Research Associate Professor

About Alicia Menendez

Alicia S. Menendez is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and a Principal Research Scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. 

Dr. Menendez is a development economist. Her research interests include education and health, labor markets, and household behavior. Dr. Menendez has designed and managed numerous quantitative impact evaluations and qualitative evaluations, and has developed tools and overseen surveys in numerous developing countries.

Menendez received her Ph.D. in economics from Boston University. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she was a lecturer in public and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School and a researcher at the Research Program in Development Studies at Princeton University.

Ongoing Research

Improving Reading Performance Without Improving Classroom Pedagogy?

(with U. Hoadley and A. Solovyeva)

Many developing countries still struggle with providing quality reading skills at the primary level. This study examines the impact of the Read Liberia intervention, a program that provided teacher training and coaching, teaching and learning materials, and community outreach, and reached 57,600 students in grade 1 and 2 in 640 schools. We exploit the randomized assignment of schools to the program and find a large positive effect on students' ability to read and understand grade-appropriate text. Literacy (oral reading fluency and oral reading comprehension) among students in the treatment schools doubled, on average, compared to the control schools. We also detect improvements attributable to the Read Liberia program in a range of pre-literacy skills. Based on the analysis of the program implementation and observations of instructional practices data, we believe these improvements in reading performance are driven by the availability and utilization of Read Liberia reading materials by students themselves and not by improved teaching practices at schools. In contrast to previous literature, this suggests that high-quality, and well-leveled learning materials in the hands of students may have a positive impact on reading skills.

Using SMS and parental outreach to improve early reading skills in Zambia

(with Alejandro Ome) (forthcoming) Education Economics

We evaluate an intervention using SMS messaging to send short stories to 2nd and 3rd graders in Zambia’s Eastern province, aimed at improving reading skills. For nine months households received three text messages weekly comprising a short story for children to read with their families, and a question about the story. Additionally, parents attended monthly meetings aimed to address any program implementation issues and encourage reading. The program had a positive impact on reading skills, between 19 and 28 percent of a standard deviation. A cost-effectiveness analysis shows that expanding the program nationally would cost USD 20–22 per child.

Read Using SMS and parental outreach to improve early reading skills in Zambia

Policy Briefs

The High Absenteeism of Teachers and Learners in Uganda

Teachers’ Implementation of an Early Grade Reading Program in Classrooms

Why Lule Still Can’t Read at the End of P3?

Improving Early Grade Reading in Nepal