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  • How Technology Can Boost Student Engagement

    Kids interacting with a table touch screen

    Gallup’s 2013 State of America’s Schools reported that 55% of US K-12 students are “engaged” in the learning process, while 28% are “not engaged,” and 17% are “actively disengaged.”

    Technology may be one of the keys to increasing the number of engaged students in America’s classrooms. In our multi-phase Teaching in a Digital Age study, we are working with many partners to research digital teaching strategies and how they positively affect student learning. One of these positive effects reported by educators is the increased intensity of student engagement that occurs when technology is integrated into the classroom.

    Technology as a tool helps teachers create and present content and instruction that is interesting and relevant to students. When learning is relevant to students, then they become engaged, active learners. How does this happen?

    With increased access to learning resources, tools and information, students are drawn deeper into a topic than ever before. They can even direct their own learning. In fact, when done well, students don’t just learn with technology- they create. One educator noted:

    “When students have this technology, they can create things. They can innovate things…. When they have Photoshop in front of them and I say do this, this, and this, what they can create is always going to be completely, uniquely different. And, they become artists with that or they become filmmakers, or they become web designers. Like they can take on a lot of really advanced roles, and I think that’s something that technology does uniquely provide, because you can’t be a web designer without that technology. You can’t create a film without that technology. And, I feel like that’s really different than a textbook…let me let you take your creativity, and using this technology, create something I would have never made.”

    Educators in Meridian, Idaho noted the misconception that students are only engaged individually with technology. Their classrooms don’t look like separate students glued to a screen. Instead, educators can direct students to engage collaboratively with the use of technology. With technology, collaboration among students is easier and broader. It also opens doors to widen the audience and purpose of student work, giving meaning to the schoolwork.

    And, with increased student engagement, comes increased learning. There is a strong research base that describes how technology strengthens student engagement and learning. For example, active learning is associated with improved student academic performance (Hake, 1998; Knight & Wood, 2005; Michael, 2006; Freeman, et al., 2007; Chaplin, 2009), and increased student engagement, critical thinking, and better attitudes toward learning (O’Dowd & Aguilar-Roca, 2009). Read more in my paper Teaching in a Digital Age.

    If technology supports teachers’ efforts to focus on effective practices that engage students, then we have another tool to engage that half of US students who aren’t currently engaged.

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  • Part 2: How learning progressions can help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring

    Girl in Chemistry class

    In my previous blog, I talked about the difference between progress monitoring and monitoring progress. Today, I share my ideas of how learning progressions can inform both.

    The key to monitoring progress is understanding what students know and don’t know at any given time. Learning progressions use research on how students learn to clearly define the learning pathway and conceptual milestones along that pathway. For example, my fourth grader’s teacher could compare his work to learning progressions so that she understands more clearly what he knows, and what she can do to move him most efficiently from his “check-minuses” to “check-plusses”.

    In progress monitoring, teachers use data on a regular basis to understand students’ learning rates, but it is up to the teacher to formulate an instructional response. If the CBM slope is flat, the instructional next steps may not be entirely clear. If CBMs were linked to learning progressions, it could enhance progress monitoring by making clear how students are approaching problems and what misconceptions are preventing their progress.

    The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) states that effective progress monitoring (NRCLD, 2006, p. 22):

    1. Assesses the specific skills represented in state and local academic standards.
    2. Assesses marker variables that have been demonstrated to lead to the ultimate instructional targets.
    3. Is sensitive to small increments of growth over time.
    4. Is administered efficiently over short periods.
    5. Is administered repeatedly (using multiple forms).
    6. Results in data that can be summarized in teacher-friendly data displays.
    7. Is comparable across students.
    8. Is applicable for monitoring an individual student’s progress over time.
    9. Is relevant to the development of instructional strategies and use of appropriate curriculum that address the area of need.

    These characteristics are quite similar to some of the features of learning progressions:

    • Many learning progressions have been linked to standards, such as the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (#1).
    • What the NRCLD refers to as “marker variables” are commonly referred to in learning progressions as “levels of achievement,” or the conceptual milestones that students pass through as they are learning in a particular domain (#2).
    • The sensitivity to small increments of growth over time is related to the grain size of a learning progression; to be useful for formative assessments learning progressions usually need to have a relatively fine grain size (#3).
    • Formative assessments based on learning progressions should also be administered efficiently and repeatedly, and should be useful for monitoring students’ progress over time (#4 ,#5, and #8).
    • Because learning progressions are based on the scientific literature describing how typical students learn, assessments based on learning progressions should be comparable for most students, although it is necessary to collect empirical evidence that particular subgroups of students follow the same learning pathways (#7).
    • One of the most promising aspects of learning progressions is the potential for providing teachers with instructionally actionable information in the form of “teacher-friendly” student and classroom performance reports and instructional tools and resources that are aligned to the learning progression (#6 and #9). We are engaging in research to learn about the inferences that teachers make from learning progression-based assessment reports. Stay tuned to learn more about these efforts as the year unfolds.

    Can learning progressions live up to their promise and really help educators monitor progress and conduct progress monitoring? It is still too early to tell, but there is some encouraging research showing that with ample training and support, teachers can use learning progressions as a framework for their formative assessment and instruction and by doing so, they come to better understand their students’ learning pathways.

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  • Part 1: Monitoring Progress, Progress Monitoring and Learning Progressions–What IS the difference?

    Boy in Chemistry class

    What do these three terms have in common? Progress, of course. Educators and parents across the globe all want to enable their students to make progress. When my fourth grader’s teacher sends home a weekly folder with his work samples and tests, a “check” or a “check-plus” tells me that he gets it, or he pretty much gets it, and a “check-minus” gives me the impression that he has more work to do, but I don’t know what pathway he needs to take to move from the “check-minus” to the “check-plus”, and what is the best way to get him there.

    Currently, educators frequently measure what students know and what they don’t know, but this “mastery measurement” does not provide information on students’ progress or learning pace so that they can ultimately meet the standards we set for them. Monitoring is an integral part of ensuring that students make progress, but what is the difference between monitoring progress and progress monitoring? They sound like they’re the same, don’t they? And how do learning progressions fit in? In previous posts I defined and described learning progressions and why the Research & Innovation Network thinks they have promise. In today’s post (Part 1) I will distinguish monitoring progress from progress monitoring. In Part 2, I’ll share ideas of how I think learning progressions can inform both.

    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies. All teachers monitor their students’ progress throughout the year, using a variety of strategies, but these strategies are not standardized and vary greatly in quantity and quality. Formative assessment plays an important role in monitoring progress, but some teachers are more comfortable with formative assessment than others, and all teachers could use tools and resources that would make conducting formative assessment easier.
    Monitoring progress is a core instructional practice that includes formative assessment, questioning, providing feedback, and similar strategies.

    Progress monitoring is a term used to describe a formal part of Response to Intervention (RTI); it is a scientifically based practice used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. It was originally designed for use in individualized special education, but is now seen as a useful approach for many different types of students (Safer & Fleischman, 2005). Teachers are trained to use student performance data to continually evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction. Students’ current levels of performance are determined and measured on a regular basis. Progress toward meeting goals is measured by comparing expected and actual rates of learning, and teachers are prompted to adjust their instruction based on these measurements.

    Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is one type of progress monitoring. A CBM test assesses all of the skills covered in a curriculum over the course of a school year. Each weekly test is an alternate form (with different test items but of equivalent difficulty) so that scores can be compared over the school year. Students’ scores are graphed over time to show their progress (see examples here); scores are expected to rise as students are learning and are exposed to the curriculum. The rate of weekly improvement is quantified as the slope of the line, which teachers can compare to normative data. If scores are flat, it signals the need for additional intervention.

    How can learning progressions help with both monitoring progress and progress monitoring? Stay tuned for ideas in my next blog.

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  • What does Proficient mean?

    by Katie McClarty

    Man and girl playing chess

    The end of the school year is a time for field trips, class parties, and final report cards. The iconic report card lets parents know how their student did that year and typically reflects attendance, participation, and performance in class. Parents generally understand how to interpret report card grades: A (great), C (average), or F (failing).

    The end of the year also is the time when many parents receive their child’s standardized test scores. These results, however, are not as easy to interpret. For example, in Massachusetts, a student who earns a score of 250 on the state test is considered proficient. In Washington, it takes a score of 400. Each state has its own assessments, and each defines proficiency differently.

    Now, however, nearly all the states have agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards as an outline of what students should be taught in mathematics and English language arts. Educators will use instructional materials appropriate for teaching students the knowledge, skills, and practices laid out in these documents. That should produce less variability in instruction state to state and district to district.

    In order to monitor how well students are learning this material, most of the states also have agreed to use one of two Common Core assessments that are being developed. That will make it possible for states to report results on a common scale: a 400 in English in Tennessee, for example, would be the same as a 400 in Florida. But the question remains: is 400 good enough?

    To answer that question, states set performance standards. Typically, this is done by educators and other experts who get together and look at assessments and agree on which questions or tasks a proficient (or advanced or in need of improvement) student should be expected to answer or complete. That information is then translated into a specific score. The same process can be used to analyze the quality of examples of student work.

    More recently, it’s become possible to answer the question of what is good enough more precisely, based not just on expert judgment but also on data. If by proficiency we mean that a student has learned enough in one grade to be ready to do well in the next one, we can test that definition by tracking how students actually perform. We can look at how well a group of students performs on a 5th grade math test and then look back at how those same kids had done on the 4th grade math test. Using statistics, we can then more accurately define what it means to be proficient in the 4th grade.

    This process is called Evidence Based Standard Setting, and because scores can be linked to future performance, it can give parents confidence that if their child is proficient, he or she has not only mastered an important set of knowledge and skills, but also is likely to be successful in the next grade. It can even give students and their parents a sense of whether they’re on track to do well after high school in college or in demanding career training programs. The scores can also help identify students who need extra help before it becomes too late, and parents, using this information, can advocate on their children’s behalf to make sure they receive that help.

    The familiar report card is but one source of information about how well students are doing in school. Test results linked to important future outcomes can provide another critical piece of information to teachers, parents, and students.

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  • Connecting Learners and Employers With Digital Badges, Sometimes in Unexpected Ways

    by LearnEd

    Photo of a brewing room

    Becoming a More Competitive Job Applicant

    The fall term at Madison Area Technical College begins later this month in Madison, Wisconsin.

    CraftBrewingCertificate_June2015

    The school's curriculum—aimed at both high school graduates and working adults going back to school—touts "hands-on opportunities" to "put the lessons you learn in class to work right away."

    Just a year-and-a-half ago, Madison College debuted an unusual new course offering:

    A Craft Brewing Certificate Program.

    It covers the basics of brewing, teaches key scientific information and provides hands-on brewing experience and beer flavor evaluation under the supervision of an experienced brewer. ...

    You do not need to pursue a certificate to take any of these courses and you do not need to formally enter any program to earn this certificate. You will automatically earn the certificate if you complete these required courses with satisfactory grades within three years. Students must be over 21.

    Local brewery Ale Asylum helped develop the course.

    When the program began, Kevin Appleton, continuing education craft brewing program director at Madison College, told The Capital Times:

    “If you’re a homebrewer and looking to bring up your game, this is perfect,” Appleton said. “We’re also looking for people who want to make a jump into the industry, to give them the skills and knowledge they need.”

    'What Are Your Skills Gaps?'

    "Madison Area Technical College approached local businesses and asked them 'What are your skill gaps and how can we help fill those gaps?'"says Pete Janzow who works on online badging program delivery with Pearson.

    "Local beer brewers said they needed more employees who understood their craft," he says.

    That conversation helped launch the Craft Brewing Certification class—a form of digital badge—that's offered to students as a possible "ticket to a future in brewing."

    "More and more companies are getting together by industry and talking about skills their employees need," Pete says. "And we're helping learners take advantage of the emerging badging programs to get better jobs."


    "In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."


    Learning That Matters to Economies

    "In some industries, skill areas are moving faster than the businesses can handle," Pete says. "Old certification models can't keep up."

    "So digital badging programs that have now been around for a while are helping students learn these new skills," he says. "And these classes are producing educational opportunities and graduates that matter to local economies."

    matter

    Creating Badges That Mean Something

    Pete says digital badges in internet advertising, digital marketing, and cloud computing are also examples of "non-traditional" badges, created to keep up with fast-moving industries.

    "Things are evolving so quickly," Pete says. "And not only are we seeing learners take advantage of these badging programs, we're seeing more and more industries setting up consortiums to define standard skill sets."

    "Because anybody can create a digital badge credential and award it to whomever they choose," he says.

    "We're involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy," Pete says, "so they solve workplace problems."


    “We’re involved to make sure that these badges are resume-worthy,” Pete says, “so they solve workplace problems.”


    Capella University is now offering digital badges for students completing its National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security designated master's program.

    Students completing these degrees use them in roles that include information assurance and security, network defense, and digital forensic specializations.

    "Digital badges complement our master's in information assurance and security program," says Bill Dafnis who is Capella's dean of technology, "because they are secure, verifiable, and provide full context of the capabilities our students bring to an employer."

    Pete Janzow says it's the latest example of how an online badging program can "connect higher education and employability."

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  • A Teenager Graduates High School and Community College at the Same Time, and the Online Learning That Made It Possible

    by LearnEd

    Kate Croteau

    A Door Opens for a Non-Traditional Student

    Kate Croteau spent the month of May walking in two graduations, earning a high school diploma AND an associates degree from a community college.

    She has always been a non-traditional student.

    Kate was home-schooled in elementary school and switched to online charter schools for middle and high school.

    But it wasn't until a teacher from Ohio Connections Academy, an online charter school serving students in grades K-12 across Ohio, suggested she start taking college-level courses when her studies really took off.

    Finally Challenged

    "I was bored in freshman English," Kate says. "I wasn't being challenged and my high school teacher suggested a program called College Credit Plus."

    The program allows high school students to take college courses for credit that still count towards high school graduation.

    "Instead of English 10 in high school, I started taking English Composition 1 then 2 at North Central State College," she says.

    And Kate says the experience finally gave her the challenge that she wanted academically.

    Mixing High School with Community College

    It was a gradual process.

    She took all high school classes during her freshman year. Then a few college-level classes were mixed in her sophomore year.

    Pretty soon, she was taking all college-level courses—that also counted towards her high school diploma—in math, science, psychology, sociology, English, and other disciplines.

    "There was a huge difference between high school and college," Kate says. "And I loved the new, accelerated pace at North Central State."

    Her high school courses had all been online. Now she was taking some of her college courses IN physical classrooms on campus.

    Lauds and Honors

    "I've always done well in my classes," Kate says. "I took an economics course at North Central State, however, that went just whooooosh."

    "I was definitely under water that semester," she says.

    Kate still excelled academically.

    Through Ohio Connections Academy, she was inducted into the National Honor Society.

    Kate was one of three salutatorians in her high school class.

    ("I loved those live induction ceremonies over the years," she says. "I realized I wasn't the world's only high school overachiever.")

    At North Central State, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. It's the nation's oldest academic honor society.

    She graduated with an associates degree in liberal arts of psychology.

    Still, Kate's flexible schedule also allowed for time to be active with the Girl Scouts, the 4H Club, guitar lessons—she writes lyrics when she can, and has been teaching herself piano for "the last couple of years."


    One of Kate's unfinished lyrics:

    I will not follow you around

    Not without a call

    I will not expose my wandering soul

    I will not pretend to be helpless

    Which one's the lie? I'd like you to take the best guess

    A prize if you're right

    A blank stare if you're either


    'Friends for Life'

    "When I started working as an English tutor at North Central State, I started making friends for life," Kate says.

    "We were a bunch of stressed-out college students who were sleep-deprived and broke," she says. "All this brought us together."

    Kate started to get involved with the deaf community in her community.

    She's partially deaf in one ear and has lost most of her hearing in the other.

    classes

    "I became really attached to the deaf community," Kate says. "And I love using American Sign Language."

    Kate was familiar with the challenges for hearing-impaired students in traditional classrooms:

    * she was given preferential seating in the front row of classrooms,

    * she needed transcripts for all audio and video files played in class,

    * and she often needed outlines before professors delivered traditional lectures so she could follow along and stay on top of words that were unfamiliar.

    Her experience has motivated her to help others.

    This fall, she'll begin classes at Kent State University to focus on speech pathology and audiology.

    The Next Academic Adventure

    Kate says she feels a bit of pressure to be such an academic super gal.

    "I couldn't have gotten this far without the support of my family," she says. "Because of the various accommodations I needed in class, we had to fight for things every so often."

    "I'm looking forward to being normal at Kent State," Kate says. "I'm looking forward to doing well academically, being active on campus, being a leader in the community—with normal expectations like normal people."

    And her next academic adventure begins in late August when she moves in to her Kent State dorm.

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  • Meet Michael and Nick: Microsoft Office National Champions

    by LearnEd

    Michael Kelly

    The Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship is a global competition that tests students’ skills in Microsoft Office Word, Excel® and PowerPoint®. Top students are invited to represent their countries at the World Championship in Orlando August 7-10. Below, we profile Michael Kelley and Nick O'Donnell, two of the top competitors who will represent the United States in the global championship next month. Follow the competition on social media via #MOSWC.


    The Proof is in the Certification

    Michael Kelly, a Nebraska native and recent Papillion-La Vista South High graduate, already knows how tough it is to get hired. To prove his skills, he’s achieved certification in all the Microsoft Office products, but he specializes in Excel. He’s so good, he was named the Microsoft Excel 2013 U.S. National Champion in June.

    “When you are coming into a job, they don’t know who you are. They don’t know your history. But, [certification] shows you work hard for it and it proves you’re good,” says Michael.

    Michael competed in Certiport's Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship event in Orlando, Florida, against 108 participants from around the country to be named the National Excel Champion. His hard work resulted in a cash prize at the competition, and a job offer in the real world.

    Offline Perks

    “My certification helped me get a job in my school district helping staff and students repair computers and complete their projects,” says Michael. He is certified through Pearson’s Certiport program.

    He put in a lot of hard work to get to become a champion.

    “I didn’t know all the intricacies of Excel. My teacher really pushed me to go through it all and go really deep,” says Michael. “It is boring when you start and it’ll take a while. But when you get to this level you feel unstoppable.”

    Beyond the extra push, Michael had a good time.

    “You’re in front of everyone. It’s so exciting. The championship was so high energy. I just had so much fun.”

    Looking Forward to What's Next

    Michael will represent the U.S. in the World Championship August 7-10 in Orlando, Florida. He'll will be competing against champions from 80 countries.

    Michael Kelly's Victory at Certiport's Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship from Pearson Learning News on Vimeo.


    A Renaissance Man Ready to Take on the World

    Nick O’Donnell is a recent graduate from Belgrade High School in Montana. He’s a great student, an eagle scout, and known around his high school as the “tech dude,” but he has something special on his resume that makes him stand out.

    Nick is the U.S. Champion in Microsoft Word 2013. In June, he competed against 108 other students at Certiport's 2016 Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship event in Orlando to prove his skills.

    “When my name was called, my mom screamed beyond loud. Everyone heard it,” says Nick. “I’m kind of in shock.”

    What He'll Do With His Winnings

    As the first place winner, he received a $3,000 cash prize. He plans on using his winnings to buy a car and help with college costs. In the fall, he’ll attend Montana State University for a degree in computer science and a minor in business administration.

    The Road to Greatness

    Nick says that his internship at First Security Bank was a result of his certification through Pearson’s Certiport. He put in a lot of work to get to this level.

    “I mess around with the programs to learn them,” says Nick. He studied a lot of books about Microsoft Office, and his career and tech teacher, Ms. Francis, worked with him to take practice certification tests.

    The Final Hurdle

    In August, he’s going back to Orlando for the World Championships, where the stakes are even higher. To win the World Championship title, he’ll have to compete against students from 80 countries.


     

    Top Notch Prizes for the Champions

    What do world champions win, besides bragging rights? The top three finishers at the competition win cash and other prizes:

    Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 1.32.10 PM
     
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John Fallon

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  • The state of parenting

    by Stacy Skelly

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    I am proud to be “mom” to two adorable little boys — a three-year-old and a seven-month old. Becoming a mom has really changed me for the better. As anyone who is one will know, being a parent isn't always easy. In fact, it's often quite hard. It is a challenge like no other, but so are the rewards. I wouldn't change it for the world.

    It’s so true that parents really are our children’s first and most important teachers. Every day I’m amazed by how quickly my boys are learning and growing. They will be attending school soon, and when they do I hope those first steps at home will have set them on a good foot in their academic lives... and continue to do so as they find their way into work and adulthood. The nuts and bolts of what they'll need to know for life might be taught in the classroom, but equally important will be the behaviors we will try to keep encouraging at home - ambition, resilience, determination, and kindness.

    We are 40,000 strong at Pearson, and many of those 40,000 people are parents. So when, as a company, we say 'we’re putting the learner at the center of everything we do' it's not just a throw-away line or a bullet point on a strategic document -- it's a personal commitment that many of us first made not as employees, but as parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents, in our own home, to our own kids. It’s not a promise articulated in terms of 'learner at the center,' but rather "I'm going to love you and never give up on you." It's a promise that each of us takes beyond our own families, around the corners of the kids in our neighborhood, and across state and national borders. It's a promise we make to all children, wherever they may be: education has the power to make your life better.

    That's why I’m excited to share the findings from a new NBC News National Survey of American Parents, which is shedding light on the current state of parenting in the U.S. Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, the research paints a new portrait of the American family, and really encourages us to think about the crucial link between a strong family and a strong education.

    A few of my favorite poll highlights are:

    • 75% of America’s parents give high marks to the education their children are receiving

    • 79% of parents reported having dinner with their families most days of the week

    • Two-thirds of parents say their children's overall academic performance is excellent (39%) or very good (25%)

    • A little more than half (53 percent) of parents are satisfied with their level of involvement in their child’s education, but almost as many parents (47 percent) wish they could do more.

    You can learn more about the findings at www.ParentToolkit.com/Poll and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #StateofParenting.

    ***

    Stacy works in our North American team. Connect with her on Twitter on @StacySkel

     

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  • Together, to get every child learning

    by Amanda Gardiner

    hero img

    As a parent, I know how central education is to the ‘growing up’ experience. New friends, new perspectives, life lessons – these are what I hear about every day when my kids come home from school.

    A classroom provides a safe, supportive space where a child can learn about the world, interact with peers, and feel a bit of normality. It’s a place where it’s okay to ‘dream big’ and a bright future seems possible. But every day, millions of children miss out on the opportunity to attend school and to learn those skills. Half of all out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict.

    Our new partnership with Save the Children, Every Child Learning, aims to improve access to quality education for children who have been affected or displaced by conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies - starting with a pilot in Jordan, which has experienced one of the worst refugee crises in history as a result of war in neighboring Syria.

    It's a project that'll take us out of our comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. We don’t typically operate in places where disaster and conflict is a daily reality, yet it is exactly in the places where education has been abandoned that we have the potential to help.

    That potential isn't about the traditional philanthropic model in which businesses make a donation to a charity and observe project activity from the sidelines.  Rather, it's about being active participants in assessing needs, identifying gaps, and co-creating solutions for the difficult challenge of providing reliable learning opportunities to vulnerable and displaced children.

    Every Child Learning combines Pearson’s expertise in delivering educational products and services at scale with Save the Children’s experience running education programmes in some of the world’s most challenging environments. Together, we’re aiming to create much more than a stopgap intervention – the long-term ambition is to develop new models and ways of working that leverage the core competencies of the private sector and improve the quality of education in emergency and post-conflict settings.

    Ultimately, Every Child Learning is about building innovative learning solutions that can be adapted and scaled in similar contexts around the world, creating Shared Value. What we learn in the context of our pilot initiative in Jordan, we’ll seek to apply elsewhere, so that we help to ensure the cost of conflict isn't counted in empty classrooms and lost generations.

    You can find out more information at https://www.pearson.com/innovation/every-child-learning.html

    ***

    Amanda leads our work with organisations and people that share our vision that education can build a better world. Connect with her on Twitter - @Amanda_Gardiner

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  • Making Assessments Count

    by Jon Twing

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    I was recently asked why Pearson was so eager to sign up to support and develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, in the US, and other assessment systems aligned to higher academic standards. It's a fair question, and one that many teachers, parents, and others are likely asking as well. Why is Pearson so vested in this work? Why does Pearson agree to take on the scope of work, tight timelines, long hours, and political concerns wrapped around the delivery of successful high-quality assessments?

    Quite simply, because it’s the right thing to do. Pearson has always supported the move by US states to adopt higher standards and assessments like PARCC that can measure student progress toward those standards. (We do, of course, get paid for this work, but our goal is bigger than that.)

    It is the right thing to do for education and the future of our school-aged children. The evidence is overwhelming – too many young people leave secondary school underprepared for college or a career. Too many of these students enroll in university, accumulate upwards of $40,000 in student loan debt (not counting the spending of savings, of time, and family sacrifice), only to fall behind, become frustrated, and ultimately drop out because they are not ready.

    These students then enter the job market riddled with debt, and yet are no better prepared than when they first left high school. This one phenomenon alone, to quote the previous Chairman of the Tennessee State Board of Education, demands "truth in advertising," so that students know how well prepared (or unprepared) they are for success. This is where new, higher standards and new assessment systems come in.

    More than five years ago, an effort led by the states emerged to develop a common set of new, rigorous academic standards aligned to the skills and competencies that higher education campuses and employers require of high school graduates in our 21st century global economy. The standards include obvious things, like doing well in Algebra II and English III, and the less obvious things – which employers value tremendously – like being able to think and read critically, solve novel problems and read comparatively. Today, thanks to this collaborative effort, teachers in 43 states plus the District of Columbia are implementing those higher standards, called the Common Core State Standards, in their classrooms.

    In turn, the need for states to get more accurate measures of such meaningful aspects of education is why Pearson supported the development of new assessments, including PARCC.

    We can all agree and disagree on various aspects of both the new standards and assessments that measure those standards. But the fact is that both the Common Core and PARCC are meant to improve the college and career readiness of students. So, while you engage in discussions about what is good and what is bad about education in America, don't forget to focus on the most important aspect – namely, how can you help get our children ready for success in their future? A future that is unlike anything we have encountered in the past – full of technology, billions and billions of bits of information, and jobs that have not yet been created but require mastery of a new set of 21st Century skills and competencies.

    I think Common Core and PARCC are a great start.

    ***

    Jon leads our development and implementation  of global assessment solutions. Connect with him on Twitter - @JonSTwing 

     

     

     

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