 43 Ugandan districts. SHRP also worked with the MoES to promote and support HIV/AIDS education, social and emotional learning, and classroom inclusion strategies in Ugandan schools.

Evaluation Design

EGR Barometer data for SHRP were collected between 2012 (baseline) and 2015 (midterm). The database includes results for 4 of the 12 mother tongues of instruction. The evaluation compared student performance estimates from grades 1, 2, and 3 to those of a control group.

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