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  • 5 Steps to Developing Fair and Accurate Tests

    by LearnEd

    Abstract illustration

    This is the first in a series of stories helping parents understand how their child’s assessments unfold before, during, and after the test. Other stories in this series include: more information about how Pearson ensures online security and technical proficiency as well as a video about how Pearson conducts its tests.


    Pop Quiz

    What do you think is the first step in test development?

    Field Tests

    A. Field tests to make sure everything is working properly.

    States Outline

    B. States adopt benchmarks for what students should know.

    Question Development

    C. "Item" or test question development.

    Set up performance standards

    D. Setting performance standards.

    Build the test

    E. Building the test itself.

    States Outline

    If you answered B, you are correct!

    Every test starts first at the state level where legislators and officials outline what every student should know by the end of the year.

    Creating the Test

    With assessment season under way, you might be wondering just what it takes to create a test. Well, we have the answer and it’s in five easy-to-understand steps:

    States Outline

    Step 1: States outline academic standards.

    This is where it all begins.

    States and/or groups of states outline what students should know and be able to do. Known as academic standards, these benchmarks not only determine what a state wants its students to know by the end of the school year—they also set the foundation for instruction in the classroom and the assessment itself.

    Once the academic standards are set, the state determines which testing partner they’d like to provide the tests for their communities. This is where Pearson may come in.

    Question DevelopmentStep 2: "Item" or test question development.

    Pearson experts team up with former or current teachers, professors, Ph.D. professionals and the group puts its experience and knowledge of the subject matter to the test—literally—to create “items.” Items can be multiple-choice questions, interactive technology items, essay prompts, tasks, situation examples, or activities. And each one of them is geared to a state standard.

    Typically, these external experts draft the initial versions of test items, then Pearson experts shepherd the items through a rigorous development process.

    Once the questions are developed, teachers, content experts, higher education faculty and state education leaders review them to ensure the tests are fair, reliable and accurate. It is not uncommon during this review stage that some questions are thrown out.

    Field TestsStep 3: Field tests or "trials."

    Now it’s time for a test run to ensure each question is fair for all.

    Field tests are a part of the process that enables Pearson along with state partners to test items—not the kids. We are testing to see that the questions are worthy of being used to assess skills and knowledge appropriately.

    Students’ scores on field-tests are only used to evaluate the questions—and give all students a level playing field. They are in no way used to calculate a student’s score for the year.

    During a field test, we can also see if gender, ethnicity or even English proficiency have an impact on a child’s ability to successfully perform the task at hand. All of this is done to verify that each and every question is fair.

    A group of teachers and education experts are involved in reviewing the results and making decisions along the way.

    Quite simply put, this stage helps us assess if an item meets expectations or not. If it doesn’t, it’s cut.

    Build the testStep 4: Build the test.

    Once the questions are determined to be fair, free of bias, and that they're assessing what they are intended to asses, the test is put into its final form in print or digitally.

    Easier questions are mixed with more challenging questions. This variety and mix of content helps us understand what a child really knows at the end of the assessment.

    Set up performance standardsStep 5: Setting performance standards.

    In the final step, states and their educators, with expert statistical information provided by Pearson, make decisions about how well students must perform to pass or be proficient on assessments.

    Performance can be defined in many ways, but these “performance standards” provide a frame of reference for interpreting the test scores. This feedback can help students, parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers understand how well a student did by using a category rating.

    That’s how it’s done.

    There is a lot of time (sometimes even years) to make sure this rigorous process is followed closely—all to ensure that tests and assessments are fair and accurate before getting to your kids hands.


    Our series on assessments:

    Part 1: 5 Steps to Developing Fair and Accurate Tests

    Part II: Behind the Scenes of Your Child's Assessment: How Pearson Keeps the Test Running Smoothly

    Part III: Assessment Series Part III: A video explainer of how Pearson does its assessments.

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  • Assessment Series Part III: A Video Explainer of How Pearson Does Its Assessments

    by LearnEd

    Arty shot of a man

    This is the third in a series of stories helping parents understand how their child’s assessments unfold before, during, and after the test. Other stories in this series include: how assessments are developed from scratch and how Pearson ensures security and agility in its online scoring systems.

    How does Pearson do it? An Explainer

    We've shared this video before and wanted to post it again for this series about assessments.


    Our series on assessments:

    Part 1: 5 Steps to Developing Fair and Accurate Tests

    Part II: Behind the Scenes of Your Child's Assessment: How Pearson Keeps the Test Running Smoothly

    Part III: Assessment Series Part III: A video explainer of how Pearson does its assessments.


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  • Pi Day Learning: Collages, Play Dough, and Number Books

    by LearnEd

    Abstract illustration

    From our Project Literacy partners at the Parent-Child Home Program, 3 number games to play with your kids for Pi Day, Monday—3/14:

    Shape CollageMaking collages is a great way to support early math development.

    Cutting out paper shapes with your child provides opportunities to count the number of sides on each shape.
    It helps them become more familiar with number names and early-stage counting.


    You can help your child think about how the pieces fit together, similar to the way you might approach puzzles—or ask them how various shapes are similar and different.

    Cutting out shapes, manipulating small pieces, and gluing will also help support your child’s fine motor skills.

    play dough

    Who doesn't love play dough? Plus—making it—opens a door to sensory play and learning.

    You and your child can practice math skills by counting the steps in the recipe, measuring ingredients, and discussing the concept of part(s) versus whole.  Challenge your child to make familiar shapes with the play dough and compare sizes, introducing the concept of big versus small.

    big small

    Creating and manipulating the dough will strengthen your child’s fingers and enhance fine motor development, essential to school readiness.

    number book

    Helping your child create a 0-10 booklet is a fun and engaging way to develop early numeracy skills.

    Each page of the booklet features a number, with a corresponding amount of items glued to the page.  Once your child becomes familiar with larger numbers, you can add on!

    As you glue and fill out each page, invite your child to count items and practice recognizing the names of each number in a way that helps them become familiar with numbers.


    The Parent-Child Home Program’s (PCHP) nationwide network of program sites provides low-income families with the necessary skills and tools to ensure their children achieve their greatest potential in school and in life. Together we are strengthening families and communities, and preparing the workforce of the future.

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  • When a College Student Talks Education With CEOs and Lawmakers

    by LearnEd

    Speakers panel on a stage
    Eduardo Profile Shote 2
    Manzano Facebook

    Higher Education in the 21st Century

    Eduardo Manzano was invited with two other college students this week to share their experience in 21st century higher education.

    the panelists

    One student panelist was approaching his 30th birthday. The second panelist started a successful business to help pay for her college education. And Eduardo comes from a community where more than a third of residents live below the poverty line and, until recently, large numbers of the city’s high school graduates never applied to college.

    Their stories were part of a panel discussion called "Confronting the Skills Gap" presented by The Atlantic and sponsored by Pearson.

    Eduardo's Hopes for the Future

    During an exchange on the panel with Pearson CEO John Fallon, Eduardo explains how a low-cost college education has been a "great experience," setting him up for a career he hopes to land in biomedical engineering.


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  • 14 Arizona Mayors Trying to Change the Educational Outcome of More than 18,000 Students

    by LearnEd

    Man talking with his hands

    This is the second in a series highlighting the unique ways states and local groups are helping young people finish high school and stay on the road toward college or a career.

    A Massive Challenge

    Every year, about 20 percent—or more than 18,100—of Arizona students leave high school without graduating. That’s 20 percent of Arizona’s students who will likely struggle to find a career and financial security once they drop out.

    And, Arizona is not the only state where students are struggling with this challenging economic and education reality. Every year, nearly 500,000 students nationwide leave high school before earning a diploma.

    Lifting Graduation Rates

    To try to turn this tide, America's Promise Alliance and Pearson developed the GradNation State Activation Initiative, a three-year collaboration to increase U.S. high school graduation rates to 90 percent by 2020.

    To make this effort a success, Pearson and America’s Promise Alliance went straight to the people at the state level who are working with young people every day.

    Together, Pearson and America’s Promise Alliance invested in three organizations from different states—WestEd, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Minnesota Alliance With Youth. All three groups are looking for new ways to keep their community’s students in school.

    A meeting in February of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.
    (L to R) Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild of Tucson, and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix at a February meeting of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.

    The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable

    WestEd is an organization that specializes in conducting research on high school graduation rates and works with policymakers and practitioners to ensure large-scale improvements and innovative changes to a range of education issues.

    In Arizona, WestEd has invested three years of its expertise in the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, also funded by the Helios Education Foundation. The Roundtable is a unique convening of mayors from across the state who not only come together to talk about the education in their communities, but also do something active to make a difference.

    What sets apart the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable is the commitment of its members to work in a bipartisan way.

    Members hail from different communities, backgrounds and political affiliations, which can cause challenges—but each mayor is willing and open to work across party lines.

    Gilbert Mayor John Lewis and Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord at at a February meeting of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.
    (L to R) Gilbert Mayor John Lewis and Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord at at a February meeting of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.

    A Two-Part Plan

    The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable has two main areas of focus in increasing the graduation rates:

    Economic Success: A student who finishes his or her education is more likely to land a job, leading to greater economic success—not only for that individual, but the entirety of the state. The lifetime economic loss of the 18,100 students each year who leave high school in Arizona is estimated to be $7.6 billion.

    Hispanic/Latino Graduates: Arizona is one of six states that collectively educates more than 70 percent of the nation’s Hispanic/Latino students. This group of students have seen a decrease in graduation rates previously in 2010-2011 and 2012-2013.

    Arizona's Step to Success

    In February, the Arizona mayors met to talk about their priorities and educational initiatives and discuss what’s working in their communities and what’s not. And while there was playful banter highlighting differing points of view, the mayors were genuinely able to see eye-to-eye.

    As an example of this work, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D) of Tucson, Arizona, spoke to his peers about Steps to Success, a local program aimed at bringing students back to school.

    Tuscon Mayor Jonathan Rothschild participates in a door-to-door campaign for Steps to Success.
    Tuscon Mayor Jonathan Rothschild participates in a door-to-door campaign for Steps to Success.

    Often when a student leaves high school, a counselor or caring adult from the program reaches out with a home visit to try and get them back to classes. Even the mayor himself sometimes makes a house call visit to encourage student attendance.

    That’s what Steps to Success is all about. Reaching out in a personal and high-touch way to young people who are struggling—to express empathy and actively encourage them to be bold and finish their education.

    “It’s a great program and it started from a very simple concept,” said Mayor Rothschild. “It’s probably been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as mayor.”

    Spreading What Works

    Mayor Rothschild's next home visits won’t be conducted until the summer when the program makes its outreach efforts.

    And many of the other mayors see Steps to Success as a community program for more than just one city.

    They all remember what it was like to be a student—and they're equally resolved to help driving change for their communities to grow.

    The best part is they are doing it together.


    You can read more about the GradNation State Activation Initiative and our grantees here on LearnEd.

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