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  • How Early Childhood Assessments Can Help, Not Hinder

    Mom and child playing

    Shawn Hardee regularly leads his wife’s preschool class in a sing-a-long. (“There’s nothing better than hearing kids sing with you!” he says.)

    He’s the father of two young children.

    He’s also one of Pearson’s leading experts on early childhood assessment.

    And—he refers to young students as “kiddos.”

    “These students are not research subjects,” Shawn says. “They’re kids.”

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  • How to Make Technology Work for Learners, Not the Other Way Around

    Man using a laptop computer

    Denis Hurley is Director of Future Technologies at Pearson.

    “We explore emerging technologies,” he says. “Often these are technologies developed for other industries, like the military or entertainment companies or medical research firms.”

    Denis actually studied film production in college.

    “I loved telling stories,” Denis says. “I was drawn to the process of developing film, matching it with sound, cutting it all together, and producing something that gave viewers an experience.”

    “It was like creating something out of nothing,” he says.

    “In the same way,” Denis says, “many of the technologies available to learning today can transport students in powerful ways.”

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  • Team USA Diver Soars to New Heights With the Help of Online School

    Jordan Windle

    17-year-old Team USA diver Jordan Windle—a specialist in the 10-meter platform event—is afraid of heights.

    “10 meters is three stories high,” he says, laughing. “But the thing I love about diving is being able to overcome the fear.”

    Jordan took his first plunge when he was 7 years old. After 30 minutes on the platform, he finally jumped—and he hasn’t stopped jumping since.

    In addition to being one of the youngest-ever U.S. Men’s National Champion on 10-meter platform (an event he won when he was only 15 years old); he is also a 2-time U.S. National Champion on the 3-meter springboard in the mixed-gender synchronized event – his synchro partner is Olympic Silver Medalist, Abbey Johnston.

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  • How do you spot a gifted child?

    by Katie McClarty

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    Education is rightly seen as a catalyst for progress, not only for individuals but also for whole countries. The research confirms what we intuitively know - when you improve education, economic and societal benefits follow. It’s why national governments are heavily invested in schooling their citizens and why a growing portion of household incomes are spent on private or supplemental education. In an ever-competitive job market where the constraints of national borders are increasingly imperceptible, education is the leveller, and the edge-maker.

    In this 21st century landscape, how a country educates its most gifted and talented children takes on a new sense of potential; not just the prospect of young lives fulfilled, but the promise of a new economic powerbase. Consequently, in many countries the responsibility for identifying and educating gifted students has spread beyond national or local government. Institutions like Brazil’s Center for Potential and Talent Development, and South Africa’s Radford House are having just as much of a say in who the next generation of bright young talent will be... and more of a say in how to nurture them.

    But who are these gifted and talented kids, and what makes them unique from typical students?

    If you study most of the thinking on this, there’s a broad consensus that gifted children have four characteristics: intellect, motivation, creativity, and affect (i.e., positive beliefs about themselves).

    But studies are designed to be neat. In truth, no two children are ever the same, and gifted children are no different in this respect. Each will have their specific talents, learning needs, behaviours, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears. Each will need to be challenged and managed according to his or her abilities. They will usually need to learn faster and deeper; need to pursue independent study; need to make a meaningful impact; need to feel challenged by big problems; need to have opportunities to interact with like-minded peers - and knowing all this will help them flourish. But applying all this uniformly, without regard for the individual child and their specific gifts, is naive.

    And it’s equally naive to not consider the impact of where a child is studying. How, for example, does local context and cultural values affect these interpretations? In August I attended the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children where I heard a Lebanese researcher, Dr. Anies Al-Hroub, report about teachers' concepts of what makes a child gifted. It would seem in Lebanon, the ability to bargain for low prices and cutting in line to get faster service are seen as key traits of leadership and social intelligence. Elsewhere, this is the height of rudeness! Likewise, most conceptions of giftedness describe characteristics of an individual student, but the Mäori people of New Zealand recognize a collective giftedness - giftedness ascribed to a group of people whose talents become apparent when working together. So how do we reconcile these different views of giftedness?

    Perhaps the question should be - do we need to? If education is ultimately about preparing children for a world beyond school, then we should champion the cultural idiosyncrasies that make societies what they are, not ignore them.

    Just as important as understanding the individual child and local distinctions in our definitions of giftedness is our appreciation that the world is changing at breakneck speed. What was once considered valuable for children to know and learn and excel in is perhaps not as valued now. For example, rote learning was the dominant pedagogy for centuries worldwide. It was once that the child who could memorize and recite was most celebrated. Although spelling and geography competitions may still be popular, emphasis has shifted to skills such as empathy, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, determination, calmness, and respect. These are the skills that employers are increasingly requesting. And these skills are also making their way into new assessments such as PISA’s creative problem solving, collaborative problem solving, and global competency measures.

    Some of these new '21st century skills' are already provided for in our traditional consensus of what gifted means and what skills we should help our gifted students develop. But others are not. So perhaps the question shouldn’t be “Is that child gifted?”, but rather “What does gifted mean, today, where you are?”

    ***

    Is your child ‘gifted’? The four ‘traditional’ clues that could tell you.

    Intellect

    Intellect
    Gifted children tend to have advanced language and thought patterns. This reflects not only rapid vocabulary and knowledge development but also abstract thinking such as the ability to solve problems, think about their own thinking (metacognition), and make relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas. These students may also have developed early abilities in reading, writing, mathematics, music, or art. They tend to be eager to learn, able to work independently, be curious, with a good memory, long attention span, and good judgment. Gifted children tend to be quick and logical thinkers. Combined with their desire for learning, this can lead them to frequently ask “Why” questions or seek to understand cause-and-effect relationships at an early age.

    Motivation-LORES

    Motivation
    Another important characteristic of most gifted students is their motivation and persistence, or task commitment. A natural intellect, it would seem, is not enough. In fact, for students with high intelligence one of the primary factors that separated the successful from the less successful is motivation. Gifted students tend to have an intrinsic motivation—that is, they engage in tasks for the sake of learning rather than external rewards. Over time, this motivation orientation tends to lead to higher achievement and performance.

    Creativity-LORES

    Creativity
    Gifted students also tend to be creative. General intellectual ability and creativity tend to be related, but are distinct. Creativity in gifted students often manifests as the ability to generate novel ideas and analytically evaluate them, tolerate complexity, think divergently, and be mentally flexible. Creative students are also risk takers, adventurous, curious, playful, and reflective.

    Affect-LORES

    Affect
    In general, gifted students are well-adjusted and have good self-concepts, particularly academic self-concepts. They also tend to have an internal locus of control—that is, they feel responsible for their successes and future plans. They often attribute failure to a lack of effort, rather than a lack of ability, which is associated with having a growth mindset.

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  • Graduating a nation

    by Don Kilburn

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    Education is unquestionably the foundation of a brighter future, and graduating from high school the most fundamental step toward good employment and further education. For that reason, boosting graduation rates throughout America, and particularly among underserved student populations, is an essential piece of building a more just and fair economy and society, with more opportunities for all.

    President Obama has stated a goal of achieving 90% high school graduation rates by 2020, and Pearson is proud to support that goal. We put the learner at the heart of everything we do, and believe strongly in advancing the cause of opportunity for all students.

    In June, we announced the GradNation State Activation initiative in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance. This partnership aims to support and scale multi-year, cross-sector efforts at the state and local levels to make measurable impact on graduation rates.

    We’re delighted to announce three state organizations that will each receive a $200,000 grant to support their work towards these goals.

    • The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable engages with mayors in 16 cities across the state through the Arizona Activation Initiative, in collaboration with WestEd and other state partners
    • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education focuses on students whose first language is not English
    • The Minnesota Alliance With Youth, which supports GradMinnesota, a statewide initiative to increase the graduation rate, focusing on students of color, low-income students, English language leaners and students with disabilities.

    An independent panel selected the grantees from a group of 41 applicants from 26 states. The panel, consisting of respected leaders in the education and youth development community, including Building a Grad Nation report co-author John Bridgeland, president and CEO, Civic Enterprises; former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education; Karen Pittman, co-founder, president and CEO, The Forum for Youth Investment; and 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples.

    We congratulate the grantees, and wish them the best in the work to come. We’re looking forward to working with you, supporting you and celebrating the progress you will make in the years ahead.

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  • Why progress for girls can't wait

    by Kate James

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    This week marks the fourth annual International Day of the Girl Child.

    When we ask women and girls what they want from education, one theme comes through loud and clear -- "progress." They might not use that word, but when the mum talks of her little girl being able to read the books she was never able to, when the teenager dreams of being the first in her family to go to university, and when the young woman refuses to see a glass ceiling to her career... that is progress. Progress for each of them, and ultimately for all of us.

    Gender inequality starts with the 31 million girls who are denied their right to an education. An education that literally saves lives. A child born in Sub-Saharan Africa whose mother can read is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five. It's one of the reasons why Pearson has convened Project Literacy, a campaign to eradicate illiteracy worldwide. It's why we're also working with Camfed to train 5,000 female 'Learner Guides' in Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, who are not just securing their own futures, but are shaping the lives of girls who may otherwise be the next forgotten ones. And why we recently invested in Sudiksha, a start-up that recruits local women to manage low-cost schools serving some of India's poorest communities.

    We are proud of these initiatives, but we also know that they only scratch the surface of the challenge. The world needs to take a massive wrecking ball to the problem. And that requires companies, governments, non-profit organisations, and entrepreneurs to lend their weight. More money of course is needed but we also need the expertise that makes sure that money is invested wisely.

    And when private and public sectors join forces come together we know it can have lasting impact. When 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram last year, the world was outraged. But perhaps as outrageous was how quickly we forgot about them. When the media moved on to the next story, we all too easily moved along with them. But behind the scenes, things were getting done. The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) -- with support from the United Nations, A World at School, the Nigerian Government and international donors -- created the Safe Schools Initiative. As a result 2,400 of the most at-risk girls from the three states hit hardest by Boko Haram have been enrolled in safer schools. That's what can happen when corporate clout, political power, and education know-how come together.

    We're really proud to be members of the GBC-Education, and to have contributed to their new "The Journey of a Girl" report explaining how corporations can, and should, invest in girls' education. The collective efforts of GBCE members currently reach 6 million girls worldwide. It could -- it must -- be so many more.

    ***

    This article was first published on The Huffington Post.

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  • Illiteracy - the invisible curse

    by Kate James

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    The refugee crisis in Europe is, rightly, dominating headlines. The refugees' plight is a very visible one - tired, hungry, dirty, the absence of hope is etched numbingly across their faces. It stirs us to act and to get involved. It is the right response of a civilised society to a crisis that should never have been allowed to happen.

    And yet when nudged on illiteracy, another global crisis impacting 100s of millions of people too many of us are ambivalent. Perhaps it’s because we don’t see it around us that we don’t care enough. We rarely come across someone who is struggling to write, and it’s not obvious when someone is finding it hard to read. And we definitely don't see the consequences.

    The curse of illiteracy is it's largely invisible. But its impact is global and devastating. Today 520 million women and girls are illiterate. They are consequently denied access to learn, earn, vote and ultimately thrive. For me the starkest statistic on literacy is that babies born to mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa who can't read are 50% less likely to reach their fifth birthday.

    If you see inequality and poverty, you’re seeing the impact of illiteracy. Later this month, when world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York, they will announce their commitment to the new Global Goals for sustainable development, setting out their ambition for a more peaceful and prosperous world. There are 17 of them, and none will be achievable without combatting illiteracy along the way. The real prize of a more literate world is not more people who can read and write, but what they can then do with those skills.

    There are nearly 800 million people around the world who are illiterate and we won't begin to put a dent in that number unless we are all stirred to action and become more involved. Sometimes challenges on this scale can seem too remote, too abstract to even try to fix. But this is an issue where each of us can make a difference.

    Today marks International Literacy Day, an opportunity to bang the literacy drum. For us at Pearson, that beat comes in the form of Project Literacy. There are lots of ways to get involved with the project from volunteering to raising awareness through your social networks. Find out more about how you can get involved with Project Literacy and help make a lasting dent in the literacy challenge.

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