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LearnED Stories

  • Finding a Career Through a Journey, Not a Series of Steps

    by LearnEd

    Young boy with cardboard wings strapped to his back

    Robin Baliszewski speaking at a recent company event.
    Robin Baliszewski speaking at a recent company event.

    Following the Learning

    As Robin Baliszewski reflects on the twists and turns of her three decades in education, she says she always put a premium on applying what she was learning to guide her in her career.

    "I was a biology major in college with an undeclared minor in philosophy," Robin says. "I thought I wanted to go to medical school and I realized that as much as I loved science, my interests were broad."

    back porch

    After graduation and a summer working three jobs, she went on a low-budget trip through Europe with some friends.

    "When I returned home, I remember sitting on the back porch with my mom," Robin says. "She told me in so many words: 'If you aren't going to graduate school or medical school, you better get a job because you're not living here.' That was her way of saying it's time to move into the real world."

    Robin says she began to think about what she wanted to do.

    "Thinking about going to a job where I sat behind a desk all day wasn't really appealing to me," Robin says. "The thought of being able to work on a college campus, in the heart of teaching and learning was exciting."

    She soon spoke with a recruiter—and landed a job in educational publishing.

    "Everything clicked with that decision," Robin says. "I loved talking with faculty members every day, learning about what they were doing in the classroom."

    It was a long way from studying to be a doctor.

    Today, Robin leads sales for higher education in the U.S. for Pearson.

    "The funny part about my first interview with Pearson," she says, "was that I went ahead with the appointment even though I was still recovering from sinus surgery."

    "I sat at a table looking out the window and because of the glare from the window, I had a really hard time seeing the interviewer's face," Robin recalls. "I was so nervous about messing up the interview I didn't think to ask if I could move my chair."

    "I learned later that the hiring manager told his colleagues: 'If she can't maintain eye contact, she'll never succeed in our business.' Thankfully, the recruiter convinced him to see me one more time, and after taking a battery of tests, going through multiple rounds of interviews, and spending a day on campus with a sales rep, I was offered the job."

    A New Understanding About Education

    Having spent a few years as a young sales rep in upstate New York during the 1980s, Robin was moved into an editorial role with Pearson.

    She first worked with authors to develop teaching materials that taught English as a second language.

    "Again, I learned something new about myself and my work," Robin says. "The students using our materials were immigrants who needed English to get a job and have a career and pursue a productive life.

    transform lives"I would talk with teachers in church basements and YMCA rooms," she says, "and heard over and over again about how students sought out learning to improve their lives."

    Robin says she felt the power of education come alive in a whole new way.

    She liked the work so much, she stayed in that job another decade, developing products in criminal justice, hospitality, and agriculture.

    A New Challenge

    After taking on a director of marketing role, Robin was given an opportunity to run the ESL division and subsequently the career and vocational division at Pearson. She was then asked to take on the role of Director for People for Pearson.

    "I knew nothing about HR outside of my experience leading teams and working with HR in my previous jobs. The power of having a great team hit home for me in a whole new way," she recalls. "I was surrounded by HR professionals who taught me the ropes helped me succeed. To this day I'm indebted to those colleagues."

    But after four years in that role, Robin realized she missed something about her previous positions.

    "I realized I missed the direct interaction with customers and product development and sales," Robin says.

    That realization helped lead her to her current position as a Managing Director in charge of sales.

    A Mom's Influence

    "My mom always believed that if you put your mind to it, anything was possible," Robin says.

    Her mother went on to earn her GED at the age of 40 so she could secure a job with Delta Airlines.

    "She didn't let things stand in her way," Robin says. "She also loved creating experiences that people wouldn't soon forget."

    "We'd have holiday dinners," Robin says, "and my mom would make six main courses instead of one. She'd make eight pies instead of one or two," she says. "Fortunately, she was a fantastic cook."

    "Breaking bread with family and friends was one of her favorite things to do. She wanted people to leave feeling like they just ate the best meal of their lives," Robin says. "My mother always went the proverbial extra mile."


    Robin says her mom's outlook and attitude influenced her greatly, especially in her career.

    "It all starts with the relationships and bonds we build with each other," Robin believes. "It's all about the experience we create for ourselves and the people we work with."

    Helping Others Find a Career Path

    Over the years, people have asked Robin about particular career paths.

    "I love having those conversations," Robin says. "I always tell people, 'do what you love.'"

    "I didn't have a plan to one day be a managing director for a large company. To me, it's always been about the journey, about what's possible, about what I love doing."

  • Pokemon Go: A Mom Falls For It and Loves Playing With Son

    by LearnEd

    Mother and her kids taking a walk

    A Global Phenomenon: From Avatars to Key Work Skills


    Dianna Blake and her son were interviewed by an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles. The story:

    First things first:

    If you're not familiar with all the ins and outs of this mobile app that is sweeping the globe, Vox has published a really useful story called "Pokemon Go: 9 Questions About the Game You Were Afraid to Ask."

    This is exactly where Dianna Blake started.

    She's a mom, a graduate student, a blogger for moms in college, an emerging author—and this fall, a professor of English composition at California State University, Fullerton.

    "My social feeds were blowing up with posts about this new game," Dianna says. "I glanced at the logo and it looked sketchy. I wondered: what was going on?"

    "Seeing my friends stressed out over finding characters blew my mind," she says.

    'We Fell Pretty Hard For It'

    "I decided to download the app," Dianna says, "and happened to mention it to my son when I picked him up from Vacation Bible School."

    Her son's name is Matthew and he's 14.

    "He perked up," Dianna says, "and said 'That's the new thing.'"

    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 9.19.48 AM

    Then she fell in love, in a matter of speaking.

    "Matthew and I played together on the way home that night," Dianna says, "and we fell pretty hard for it."

    "I've already Tweeted J.K. Rowling and told her 'If you build a world like this in an app, I will live on it!'"

    A New Bond Between Mother and Son

    Matthew has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.

    "Our interests are very different," Dianna says. "I'm an academic, he is so in to gaming and computers. He dives in to that world and, often, we don't have much to talk about."

    "This game has really built a new bridge between mother and son," she says.

    Matthew playing Pokemon Go with his mom in a picture posted on her blog: collegesuccessformoms.wordpress.com
    Matthew playing Pokemon Go with his mom in a picture posted on her blog: collegesuccessformoms.wordpress.com

    Last week, Dianna and Matthew caught a Pokemon character in their kitchen.

    They've started going on walks to the park after sundown, looking for characters together.

    They play together on car trips. She drives, he holds the phone.

    "He never would go voluntarily on walks before," Dianna says. "and he's been able to teach me about the game while we're together."

    "Matthew educates me about Pokemon, even correcting my grammar as we're talking about the game," she says.

    Using the Game's Strengths to Be a Better Teacher

    "My three kids so often talk about social memes and characters and I have no idea what they're talking about," Dianna says.

    "This game has invited me to be young again and to share a childhood gaming experience with my son," she says.

    "Matthew is more active, I'm able to get him out in the sunlight," Dianna says, "and most importantly, we're doing this together."

    As Dianna and Matthew continue collecting Pokemon characters and increased their status on the game—they're now a Level 9 player on Team Instinct—it's given her some ideas about classes she's start teaching in the fall.

    "This game is teaching students really important workplace skills like collaboration, oral communication, teamwork," Dianna says. "We see groups all the time asking each other who they've caught and what team they're playing for."

    "So I want to use this kind of experience in my class," she says.

    She plans a Pokemon Go-like scavenger hunt on the first day of class this fall.

    "My students can work together to find places on campus," Dianna says. "Hopefully, this gets them motivated, it encourages discussion, and it helps me relate to my students in a fresh way."

    "Just like this new door has been opened up with my son."

  • China Spotlight: A New Learning Pathway That Could Improve Access to Millions More Students

    by LearnEd

    Chineses students looking happily at each other

    An Explosion in Demand for Higher Education

    "Over the next decade, 50 million more people around the world will want access to higher education," says Matt Evans, a Vice President in corporate finance and strategy at Pearson.

    "There's no way existing infrastructure will be able to handle these numbers," he says. "There are not enough university buildings or faculty to meet the demand."

    It's a significant supply and demand imbalance.

    Unlocking Access to Learning

    Americans have wide-ranging access to thousands of schools of higher education.

    It's a unique resource.

    "So while academic ability is evenly distributed around the world, opportunity for high-quality education is not," says Paul Gleason, a Vice President of Strategic Planning at Pearson.

    "We intend to help bridge that gap," he says. "Our big idea is to bring our vast array of online and on-ground resources, partners, and global reach to provide that opportunity to millions of deserving students."

    "We're looking for more ways to unlock that access to learning across the globe," Paul says.

    new pathways

    A New Pathway Project in China

    Traditionally, international students have sought learning experiences in the U.S. and the U.K., often times to overcome limited access to higher learning in their own communities.

    Matt says roughly one million international students study in the U.S. each year.

    "China alone makes up about thirty percent of those students," he says.

    So Matt, Paul and their colleagues are exploring new, more affordable learning pathways for Chinese students.

    Saving a Student's Money, Improving Access to Higher Education

    It's a twist on the old models.

    Academic programs for foreign nationals in need of English preparation and cultural immersion often begin with a first year of study "on the ground" followed by on-campus matriculation inside a college or university.

    "We're exploring a new idea," Matt says. "What if that freshman year was in the home country instead, with all of the same personalized support and progression path to the U.S. or the U.K.?"

    "Something like this could save students in places like China upwards of $30,000," he says, "and the on-campus immersion would happen during the last three years of their education."

    Pearson is already helping teach English to tens of thousands of students in China at hundreds of  learning centers across the country. These same facilities could be used for the idea Matt and Paul are working on.

    "Our local facilities can help students get a jumpstart to prepare them for study in the U.S. and the U.K.," he says.

    A Complementary Partnership

    Under this new pathway model, Pearson would provide the facilities as well as its expertise in student recruitment, local personalized support, and digital courseware.

    "Our academic partners and their faculty would make all admissions decisions, provide academic control and delivery, as well as oversee progression of students to their on-campus experience where they will earn their degree," Matt says.

    "We envision this new pathway as a blended offering," he says. "It would be a mix of on-the-ground interaction with facilitators and other local students as well as substantive connection with U.S. faculty members online."

    iron triangle

    Decreasing Cost and Improving Access, But Not Limiting Quality

    "We're taking on some really significant issues in higher education," Paul says.

    "For years, the challenge of solving what is referred to as the 'iron triangle' with its three-fold constraints of access, quality, and cost, has limited opportunities in higher education," he says. "We have struggled with how to dramatically impact one of these, specifically access, without reducing quality or exploding costs."

    So how can the 'iron triangle' be broken?

    "This experiment might mean we're able to improve access for those in China to excellent, high-touch higher education in the U.S.—without having to lower quality or increase cost," Paul says.

    Fundamental Indicator of Well-Being

    This initiative is one of several being conducted around the world.

    "So many of us believe that education is the great driver of progress within people's lives everywhere," Paul says.

    improving lives

    "Education is central to improving lives," he says. "It's the most significant indicator for personal health, economic outcomes, and a variety of other things fundamental to well-being."

    Opening a Door to Learners Who Might Have Been Left Out

    This new pathway project in China is slated to launch pilots in January 2017.

    "This could really change the category of international higher education," Paul says, "and improve access to higher education for many, many students who might have been left out due to high costs and limited support."

    Paul and Matt plan to travel to Beijing and other cities in China next month to continue research on this project—and start setting the framework for January's pilots.

    final image
  • Online Badges: Giving Learners More Choice and Making it Easier for Employers to Compare Job Candidates

    by LearnEd

    Man using a laptop

    Re-entering the Workforce with the Help of an Online Badge

    Coletta Teske recently spoke about the struggles of a job search after taking time away from the workforce.

    She was looking for an IT job—but employers considered her too old for the jobs they were filling.

    "My skills were a bit out-of-date, and I hadn't been in the workforce for a while. I tried everything. And one of the things that kept popping up was going back to school."


    Coletta decided to freshen her skills with a free, online certification course offered by IBM.

    She completed the course, passed its exam, posted her digital certification badge online, where it was viewed by an employer—and got an offer to work.

    A Level Playing Field in the Job Market

    global map

    Companies like IBM have an entire range of credentialing courses that award digital badges through partnerships with Pearson. IBM houses much of it under something called Big Data University.

    IBM says it offers these online badging programs to accomplish three things:

    1 - Provide a reliable, valid and fair method of assessing skills and knowledge.

    2 - Provide IBM a method of building and validating the skills of individuals and organizations.

    3 - Develop a loyal community of highly skilled certified professionals who recommend, sell, service, support and/or use IBM products and solutions.

    "They're creating an entire global ecosystem of comparable qualifications," says Pete Janzow who works on online badging program delivery with Pearson.

    "It's a global talent map they can use to create teams to solve very specific problems," he says.

    More Comparisons, More Choices

    "These online badges help employers have a clearer idea of what each job applicant can do," Pete says. "But the badging system doesn't work if the learner doesn't get something out of it, too."

    "The badge certification has to be 'resume-worthy,'" he says.

    "And, as these online badge programs catch on, learners can stack up courses offered through companies like IBM against courses offered through community colleges and universities—and choose the best course that works for their professional goals."

    stack up

    New Pathways to Jobs

    "These badges have to be valuable for learners and rigorous at the same time," Pete says. "People should be proud of these certifications and want to put them on their resume or share them online."

    It's true that a large and  increasing number of students enrolled in higher education are "non-traditional students," according to The National Center for Education Statistics.

    "That means many of today's learners are coming back to education to collect new skills," Pete says, "in order to deal with the threat of economic disruption or capitalize on a range of profession-enhancing educational options."

    "One thing that's true among learners seeking online badges?" Pete says. "They're largely 'job motivated.'"

    Catching On

    "The IT industry is moving the fastest with substantive online badge programs," Pete says.

    "New industries taking advantage of these qualification programs include healthcare, business, insurance, finance, and manufacturing."

    The Future of Online Badging

    Pete's online badging colleagues at Pearson have seen millions of badges pass through their system over the last two years.

    Companies awarding these badges include Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe.

    Individuals from across the world are currently engaged in a Pearson-delivered online badging program.

    "Part of the future of online badging is in the certification of important job-related 'soft skills,'" Pete says. "These skills are a little more fuzzy and slightly more difficult to measure."

    "Many of my colleagues are putting their heads together to figure this out," he says.

    Always Learning

    Seeking these online badges, Pete says, is a learning accomplishment in itself.

    "When Coletta Teske met with that employer who had seen her badges, he told her he was impressed that she was taking data science classes," Pete says.

    "Those badges told her new employer: I'm willing to re-engage and keep learning."

  • Street Cred: A Zoology Major, Mother of Four, and Online School Counselor

    by LearnEd

    Teacher with her students

    Street Cred: A Zoology Major and Mother of Four

    "I have four children of my own," says Penny Reeves who is Manager of College and Career Counseling for Connections Education.

    She worked for a time as manager of counseling for four public schools in California.

    "My oldest son went to West Point, served as as Captain in the Army, and is now a professional golfer," she says. "My second son went to UCLA. My oldest daughter went to New York University where she majored in film and television. And my youngest, another daughter, went to a small liberal arts school."

    "I had a unique education experience: I majored in zoology," Penny says. "That, plus my experiences with my children, gave me a good perspective for helping other students find their right paths for college and beyond."

    "So, putting all this together, I think I have some good perspective about helping children find the right pathways to college and beyond."

    Connections Education-supported schools ask students about their career aspirations—an important step in a child's learning experience, especially when it happens early.

    'Every Goal is Achievable'

    Connections Education, part of Pearson, offers virtual learning solutions to K through 12 students worldwide. Students using their materials are in traditional and full-time virtual public and private schools, as well as blended learning schools.


    "My job is to help students find a pathway to college and career that's possible," Penny says. "Every student's goal is different and I never want any student to feel like their goal is unachievable."

    "When helping any child, my first question is always: 'What do you like?' or 'What gets you excited?' or 'What do you want to do in the future?'," she says.

    "They may not be top of their class, but they have goals and schools they are interested in attending—we  can explore different ways around it. There are usually multiple paths to get where they want to go," Penny says.

    Exposing Learners to All the Available Pathways to College and Career

    Penny and her colleagues offer a variety of clubs for K-12 students attending Connections Education-supported schools. Many of the clubs are focused on life after high school—college clubs, career clubs, first generation clubs—where students can explore the available options after graduation.

    "We bring in speakers: recent graduates, grad students, professionals, college admissions officers," Penny says. "The best thing that can happen is that these students hear about all the pathways that are possible to reach their goals."

    From 'I'm Stupid" to 'I Want to Be a Lawyer'

    Years ago, Penny started a lunchtime program for students at a traditional middle school who had multiple low grades.

    believe it

    "These were at-risk students and, at first, they hated those sessions," Penny says.

    "Over time, things started clicking," she says. "We brought in teachers to help students with courses they'd had trouble understanding. Other students who'd had trouble with completing homework started doing their homework during our sessions."

    "One young lady had been a 'problem' student for all her teachers," Penny recalls. "She was argumentative and challenged me at every turn."

    Penny says her parents had told her she was 'stupid.' Her classmates started calling her 'stupid.' And she started to believe it.

    "She worked so hard during our lunchtime sessions," Penny says. "She brought me her next report card, a real improvement in grades, and gave me a hug."

    Penny says the young woman told her she wanted to be a lawyer.

    "A year later, when those students went to high school," Penny says, "their guidance counselor told me that none of them were on academic probation."

    "I wanted these students—all my students—to see all the resources that are available to help them succeed," Penny says. "They started to understand the importance of doing well in class and that teachers, rather than the enemy, were there to help kids reach their goals."

    light up

    What If a Child Doesn't Know What They Want?

    Not every student has a clear idea of their goals.

    "I often hear 'I have no idea where I want to go' from students," Penny says. "So the questions turn to their interests. What do they light up about?"

    "Maybe it's sports," she says. "I can then connect that to something like math—and show them how doing well in math can help them be successful with their dreams."

    "We also have to manage the stress on these students," Penny says. "Nobody is perfect in everything and they're all still kids."

    "Any student can find value in their life experience," Penny says. "Someone might say 'I haven't done anything to put on a resume.' So I ask them if they've been babysitting, or taking care of the family pet, or delivering papers, or mowing lawns, or doing jobs around the house."

    "All of these soft, intangible skills are valuable," she says. "And even these things can help children achieve their goals."

    Finding the Pathways

    "I love the creative puzzle when engaging with every child," Penny says. "We start with their goals, then map back to the various pathways that will lead them to those goals."

    "We're helping these kids make college and, eventually, a job possible."

  • Personalized Learning: What Do We Know About How Kids Learn To Do This Well?

    by LearnEd

    Boy looking at a globe of the world

    Personalized Learning: From an Idea to Infrastructure

    Earlier this spring, Chicago Public Schools announced an opening for a position it called "the nation's first": an Executive Director of Personalized Learning.

    "The Executive Director will work with a highly skilled team of internal stakeholders to improve the way schools deliver instruction to 21st century learners" and be responsible for executing a "Personalized Learning vision to increase the number of personalized learning schools within the district."

    Nearly 400,000 students are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools, according to statistics compiled by the district. 86-percent of them are economically disadvantaged. Nearly 17-percent of them are English Language Learners. The largest racial groups are African-American and Hispanic students.

    Driving the Conversation

    Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.10.07 AM
    Pearson produced a conceptual video titled "A Vision for Personalized and Connected Learning." We've also embedded the video at the end of this story.

    You're likely familiar with how personalization of learning is a hot topic in education at the moment.

    Maryland's Baltimore County Public Schools is in the middle of a multi-year plan, called Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT), to provide personalized learning "to our increasingly diverse student population at a time when the economy requires more from our students for future success."

    And it's not just a K-12 phenomenon.

    The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, an advocacy organization that represents institutions with a total of 5 million-plus undergraduates and graduates, has launched the Personalized Learning Consortium to "improve student learning, retention, and graduation."

    Breaking It Down Into Fundamentals

    "Everyone is talking about personalization of learning," says Kristen DiCerbo, Pearson's Vice President of Education Research. "Often, there are a lot of disparate conversations and studies that are not in synch."

    "From my perspective as a researcher," says Kristen says, "I'm thinking: what do we need to know from the research about how kids learn to do personalization well?"

    "How can we pull together a cohesive framework to link all this research in a way that helps educators tailor the best learning to students' needs and goals?" she says.

    The Research Building Blocks of Personalization

    Kristen has started crafting an approach to this cohesive framework with four "building blocks of personalization":Box Progression

    Building Block 1: The Map

    How do students progress from novice to expert in a particular learning topic?

    "Students could be learning calculus, how to compute area, or the best way to apply critical thinking skills to a passage in literature," Kristen says.

    "What does a novice look like? What does an expert look like? And what does the path look like as students move from being a novice to an expert?" she asks.

    "This is one of the key things to know before starting students through a personalized learning process."

    Building Block 2: The "You Are Here Sticker"

    How do we assess where a student is in the progression process defined by Building Block 1?

    "Where are students on the progression spectrum?" Kristen says.

    "We're also looking for ways to understand their position without having to test them all the time," she says.

    LearnED previously posted a story about how an iPad game helps teachers in this way called: "How An iPad Game With Robots Teaches Kids the Art of Persuasion."

    Building Block 3: The Map Offers Directions

    What should a student do next to move forward in the progression process?

    "What should a student do next?" Kristen says. "What are the next activities and then the next activities and then the next activities to help a student learn?"

    "Learning science already has a lot to say about learning and memory during this process," she says.

    Building Block 4: Trip Review

    What are the best ways to provide feedback to students, teachers, and parents?

    "Sometimes immediate feedback to students while learning is not the best approach," Kristen says. "When students have already developed some expertise in a topic, they can learn more productively when feedback is delayed."

    Challenges to Personalization

    "One challenge, of course, is a large classroom," Kristen says. "How can a teacher provide personalized learning across a large number of students every day?"

    huge"Technology can help," she says, "but not everyone in the world is totally hooked up to the Internet yet."

    "The other key challenge is how a student's pathway is governed during the learning process," Kristen says.

    "Sometimes it's best if a student decides to take the next step in a progression," she says. "Sometimes it's best if it's a teacher. And sometimes technology or software can make a good decision."

    "Figuring out the best way to do this is a currently a huge research question."

    A Global Approach

    Kristen wants to apply an eventual framework to learners at all levels—in any school across the globe.

    "There are additional factors like cultural differences and disparities in technology," she says.

    "We're still looking for the best pathways to tailor learning experiences for every student."

    LearnED will return to this story in the coming months to explore more of Kristen's research.

  • The Long Road for a Question to Make It Onto a Test

    by LearnEd

    Young boy dressed as a professor with a clip board

    Parents prepare their kids for a big testing day with the right breakfast and a hug of encouragement. How does Pearson help states and other education agencies develop test questions for a big test day?

    An Extensive Review Process

    Before any question makes it onto a student’s test, many experts inside and outside of Pearson have reviewed the item, tested it out, and determined it is fit to be used.

    Every state (or local education agency) has a different process for developing tests—but we tend to follow a 9-step process.

    STEP 1: Item Writing

    An item, also known as a test question, is created by an item writer.

    To build a pool of diverse, authentic test items, Pearson contracts with professional item writers. In general, item writers need the following qualifications:

    1. Teaching or assessment experience in the subject
    2. Know how to align test questions to standards
    3. Experience writing items/passages

    Because every test is different, we give the writers expert training specific to the assessment and requirements and needs.


    industry standards

    STEP 2: Internal Item Review

    Once Pearson gets the item from the writer, Pearson assessment specialists review it to make sure it is a good item.

    To maintain consistent quality, Pearson assessment specialists evaluate each item to verify they are clear, accurate, and meet expectations. Sometimes items get rejected or sent back to the item writer to be improved. But, if the item is acceptable, the specialist verifies that the item meets the required criteria and sends it to a few more experts:

    • A research librarian fact checks the item to make sure it is accurate
    • An editor reviews for clarity, style, and grammar
    • A graphic designer adds art or graphics such as charts or tables



    STEP 3: Content Committee Review

    Experts and educators representing the state review the item to make sure it fits the criteria of a good test item for the test and for their students.

    STEP 4: Bias Committee Review

    Each item has to pass a bias review by the state working with Pearson, so that every student has to have an equal chance to answer the item correctly.

    Items that do no measure up to standards for fairness and sensitivity can affect the credibility of an assessment and its results. Pearson avoids content that might offend, unfairly penalize, or offer an advantage to students based on personal characteristics or culture.

    STEP 5: Final Internal Review

    After the state reviews each item, Pearson incorporates that feedback and makes edits.

    An item that doesn’t pass this review cannot make it to the next stage.



    STEP 6: Field Test

    Now, the item gets put on its first test, which is called a “field test.”

    Students answer the item, but their responses don’t count toward their test scores or teacher evaluations. If it is a new program, field tests might be held separately. Once a program is established, field-test items are usually embedded in the operational test.

    STEP 7: Data Review

    Pearson experts and the state look at data from the field test to make sure the item is performing as expected and it is giving customers the information they need. For example, if a group of students is struggling with an item significantly more than expected, we can remove that item from the pool.

    STEP 8: Operational Test

    If a test item passes all these reviews, it can be put on a test where it counts toward student scores.

    STEP 9: Retirement

    Once an item has been used too many times, it is ready for retirement and is no longer used on tests. By refreshing the items, students see test questions that haven't been used before and the old items can be released to the public.

  • Getting More Latino Students to Graduate from Selective Colleges

    by LearnEd

    Smiling Latinos that have just graduated

    Strengthening Latinos, a Large Part of Tomorrow's America

    This is a staggering statistic:

    By 2060, Latinos are projected to represent more than one third of all U.S. children.

    It's a figure compiled by Excelencia in Education, a non-profit organization that analyzes Latino trends in U.S. education.

    Low Attainment

    Today, Latinos account for more than a fourth of all K-12 children. In some cities, it's over forty percent.

    "It's a massive portion of our future American population in the education pipeline right now," says Deborah Santiago, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy at Excelencia. "But, when compared with other groups, educational attainment among Latinos is low."

    (Pearson partners with Excelencia in putting on the Accelerating Latino Student Workshop (ALASS).)

    Seeking Answers, An Unexpected Approach

    Taking an unexpected approach, Deborah and her colleagues have just finished a study to understand some of the reasons behind low Latino educational attainment.

    "From Selectivity to Success: Latinos at Selective Institutions" unpacks why such a small percentage of Latinos are enrolled in the most selective colleges and universities—despite the fact that Latinos fill such a large portion of the K-12 cohort.

    With that research, the study asks three questions:

    1 - What does Latino postsecondary enrollment and graduation look like at selective institutions?

    2 - What do we know about these selective institutions where they enroll?

    3 - Are the most selective institutions doing anything specific to serve Latino students that other institutions can learn from?

    Answers to these questions, according to the report, could have a positive impact on America's future:

    "As Latinos continue to be a significant and growing proportion of the American population, awareness and insight about the flow of Latino talent in to and through colleges and universities becomes increasingly more important."

    Key Findings

    cohort model

    Deborah and her colleagues discovered three important things about Latinos matriculating through Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of La Verne:

    1 - "Intentionality matters," she says. That is, when a school provides programs and services, are any of them focused on Latinos? "Many of these students are first in their family to attend college," Deborah says, "they might not see support as often as they could. So outreach makes a difference."

    2 - "The cohort model works," she says. "Latinos are more likely to defer to a friend to think things through." Cohort models provide services to groups of students, versus one-on-one interaction. "These students learn together, share together, and evolve their awareness of the college experience together," Deborah says.

    3 - "Use financial aid for retention as much as admission to school," she says. "It's not just about getting these Latino students in the door. Many of these students need financial help in their second and third year to help sustain their progress."

    'It's Not Just About Money'

    "It's no surprise that the schools with the most resources are able to tailor more programs to Latinos," Deborah says. "But it's not just about money."

    "The more successful schools really engage their Latino constituencies and empower them to help each other," she says.

    "They provide a lot of the recruitment and outreach and mentoring and support for Latinos," Deborah says.

    "That doesn't cost a lot of money."


    Excelencia in Education produced an infographic for its report. It can be found online here.

    Excelencia Graphic
  • What Minecraft Teaches Us About Learning: 'Curiosity at the Core'

    by LearnEd

    A digital landscape

    Luis Oros
    Luis Oros, a Product Owner for Future Technologies at Pearson.

    Following the Lead of 100 Million People

    More than 100 million people are registered users of Minecraft, a massively popular game where players—many of which are children—build complex fantasy worlds with ... blocks.

    "It's the highest grossing game in history," says Luis Oros, a Product Owner for Future Technologies at Pearson. "Something is happening with this game and, from a learning perspective, we wanted to figure out what was going on."

    An Obsession Like Never Before

    "Time and time again," Luis says, "teachers and parents and technical directors at schools told us that kids were completely obsessed with Minecraft like no other application like it."

    A Pearson team tried to unpack why.

    future of learning

    "First, kids have ownership of the learning experience," Luis says.

    Players have full control over all design choices, from materials to colors to structures and everything else in between.

    "Second," Luis says, "the platform is modifiable."

    Players can change designs in so many ways, even starting over or building on top of existing structures.

    "This is in sharp contrast to a lot of learning products," Luis says. "where education games don't allow players the freedom to play outside the lines."

    A Roadblock to the Classroom

    Despite Minecraft's popularity with so many children, there is one major challenge to its full integration in to the classroom.

    "How does it align with traditional school curriculums?" Luis says. "What players are doing in the game—the ownership of play and the full freedom to design and explore—is a tough fit in classrooms where memorization and fact-learning is emphasized."

    Progressive Models of Learning

    "Much of this Minecraft learning points to what we imagine as the future of education," Luis says.

    "So many curriculums today are so focused on knowing facts or memorizing formulas," Luis says. "So much of that content is now so widely available in many ways—so we see a broader shift in the classroom away from the conveying of content to a curriculum grounded in thinking skills and problem solving."

    "This gets us back to the roots of teaching," Luis says.

    Luis sees a second shift in tomorrow's learning experience.


    "We see teachers becoming more mentors and coaches," he says. "The answers are everywhere so, in many ways, a teacher's job is to point young minds to the right kinds of questions."

    Luis has a more technical way of describing this evolving role of teachers:

    The role of an educator is to spark and nurture curiosity and then build stronger relationships with students to scaffold student ownership of learning.

    This kind of approach, Luis says, could lessen the need for massive end-of-the-year assessments and integrate more useful, personalized, real-time assessments in the classroom.

    "A gifted instructor, engaging with students, can use real-time feedback to direct the lesson," Luis says.

    "Current approaches to assessments don't really do that."

    How New Approaches to Learning Work

    "I hated school," Luis says.

    When attending Johns Hopkins University, studying neuroscience, and thinking he was headed for medical school, he was turned off by the "rigid memorization" of facts.

    rest of lives

    "I pivoted out of that and became so much more happier in the classroom," he says. "I realized there was so much more to learning."

    "The value of something like Minecraft is that curiosity is at its core," Luis says.

    "Through this kind of curiosity, we can teach kids the kinds of critical skills they'll need for the rest of their lives."

  • Changes in Learning as Seen from a 'Quarterback' on the Front Lines

    by LearnEd

    Game strategy on a chalk board

    Where We've Come and Where We're Going

    "Traditionally, learning tools for schools were a hodgepodge trail mix of online solutions," says Tyler Higgins, a Portfolio Manager at Pearson.


    "Few of those solutions were integrated," he says, "and they weren't very user friendly."

    Tyler has a unique view of these solutions.

    At Pearson, he manages teams and projects tasked with building tomorrow's learning tools for higher education.

    "We're headed in a direction where these tools are far more integrated and far more useable, such as with Digital Direct Access to eTexts and courses," Tyler says.

    Large-Scale, Integrated Online Learning

    Consider what Tyler and his many colleagues accomplished at Texas Southmost College.

    "The school's president, Dr. Lily Tercero, wanted to transform their curriculum to help their community in new ways," Tyler says.

    More than a third of the area's residents live below the poverty line.

    BROWNSVILLE, TX - May 16, 2015 - John Fallon, Chief Executive Officer of Pearson addresses Texas Southmost College Spring Commencement Exercises. (Brad Doherty/AP Images for Pearson)
    LearnED covered the unique curriculum at Texas Southmost in a previous story: "Two Affordable Journeys to College and Career."

    "We worked with Texas Southmost to provide an integrated, digital, online learning experience that had not been available to most students prior to college," Tyler says.

    On the Pearson side, it was the first time the company worked to integrate such a large volume of courses. The project was driven by a quick timeframe. And, dozens collaborated on the project for the first time.

    "The Pearson team found a new, collaborative way of working and integrating our products," Tyler says, "and helped Texas Southmost step into the new world of online learning."

    One Student's Story

    Texas Southmost's website tells the story of one student who has benefitted from this online learning experience.

    Alain Barrera graduated high school in 1991 but lacked a lot of family structure to give him advice about college and beyond.

    After getting laid off from a retail job—supporting a wife and two teenage children—he enrolled in Texas Southmost to pursue and associate degree in business administration.

    "(Alain) takes at least four courses per semester and has embraced TSC’s fully digital learning environment. He enjoys having the additional flexibility of using the tools that the college’s learning management system offers students, as well as its cost savings."

    'Clearing a Path to Success'

    "This kind of learning experience can happen when we bring our best," Tyler says.

    For Tyler and many of the other Pearson Project Managers, this means they have their Project Management Professional Certification.

    It means a high standard of quality is being passed on from the development of Pearson learning products all the way to their eventual use by students.

    "The project manager is often the face of a project," Tyler says, "but there are dozens and dozens of people behind the scenes—from subject matter experts to user experience designers—who deserve as much of the credit."

    As Tyler explains, "As a Project Manager, I'm like the quarterback on the front line of efforts to deliver innovations in learning."

    "And Project Managers love being a part of creative solutions to new problems in education that, in the end, bring better learning to the world."

    A recent photo of Pearson's North America Professional Services Project Management Office team.
    A recent photo of Pearson's North America Professional Services Project Management Office team.