Pearsons technology improves kids' learning
Arizona Republic
Feb. 9, 2008

Luci Scott

Pearson, a Chandler company that produces digital educational materials, is helping children throughout Mexico learn English.

Fifth- and sixth-graders study with an interactive digital program that flashes songs, videos, animation and games projected on the wall in front of the class.

"To see the look on their faces, the level of engagement they achieve through the use of technology is phenomenal," said Kristina Potter, sales development manager at Pearson. "It's a pioneering effort."

The project in Mexico is just one program handled by Pearson, which held a grand opening and tours Thursday at its Chandler site in the mid-rise office building at Loop 101 and Ray Road. State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne was among the guests.

Pearson materials also touch 3 million schoolchildren throughout the United States, including 163,000 in 257 locations in Arizona, said Pearson spokesman Matt Murphy.

The company employs 600 people in Chandler and is recruiting for 60 more: software engineers and architects, project managers and sales and marketing people.

The company's English-language program in Mexico, called Enciclomedia Ingles, is reaching children who don't have great educational opportunities.

Mexico has a dearth of teachers who speak English or who are trained to teach English. With this program, the teachers learn English along with the students, Potter said.

"It was thrilling to go around the country and see classes put up signs, 'Do not disturb us, we are learning English,' " Potter said.

Testing from a recently completed pilot project show good results so far, the company says.

"The scores were coming back at over 80 percent mastery, from rural to the suburbs of Mexico City," she said. "This is the lowest socioeconomic strata in the country, often the most disenfranchised and with the least exposure to the English language."

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox pushed for English to be taught as early as elementary school throughout the nation. The new government has changed that approach and decreed that it's up to each individual state to decide whether it wants to continue with the English instruction.

Enciclomedia Ingles is in about a dozen states and is being rolled out in more on a state-by-state basis.

Pearson continues to refine the program, which is also used throughout the United States by English learners regardless of their level or their native language.

Students in kindergarten through second grade in Tucson also have just finished a three-year Pearson program called Waterford that focuses on beginning literacy.

"The success has been phenomenal ... for English-language learners as well as for English speakers," Potter said.

"Our products are used throughout the world, and we have a growing market."