Khan Academy pilot project coming to Idaho

Idaho could revolutionize how students learn math if a pilot project involving the world’s leader in free, online learning is a success. The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation will provide funding to cultivate usage of Khan Academy in schools and classrooms across the state.

“What a typical math classroom looks like has not changed for over 100 years,” says Khan Academy founder Sal Khan. “What is powerful about the Khan Academy pilots in Idaho is that they are showing that the model can be rethought using technology and that, ironically, the technology makes the classrooms more human for the teachers and students. It has also made the teachers that much more valuable.”

“The data shows that the majority of Idaho students struggle with math,” says Jamie MacMillan, executive director of the Albertson Foundation.

According to Khan Academy’s Maureen Suhendra, over 20,000 classrooms all over the world are currently using the site. “But this is the first time Khan Academy is partnering to tackle the math education of an entire state,” says Suhendra.

“The data shows that the majority of Idaho students struggle with math,” says Jamie MacMillan, executive director of the Albertson Foundation. “We think accelerating the use of Khan Academy in Idaho classrooms will not only bolster student math achievement, it may also redefine what learning can and should look like in our state. Idaho math educators have expressed an incredible amount of enthusiasm for this concept and we are excited to see the results.”

Classrooms or schools from across Idaho who respond to a request for proposal will be selected to receive support from Khan Academy and grants for purchasing technology devices. A select group of schools will collaborate directly with Khan Academy staff and receive funding for one-to-one technology devices for students.

A project team from Northwest Nazarene University’s College of Education in Nampa will manage and facilitate the project.

“Traditional math classes are often associated with lecture, practice, homework and tests,” says Paula Kellerer, Dean of NNU’s College of Education. “Some students do well, others need more time to master key concepts. Khan Academy equips teachers with videos, exercises, incentives and a data dashboard to monitor student progress. The website can assist teachers in extending learning for those students who are ready and to reframe concepts for those students who need more time or practice with essential content.”

Members of Khan Academy’s school implementation team were in Idaho in October to conduct a two-day workshop sponsored for free by the Albertson Foundation in partnership with NNU. More than 225 math educators from public, private and after school programs from around the state participated.

“We were incredibly impressed with the group of math educators we met during the two-day workshop,” says Suhendra. “In the first hour of the workshop, the high energy the teachers and administrators brought was palpable, and we were amazed at how it never seemed to stop. We saw educators who had never met each other come together to brainstorm, problem-solve, and write up tactical action plans for meeting the needs of all students. It was an inspiring event, and we are excited to see what happens as the momentum continues.”

According to the 2011 Nation’s Report Card, only 39% of Idaho fourth graders and 37% of eighth graders were proficient or advanced in math. In 2011, 4th graders in several neighboring states ranked higher in the proficient or advanced categories in Washington (45%), Wyoming (43%), Montana (45%) and Colorado (47%).

“We think it is important that our students have high quality academic choices no matter where they live. By providing math educators with the technology and the training to effectively use Khan Academy, they’ll be able to deliver blended learning that is world-class, personalized and mastery-based,” says MacMillan. “What is really exciting is that student achievement data will tell us very quickly how well this approach is working.”

The Albertson Foundation is inviting traditional, alternative, private, charter and after school programs to respond to an online request for proposal. Grant winners will be announced February 28, and full implementation of the pilots will start in the fall of 2013.

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