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  • Getting the Most Out of Gifted and Talented Programs

    by LearnEd

    Teacher in from of a chalk board

    Working the Brain

    Katie McClarty encourages her seven-year-old daughter to make choices at school that are always "working her brain."

    "A library book she picked up might be too easy," Katie says. "Are there enough words on the page that she doesn't know? So we talk about how she might challenge herself with a different book that stretches her a little more," Katie says.

    Katie's daughter was recently admitted to a gifted learning program in their Texas school district. As the director of Pearson's Center for College and Career Success, Katie says she's been impressed by the level of personalization in the program.

    "They're doing a good job evaluating students and matching them with educational resources," Katie says. "Math is my daughter's thing and she's in an accelerated class. Writing is not, so she's in a different class."

    Flexibility in Gifted and Talented

    Katie’s work with Pearson—and her appreciation for her daughter’s classes—is based on the idea that all children should learn something every day. "Gifted and talented learners may need deeper exploration or they may need to move faster on a particular topic," she says. "It's important that an education system have the flexibility to provide these opportunities."

    Katie was herself a gifted learner, growing up in Iowa. “In rural communities,” she says, “there may not be a lot of opportunities to explore at different paces—or meet other learners who needed the same things.”

    Summer camps introduced a young Katie to other students with accelerated learning needs. She thrived. Today, she has a doctorate in psychology and an expertise in gifted and talented programs.

    "Gifted and talented programs give many children the freedom to be themselves, even push themselves," she says. "Sometimes, you'll even see learning-related behavioral problems disappear once they enter a gifted learning class."

    A Mix of Challenges

    Katie says she's often asked by parents of gifted learners for guidance navigating the array of program options for their children. "Parents can get easily stressed about picking the right experiences for accelerated learners," she says.

    “I always recommend a broader view,” Katie says. “Give them lots of opportunities to be challenged in lots of different ways. Don’t stress about one decision—and you can always reevaluate.”

    Katie points to a study published in the Journal of Educational Pschology, led by Jonathan Wai at Duke University. The study talks of educational challenges in terms of "dosages."

    "Young learners—all of us—need an appropriate mix of challenges," she says. "It's never just one thing."

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  • How 'Invisible Assessment' is the Future of Testing

    by LearnEd

    Two hands holding nothing

    "The exciting part is where we're headed," declares Kimberly O'Malley with a trademark accent that's both endearing and direct. It's as if she's still in a Texas classroom with her elementary and middle school students.

    Kimberly is talking about the future of testing, something she and her research colleagues describe as "invisible assessments." It's the idea that traditional, end-of-year testing is replaced with real-time assessments that are baked in and "invisible" to the learning process as it happens.

    "We're aiming for new ways of assessment and testing that collect information during learning about where students are, how they're performing, and how they're developing," Kimberly says. "By the time we've harnessed all this information about students on the fly, any data that might have been generated with traditional testing would be so inferior."

    A Shift in Thinking About Assessments

    Kimberly leads much of Pearson's research and development efforts. She has a PhD in assessments.

    "Other industries are using sophisticated behavioral technology to perfect this kind of integrated approach," Kimberly explains. "When I go to the grocery, my receipt has a coupon for cat food. Though I didn't happen to buy any cat food that day—I do have cats—and the grocery understands my buying habits so well that they've matched their services with my current and future needs."

    NextGen Assessments Pull

    "These industries are doing a phenomenal job using data technology to understand people," Kimberly says. "Educators are now using this digital revolution to push our understanding of learning science—to create environments where students are always learning."

    The approach calls for a shift in thinking about assessments. "Tests in the past were used at the end of the year to see if students actually learned the curriculum," Kimberly says. "Now, we're shifting from 'did they learn it?' to 'how are they learning it?'

    It's integrated assessment that's more consistent during the learning year, and it's more granular in its approach. And, Kimberly says, the future of testing is closer than many realize.

    "The Data We Already Have"

    "The first step is a better understanding of the data we already have," Kimberly says. "There's so much information that's already part of the process—classroom grades, homework assessments, tests, quizzes—we just don't often pull all the information together in order to use it."

    "I'm glad the President is calling out assessments," Kimberly says of President Obama's recent comments about what he describes as "too much testing."

    "Next generation assessments will give us much better insight about our learners while they're learning," Kimberly says. "Because the President is right: 'Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble.'"

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  • 10 Books to Read With Your Kids

    by LearnEd

    Stack of books

    Jennifer Rosenthal is the Parent Outreach Community Manager at Pearson.

    Cuddled Together Under a Blanket

    “What makes you sad?” my grandma asked. We’d just finished reading our favorite book, Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel. The main character, Owl, makes tear water tea by thinking of sad things—like mashed potatoes left on a plate and beautiful mornings no one sees.

    We were cuddled together under a big blanket on the living room couch. It was snowing out, but the house was warm and smelled like a mix of chocolate covered macaroons and my grandma’s perfume. I responded quickly.

    Jenn Rosenthal and her grandma.

    “I’m sad when people are mean.”

    I'd just been bullied for the first time in elementary school. A girl named Robin called me a baby and made fun of the “Owl at Home” book I carried in my backpack.

    “You should remember that it makes you sad when people are mean," Grandma explained. "Think about how other people feel when people are mean. That’s why it’s so important for you to be a nice person.”

    I was six years old. What could’ve been a silly, unrealistic book about salty tea became a life lesson about kindness and humility for me. My grandma has since passed, but the lessons I learned from reading and talking with her as a child have stayed with me through adulthood.

    Reading with Children

    Each November is National Family Literacy Month—a time when families celebrate reading, learning and growing together. Parents and guardians are encouraged to read with their children for 30 minutes each day, and to enrich those bonding experiences with broader, meaningful conversations and questions.

    So, in the spirit of National Family Literacy month, I asked some colleagues about their favorite books to read as a family. Some of their book recommendations are below:

     

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  • 5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

    by LearnEd

    Kids cutting cookies

     

    A post from Dr. Kimberly O’Malley—a public school teacher, a mother of two boys, and a Pearson researcher at the Pearson Research & Innovation Network.

    Just because the kids are home from school for the holiday break doesn’t mean that they should be glued to the TV or their iPhones. You can turn holiday days into learning fun. Even better, you don’t need to go out and buy any expensive holiday toys to keep them learning while the schools are closed. In this video, Pearson parent expert Dr. Kimberly O’Malley shares a few family-friendly suggestions to keep students learning over the holiday season—and shares five more ideas below.


    Bake some cookies or your great aunt’s famous fruit cake!

    Cooking and baking are easy (and tasty) ways to teach your kids about measuring, math, and even some science! Younger kids can help measure flour and sugar. Older kids can double the recipe, making it necessary to double the recipe measurements. For little ones, cookie cutters make for great lessons about shapes. The best part is that they are sure to stay motivated by the promise of some fresh baked cookies at the end of their “lesson.”

    Don’t break the holiday gift budget!

    Shopping with your kids offers many ways to bring learning into the holidays. Take the kids with you to the mall to buy some gifts for their siblings, family members, or friends. Have them compare prices or evaluate the quality of gifts. Or, have your kids join you at the grocery store to pick out the food for your family feast! Have them make the list with you. They can organize the list by food types or even location in the grocery story. Give them a list of a few items to purchase and a set amount of money to teach them about budgeting. For older kids, have them estimate the total, tell you how much change you are supposed to get, or calculate the tax on the purchases--without the help of the calculator on their phone! They can always use their phones to check their answers.

    Let the kids help build and assemble holiday gifts.

    STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers are among the most in-demand, and there is no sign that the need for STEM experts will change over the next few years. It is never too early to teach the kids how to follow directions to put their new toys together, and for the older kids, use some of the tools you’ve got in the garage. Your future engineers need to know the difference between a flat head and Phillips head screwdriver. And, your curious future engineers might want to know the history of screwdrivers.

    Teach the younger kids colors and shapes when hanging ornaments or decorations.

    Even your youngest kids should join in on the learning fun this holiday season. As you are decorating the tree or hanging up holiday lights, ask your child to tell you the shapes of the ornaments or the colors of the ornaments or lights. Take them for a walk around the neighborhood and do the same with the decorations in your neighbor’s yards.

    Learn a new holiday song or act out your favorite holiday story.

    No matter what holiday you are celebrating, there are no shortage of holiday songs and stories to share with your kids. Pick your favorite from your childhood or look up a new one that you and your child can learn together. Studies show that movement increases creativity. So, why not try acting out the song or putting together a new dance to Jingle Bells?

     

    Five Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays Final

     

    At the end of the season, when you are packing up the holiday decorations, don’t forget to tuck the ideas that worked best this year into a box of ornaments or with the tree. Next year when you unpack the decorations, the list of ideas can help you kick off next holiday season with even more ways to turn holidays into learning fun for your kids. I'd love to hear how you engage with your children over school breaks.

     

    Share your tips and tricks with me on Twitter.

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  • Meet the People of Pearson Assessments

    by LearnEd

    Shot of a woman working

    Bob Sanders PhotoBob Sanders is Pearson's Director of Performance Scoring.

    When I'm not goofing around with my family in 3D movie glasses, I oversee performance scoring across the country for Pearson.

    People of Pearson Pull Quote

    My colleagues and I understand that there are a lot of questions about assessments in the U.S., about how assessments can help learning, and about Pearson's role in the assessment  scoring process. So we thought it would be helpful to share a bit about our work and our people, who are the heart of our operation.

    Many of us are teachers and parents or caregivers with children in the school systems. It's because we directly serve teachers, students, parents, and others, we take our work seriously and strive to get our assessment scoring right every time.

    This video is the first in a series about Pearson's Performance Scoring team. It's an overview of the assessment scoring process and an introduction to some of the passionate people who read and score student submissions.

    Many thanks for watching.

     

     

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