Onward and upward: Reflecting on a year gone by and previewing what lies ahead

Christopher Stanfill
Senior Director, Learning & Evaluation
January 14, 2019

In 2018, our 10th year, Pencils of Promise (“PoP”) witnessed a lot of milestone accomplishments. We broke ground on our 500th school, ended the year with nearly 100,000 students enrolled in PoP-built schools, supported teachers in 145 schools, served 119 schools with WASH programming and now have roughly 5,000 e-readers in circulation in Ghana. We further tailored our evaluation of student outcomes in each country and greatly improved our feedback loops through a combination of Teacher Support (TS) coaching logs, teacher observations and end-of-year teacher interviews. Stories shared here on Transparency Talks by members of the PoP team in NYC, Ghana, Guatemala and Laos document the impact we’ve made and the communities we continue to change.

Now that we’re in 2019, we are well-positioned to ensure our impact will reach new heights. This month, a new school year begins in Guatemala where we are:

  • Expanding our TS program into 18 new schools, therefore impacting more than 120 new teachers
  • Launching WASH programming in all 18 new schools receiving TS
  • Distributing more than 800 tablets loaded with reading material to all schools in the TS program (following a 1:1 library model, which means that there are enough tablets for every student and the tablets remain at school at all times)
  • Evaluating student performance longitudinally and across different language groups: Bilingual Spanish (i.e., Spanish is the dominant language in community with minimal Mayan exposure) & Monolingual Spanish (i.e., Spanish is the only language in community with no representation of Mayan)




In addition to the exciting scale in Guatemala, at the beginning of the 2019–2020 school years in Ghana and Laos, we will also extend the reach of our impact. At the beginning of the next school year, Ghana plans to:

  • Expand TS to 30 new schools, including PoP-built schools in Eastern Region (all TS schools in Ghana are currently in Volta Region)
  • Implement WASH programming in 30 new schools
  • Distribute an additional 1,600 e-readers



In Laos, our team will support 5th grade teachers for the first time in the current 60 schools with TS, meaning that at the conclusion of the 2019–2020 school year, PoP will have advanced TS programming to the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. Our WASH infrastructure in Laos will continue to be 100% wheelchair accessible and all 36 schools currently participating in WASH programming will continue to receive support. Our team in Laos will also be supported by a group of graduate students from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who will be conducting field research and assisting in the development of a 5th grade ASER.


We have a lot to look forward to this year and are grateful for successes and lessons learned from the year past.

With optimism and excitement.