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Jessica Bergmann

Education Research Specialist

Jessica Bergmann is the co-manager for the Data Must Speak (DMS) Research at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. Prior to joining the Office of Research - Innocenti, Jessica worked with the Education Commission, where she managed several research initiatives, including a multi-country research study on the use of delivery approaches to support policy implementation in education and the Save Our Future campaign, which convened researchers from around the world to study the impacts of COVID-19 school closures and create clear policy recommendations to support an equitable recovery. Jessica has extensive experience in research dissemination and utilization activities, including executing large-scale policy forums with ministries, facilitating multi-stakeholder knowledge-sharing events, and designing workshops to improve the use of evidence in policy and program design. She previously worked in Uganda designing and implementing teacher training and literacy programs and designing monitoring and evaluation systems to improve data-driven decision making across the organization. Jessica holds her Ed.M. in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her Bachelors in Secondary Education and English from Loyola University Chicago. She has worked across all parts of the education system, including with governments, international organizations, NGOs and community-led organizations, and formerly as a secondary school English teacher.

Publications

Data Must Speak: Entendendo os fatores de desempenho  das escolas maranhenses
Publication

Data Must Speak: Entendendo os fatores de desempenho das escolas maranhenses

Apesar dos vários esforços para fortalecer seu sistema de educação, o Estado do Maranhão, no Brasil, continua a enfrentar desafios para melhorar de forma equitativa os resultados de aprendizagem dos alunos. Ao juntar e analisar os conjuntos de dados administrativos existentes no Maranhão, Brasil, este relatório ajuda a identificar associações importantes entre fatores escolares e o desempenho educacional no Maranhão, Brasil. Esses resultados servirão de base para identificar algumas áreas que merecem ser exploradas setor educacional. O Data Must Speak - uma iniciativa global implementada desde 2014 - tem como objetivo abordar as lacunas de evidências para mitigar a crise de aprendizagem usando dados existentes. A pesquisa DMS Positive Deviance é co-criada e co-implementada com os Ministérios da Educação e parceiros. A investigação do DMS baseia-se em métodos mistos e abordagens inovadoras (ou seja, abordagem do desvio positivo, ciências comportamentais, pesquisa da implementação e ciência de escalonamento) para gerar conhecimentos e lições práticas sobre "o que funciona", "porquê" e "como" escalar soluções de base para os tomadores de decisões e a comunidade internacional interessada na área da educação. A pesquisa DMS atualmente é implementada em 14 países: Brasil, Burkina Faso, Chade, Costa do Marfim, Etiópia, Gana, República Democrática Popular do Laos, Madagáscar, Mali, Nepal, Níger, República Unida da Tanzânia, Togo e Zâmbia.
Data Must Speak: Unpacking factors influencing school performance in Mainland Tanzania
Publication

Data Must Speak: Unpacking factors influencing school performance in Mainland Tanzania

To improve the quality and relevance of basic education in Mainland Tanzania, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) is interested in enhancing data usage and access in the country in order to develop, implement, and monitor evidence-based policies, plans and strategies for primary education. By merging and analyzing existing administrative datasets in Mainland Tanzania, this report helps to identify important associations between school inputs and school performances in Mainland Tanzania. Those results will be informing public policies and investments in the education sector. Data Must Speak – a global initiative implemented since 2014 – aims to address the evidence gaps to mitigate the learning crisis using existing data. The DMS Positive Deviance research is co-created and co-implemented with Ministries of Education and key partners. DMS research relies on mixed methods and innovative approaches (i.e., positive deviance approach, behavioural sciences, implementation research and scaling science) to generate knowledge and practical lessons about ‘what works’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ to scale grassroots solutions for national policymakers and the broader international community of education stakeholders. DMS research is currently implemented in 14 countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.
Guidance Note on Using Implementation Research in Education
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Guidance Note on Using Implementation Research in Education

Although many interventions aiming to improve quality, inclusion, and equity in education have been tested around the world, it is not always clear from the existing research base why they work, for whom they work, and what are the defining contextual circumstances under which they work. And while there is an increasingly robust body of evidence on 'what works', taking interventions to scale through government systems often requires multiple iterations to achieve fidelity and a full understanding of the wider ecosystem. Implementation research is concerned with why and how an intervention or reform works by considering the context, stakeholders, and process of implementation. This guidance note, developed by the Building Evidence in Education (BE2) Working Group, helps education stakeholders to design and oversee implementation research in order to answer questions and learn lessons about the contextual factors impacting the implementation of an intervention or reform in a particular government or implementer’s system.
Data Must Speak: Determining the Best Resources for the Togolese Education System
Publication

Data Must Speak: Determining the Best Resources for the Togolese Education System

The Togolese government, through the education sector plan (ESP) 2014-2025, aims to achieve universal quality primary education. With this goal, they recognize the challenges in education access, participation and retention. School performances is among the areas by which they are understanding and addressing these challenges. This policy brief – focused on the resources that could help in improving the Togolese education system – is part of a series that presents key research findings of the quantitative stage of the Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance research in Togo. By merging and analyzing existing administrative datasets in Togo, this series highlights specific resources and contextual factors associated with good school performances in Togo. More importantly, it aims to inform policy dialogue and decision-making in Togo and other interested countries. DMS – a global initiative implemented since 2014 – aims to address the evidence gaps to mitigate the learning crisis using existing data. DMS research is co-created and co-implemented with Ministries of Education and key partners. DMS research relies on mixed methods and innovative approaches (i.e., positive deviance approach, behavioural sciences, implementation research and scaling science) to generate knowledge and practical lessons about ‘what works’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ to scale grassroots solutions for national policymakers and the broader international community of education stakeholders. DMS research is currently implemented in 14 countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, the United Republic of Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.

Articles

A DMS researcher listens to a group of Ministry of Education professionals in Madagascar.
Blog

5 Ways Data Must Speak is Co-Creating Education Research

The Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance research believes that the most significant agents of change in the education sector are grassroot-level stakeholders, and that they should be at the forefront of addressing education challenges within their contexts. As such, the DMS team co-creates our research with stakeholders and partners, working together on research design, data collection and analysis, and evidence uptake.
A group of Brazilian Data Must Speak researchers stand together to smile and pose for a photo.
Blog

4 Realities when Co-creating Education Research

Since its launch in 2019, the Data Must Speak (DMS) Positive Deviance Research, together with Ministries of Education (MoE) and education partners, has worked to identify and scale the behaviours and practices of exceptional schools (i.e., positive deviant schools). Through a co-creation and co-implementation approach, the DMS research has generated evidence to contribute to addressing the learning crisis in 14 countries. However, the DMS research has faced unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic. During the early stages of the research, the team and partners could not travel, engage in in-person activities, and sustain momentum for research implementation amidst emergency response. While the team has successfully adapted its activities, they were confronted with unforeseen realities when co-creating the research, even after pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Blogs

Can more women in school leadership improve learning outcomes?
Blog

Can more women in school leadership improve learning outcomes?

 The global education community has long focused on girls’ education and finding pathways to increasing girls’ access and retention in school, improving learning, and supporting girls’ holistic wellbeing. While the positive effects of female teachers on girls’ education have been well-researched, one piece often missing from gender discussions in education is school leadership – and the noticeable absence of women school leaders around the world.  For much of his life, Matt Brossard, Chief of Education at UNICEF Innocenti, has been surrounded by teachers and school leaders: both of his parents were teachers, his sister and his cousin are teachers, and his aunt was a primary school leader. Before segueing into a career shaping evidence, policy, and programmes on education, Matt taught mathematics in a secondary school center led by a man. Jessica Bergmann, an education researcher at UNICEF Innocenti, spent her entire education – from primary to secondary school and even to university – without a single female school leader. This experience continued when she became a secondary school English teacher, teaching in a school that was also led by a male principal.  As part of a new research initiative they are developing at UNICEF Innocenti, Women in Learning Leadership (WiLL), Matt and Jessica reflect on their personal experiences while looking at the available research and data. They realized that having more female head teachers could be an untapped opportunity to address the learning crisis, for both girls and boys. There is a gender gap in school leadership  School leaders play a critical role in creating high-quality teaching and learning environments. Effective school leaders can contribute to improving student learning outcomes, closing equity gaps, and fostering strong relationships between schools and the communities they serve. Yet, women remain underrepresented in school leadership roles, despite their increasing representation in the teaching workforce. Across several Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, there is a 20-percentage point difference between the share of female public primary school leaders and the share of female teachers, according to 2013 TERCE data.  Similar trends are seen across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that participated in the 2019 PASEC assessment, where only 22 per cent of surveyed students attended a school with a female head teacher. Findings from our Data Must Speak positive deviance research show similar results: in Niger, Mali, and Togo, only about 1 in 10 school leaders are women (see Figure 1). Even in Niger, where 40 per cent of teachers are female, only 11 per cent of school leaders are women.  Figure 1: Female participation in school leadership and in the teaching workforce (primary education)  Emerging evidence shows students attending women-led schools may learn more  Early analysis and research from UNICEF Innocenti and other organizations shows that women-led schools may perform better than men-led schools. Across the PASEC-participating countries, learning outcomes at the end of primary school for both girls and boys in female-led schools are higher. PASEC 2019 assessment shows that the difference is statistically significant in eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Niger, and Senegal) in reading and in six countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Senegal) in mathematics.   In Lao PDR, our research shows that highly effective schools – schools that perform better than others in a similar context with the same resources – are twice as likely than other schools to be led by a woman. In Mozambique, schools with a female school leader have lower dropout rates than schools with a male school leader, noting that these results may be driven by the higher concentration of female school leaders in urban areas and more developed regions of the country (UNICEF Innocenti, forthcoming). In Togo, primary school exam results and promotion rates are higher for girls in schools where the head teacher is a woman, even when controlling for a set of contextual and geographical variables, such as whether the school is in an urban or rural area (UNICEF Innocenti, forthcoming).  We do not know enough about women’s participation and impact in school leadership   There is a lot we still do not understand about women in learning leadership.  First, we need to better understand women’s participation in school leadership roles and identify the critical barriers preventing them from moving into these roles. We need to look at recruitment and selection policies and also at social and cultural perceptions to find solutions that can increase women’s representation in school leadership. Second, more evidence is needed to understand the differences in learning outcomes for schools led by women compared to men and identify what practices, behaviors and attitudes contribute to these differences. What do women school leaders do that leads to better school performance? And how can we incentivize more school leaders, both women and men, to adopt these behaviors? These questions have formed the foundation of UNICEF Innocenti’s new research initiative, Women in Learning Leadership, which aims to expand the evidence base on gender and school leadership. Too many students around the world still move through their educational experiences without seeing women as part of the leadership landscape. This reinforces existing gender norms and stereotypes surrounding effective leaders and leadership capabilities. Both girls and boys could benefit from more women school leaders.  For International Women’s Day and beyond, as we reflect on ways to create a more gender equal world and #BreakTheBias, school leadership must remain a part of the conversation – because where there is a WiLL, there is a way. Read more about women’s underrepresentation in school leadership roles and the emerging evidence that suggests women-led schools perform better in the latest evidence brief, Increasing Women’s Representation in School Leadership: A Promising Path Towards Improving Learning, co-authored by UNICEF Innocenti and IIEP-UNESCO Dakar.Jessica Bergmann is an education researcher at UNICEF Innocenti and Matt Brossard is the Chief of Education at UNICEF Innocenti. For more information about our Women in Learning Leadership (WiLL) research initiative and how to engage, Jessica and Matt can be contacted at jbergmann@unicef.org and mbrossard@unicef.org.