How to Use USAID Performance Data: Three Takeaways from the 2019 Education Data Briefs
USAID captures its performance data in the form of the Performance Plan and Report (PPR), an annual data call to Missions, Regional Bureaus, and other teams within the Agency. These teams report results from USAID activities, including outputs (immediate products) and outcomes (end results).
In the education sector, the PPR allows USAID to measure progress toward its Education Policy. The Center for Education (DDI/EDU) has developed foreign assistance indicators to guide the process and help USAID staff report on learning outcomes, employment opportunities, and other results of interest.
The USAID Data and Evidence for Education Programs (DEEP) team recently worked with DDI/EDU to develop a series of education data briefs, covering disability-inclusive education, foundational skills, higher education, and youth workforce development. These briefs present data collected from the fiscal year 2019 PPR (October 2018–September 2019). The purpose of the briefs is to help staff members identify gaps and good practices within their education portfolios.
The 2019 Education Data Briefs
How to Use PPR Data: Three Takeaways
While working closely with PPR data, we learned about their value—and some of their limitations. Below, we share three takeaways about how to best use PPR data for analysis and decision-making.
Takeaway #1: The PPR is well suited to country-level analysis
Since most reporting data come from missions, the PPR is useful for country-level analysis. The foundational skills brief, for example, shows the number of learners benefiting from USAID assistance in each partner country, giving a sense of the variation in the Agency’s reach.
All the briefs also include maps that visualize the geographic spread of education activities, providing insights that might otherwise be difficult to see. For instance, the disability inclusive brief shows there are gaps in disability-inclusive programming in some parts of the world, such as South Asia.
Some of the briefs aggregate PPR data at the global level. However, aggregating PPR data can be tricky. Many of the indicators, which dictate what kind of data are collected, were new for 2019. As a result, not all teams were able to report on them. With fewer teams reporting, one team’s results can dominate the total.
Takeaway #2: The PPR covers a wide range of outputs, outcomes, and good practices
Staff can use the PPR to analyze a wide range of information. As mentioned above, DDI/EDU has developed indicators to support reporting results. For 2019, data came from 25 standard indicators related to learning outcomes, access to education, employment opportunities, and other variables. The higher education and youth workforce development briefs especially give a sense of the range of data collected.
The briefs are not limited to quantitative data. The PPR data call includes Key Issue Narratives that provide more details about USAID’s education-related work and contain abundant examples of good practices. The disability inclusive brief, for example, presents innovative approaches to education for learners with disabilities, such as a pilot in Kyrgyz Republic to identify and support preschool-age children with disabilities, easing their transition into primary school.
At the same time, it is important to understand what the PPR does not include. The PPR does not collect data on individual activities (although it is possible to glean some information from the narratives). The PPR also has little to say about the sector level, such as the extent to which businesses are hiring youth. Other details about education activities, such as funding, costs, and languages of instruction are not included in the PPR.
For this reason, most of the briefs complement the PPR with data collected from other sources. For instance, the foundational skills brief shows the number of learners reached by USAID as a percent of total learners. The data on total learners come from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and provide useful context for the extent of USAID’s reach in different countries and regions. At the primary level, the Agency’s reach is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, while at the secondary level, the reach is greatest in Latin America.
Takeaway #3: The PPR includes details about marginalized and vulnerable populations
Reporting data are broken down by key categories of interest, such as demographic characteristics. These disaggregates vary from indicator to indicator, but typically include sex, age, persons with disabilities, and crisis and conflict-affected individuals.
Staff can use the disaggregated results to monitor engagement with children and youth who are marginalized or vulnerable. For instance, the youth workforce development brief shows that female beneficiaries consistently underperform males in workforce development programs. The brief also shows that beneficiaries affected by crisis and conflict underperform in access to education and training.
Missing data can be an issue, however. As the indicators are new, the PPR data may not reflect true results, and we can occasionally see some anomalies. As an example, the youth workforce development brief shows outcomes broken down by sex that do not align with the total. That is because fewer (and different) teams reported the disaggregates, compared to those that reported the total results.
The Bottom Line
As the education data briefs show, the PPR is a valuable resource to help USAID staff identify gaps and good practices in the activities they manage. The Agency expects more data to be available in subsequent years, as reporting catches up to the new indicators. The takeaways shared here explain how to best approach the PPR for analysis and decision-making.