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School District Expands Khan Academy to All Schools

Foundation gives funds for roll-out in fifth and sixth grades and some seventh- and eighth-grade classes; parents' informational meetings planned to answer questions.

With a boost in new funds, the Khan Academy program is expanding into , and the Los Altos School District is rolling out informational get-togethers to explain to parents what to expect.

The (LAEF) offered a grant of $100,000 to pay for teacher training and a part-time math coach to implement the expansion.

The educational website, Khan Academy, provides students with virtual lessons and other resources for learning various subjects. During the last school year, the program was used as a in five classrooms across two elementary schools, and , and at , starting November 2010.

This year, the district rolls it out to include all classrooms in grades five and six in all seven elementary schools, and in some of the seventh- and eighth-grade math classrooms at the Egan and junior highs. 

“There’s something very compelling about the idea that you can flip the instructional model so that teachers spend less of their time broadcasting a common lesson throughout the entire class and spend more time providing individual attention and intercepting exactly what each student needs,” said LAEF co-president Joe Seither. 

“I’m very appreciative what you’re doing, especially going beyond in the two additional grants,” Mark Goines, vice president of the school board, said to the LAEF co-presidents. “We really struggled to find resources to roll out (Khan), so thank you very much.”

Goines was referring to the $100,000 LAEF just pledged for the Khan Academy implementation and another grant of $25,000 for staffing costs of a digital design program, called cSTEM, Seither said. LAEF had previously pledged a $2.35 million grant for the 2011-12 school year that restored several programs slated for cuts.

Khan is primarily used for its ability to reinforce math concepts and for students to learn at their own pace. The founder is a Mountain View man, Salman Khan, who piloted the program in the Los Altos School District last year. The organization is now working with the district to provide improvements and support along the way, said Alyssa Gallagher, assistant superintendent of instruction.

“Our goal is to expand Khan Academy as a tool,” Gallagher said. “It is not our math program. We are not throwing out our textbooks or teaching techniques.”

Gallagher added that although LAEF provided the funds for the implementation and training, the district is still pursuing private foundations in the area for support of hardware to expand the program.

During Monday’s board meeting she said there were no significant mathematical performance differences between the pilot classrooms and the ones that did not use Khan last year, but that the district has not determined how to best measure the impact of the pilot program yet. 

Khan provides students with ways to learn material that was forgotten or not mastered from years past, and to jump ahead to material presented in other grade levels, she said. It was also a tool for contributing to “increased collaboration, peer-based learning, engagement levels and student ownership of learning,” Gallagher said.

“The fact that we may not have seen a statistically different result between the pilot classes and the non-pilot classes might be a little bit puzzling, but it is by no means a reason to discount the program altogether,” said Seither. Seither has a child who was in the pilot program. He added that a child’s newfound enthusiasm for math and focus cannot be directly measured.

Courtney Cadwell is the district’s part-time math coach, specifically for assisting in the implementation of Khan. Cadwell is a math teacher at Egan Junior High and taught in one of the pilot classrooms last year.

“It’s really changed these kids’ lives, when you think about it,” Cadwell said, reflecting on the change of attitudes of her students and their new-found enthusiasm.

As for the informational meetings for parents interested in learning how Khan works, there will be several days and locations for parents to choose from. The district wants parents to understand the changes to the math lessons and how Khan operates at the schools.

“This is going to change how math classes operate, so we need to educate the community,” Cadwell said.

Some dates to choose from are on Page 11 of the PDF attached.

Cadwell and her classroom are set to air on CBS' The Early Show Thursday morning, Gallagher added.

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