The International Project Team distributed a set of manuals and training materials to ensure the use of standardized procedures across participating education systems for PIRLS 2016. The manuals were prepared for use by the School Coordinator and the Test Administrator to instruct their work in preparation for and conduct of the testing sessions.
One aspect of the study which differs by education system is the recruitment of schools and students. While some countries mandate the participation of sampled schools, the U.S. must contact schools to recruit them into the study. School recruitment involves a hierarchical process in which states are first contacted to obtain support for the study, the school districts are contacted to obtain permission to contact the sampled school or schools in the district. School principals are then asked for their participation in the study. Private schools and some charter schools were contacted directly because they were unaffiliated with a governing body.
The decision to participate could be made at the district or school level. If a school refuses to participate, or if a district refuses on behalf of the school, the first replacement school is contacted. During most of the recruitment period, sampled schools and substitute schools were being recruited concurrently. Each participating school was asked to nominate a school coordinator as the main point of contact for the study. The school coordinator worked with project staff to arrange logistics for testing and liaise with staff, students, and parents as necessary.
Schools were offered the choice between two types of parental permission for students to participate. Most schools opted for implied permission in which a parent only returned a form to opt out of participating in the study. Some schools chose to use explicit permission, which required written permission from the parent for the child to participate.
Schools, school coordinators, and students were provided with small gifts in appreciation for their willingness to participate. Schools were offered $200, school coordinators received $150, and students were given a sports watch.
Test administration in the United States was carried out by professional staff trained per the international guidelines set forth in the Test Administrator Manual. School personnel were asked only to assist with listings of students, identify space for testing in the school, and the distribution and collection of any parental permission forms for sampled students.
The International Study Center monitored compliance with the standardized procedures. Each education system was asked to nominate one or more persons unconnected with their national center, such as retired school teachers, to serve as quality control monitors for their education systems. The TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College developed manuals for the monitors and briefed them in 2-day training sessions about PIRLS and ePIRLS, the responsibilities of the national centers in conducting the study, and their own roles and responsibilities. Some 15 of the 158 schools in the PIRLS sample were visited by monitors.