This paper demonstrates the acute sensitivity of education program effectiveness to the choices of inputs and outcome measures, using a randomized evaluation of a mother-tongue literacy program. The program raises reading scores by 0.64 SD and writing scores by 0.45 SD. A reduced-cost version instead yields statistically insignificant reading gains and some large negative effects (−0.33 SDs) on advanced writing. We combine a conceptual model of education production with detailed classroom observations to examine the mechanisms driving the results; we show they could be driven by the program initially lowering productivity before raising it, and potentially by missing complementary inputs in the reduced-cost version.

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