Madagascar is filled with much of the same issues as most of the developing world in terms of a lack of a truly progressive educational policy and a stagnant public education system riddled with huge systemic problems. The study run by JPAL to analyze top down vs bottom up schooling management structures, in which school-level and district-level interventions were measured in their effectiveness in improving schooling outcomes. Vital to this study is the fact that this issue of "community engagement" is one of the most over-cited and least understood in the developmental lexicon (more on this later). Bottom-up approaches, truly progressive participatory structures in which local power agencies are taken into account and user groups are not externally imposed, but rather, indigenously identified, are the critical determining factor in most cited cases. The study also, critically, contained another element: the use of school report cards. These were sent to parents containing relevant and relative schooling information for their children's educational institution. This example of closing the feedback loops and utilizing information flows to strengthen schooling outputs is explored further on this website (see: Information Flows).
The details are as followed for the "intervention," highlighted from JPAL's website
All district administrators in treatment districts received operational tools and training that included forms for supervision visits to schools, and procurement sheets for school supplies and grants (district-level intervention). In some of these schools, the subdistrict head was also trained and provided with tools to supervise school visits, as well as information on the performance and resource level at each school (subdistrict-level intervention).
Lastly, several districts also introduced a school level intervention which involved parental monitoring through school meetings. Field workers distributed a ‘report card’ to schools, which included the previous year’s dropout rate, exam pass rate, and repetition rate. Two community meetings were then held, and the first meeting resulted in an action plan based on the report card. One example of the goals specified in the action plans was to increase the school exam pass rate by 5 percentage points by the end of the academic year. Common tasks specified for teachers included lesson planning and student evaluation every few weeks. The parent’s association was expected to monitor the student evaluation reports which the teachers were supposed to communicate to them. These tools allowed parents to coordinate on taking actions to monitor service quality and exercise social pressure on the teachers.
What is so interesting about the results is that the top-down approach, which is the traditional development approach of dealing with school reform, did practically nothing to actually improve the conditions on the ground. What showed large results were the "bottom up" trials, in which parental monitoring, field workers, and community meetings following specific action plans. This fundamental issue of closing the relevant feedback loops of information to concerned parties, whether they be taxpayers in the rich world, consumers on Amazon.com sharing user ratings of consumer products, or concerned parents receiving relevant information about the quality of the schooling that they should expect , critical information lacking in most of the world, is absolutely vital. Information flows activates ownership over what is too often a foreign process in many communities: government education. Just as in Uganda, where posting grant disbursements on the walls of schoolhouses improved transparency by 97%, information flows improve responsiveness and empower citizens.
Here are additional details from the MIT site:
Impact from Bottom-Up Approach: The interventions at the school level led to significantly improved teacher behavior. Teachers were on average 0.26 standard deviations more likely to create daily and weekly lesson plans and to have discussed them with their director. Test scores were 0.1 standard deviations higher than those in the comparison group two years after the implementation of the program. Additionally, student attendance increased by 4.3 percentage points compared to the comparison group average of 87%, though teacher attendance and communication with parents did not improve.