Fri10242014

Schools

LASD teacher shares her skills in Africa

Courtney Cadwell, a mathematics teacher at Egan Junior High and the Los Altos School District’s math coach, spearheaded the integration of Khan Academy, a technological math enrichment tool, into the district’s curriculum.

Last summer, Cadwell expanded her reach to Africa, exposing students and teachers on the other side of the world to best instructional practices and the benefits of Khan Academy.

Khan Academy, an online resource, enables teachers to individualize students’ math learning through instructional videos, assessment exercises and “dashboards” that chart progress.

Cadwell flew to Ghana, West Africa, to serve as a volunteer with the African School for Excellence (ASE). Her role included writing a high school-level math curriculum and training teachers during a four-week pilot program in Accra, Ghana’s capital and largest city.

During her visit, Cadwell worked with Ghanaian teachers and students involved in ASE’s inaugural summer program. Student progress was closely monitored during the summer program using Ghanaian tests. Their scores increased, on average, by 220 percent.

Cadwell designed the ASE pilot mathematics program and guided its implementation. She said she enjoyed working with the Ghanaian teachers.

“Working through my prescribed curriculum and navigating the Khan Academy has provided us with an opportunity to quickly transform into an international teaching team,” she wrote on the ASE website a few days after arriving in Ghana.

Cadwell said she was drawn to ASE’s educational model. The school strives to revolutionize developing-world education by creating a model for world-class schooling at a low cost. To achieve its goal, the school incorporates technology and peer learning to leverage teacher resources, while substantially increasing the feedback cycle.

Although Cadwell said she appreciates ASE’s efforts in Africa, she noted that there is a need for different models in different situations.

“Ghanaian students are clearly very different from Los Altos students,” she said. “What’s amazing about the use of Khan Academy is how universal it is, deepening the learning for both groups of students. It’s important to point out, however, that the model that works in Africa varies greatly from our model here in Los Altos School District. They are challenged to reach many students with very limited resources. Conversely, in Los Altos our aim is to enrich the individual learning experience.”

ASE founder Jay Kloppenberg said Khan Academy is a good fit with the ASE educational philosophy and was pleased to collaborate with Cadwell.

“Courtney was extraordinary to work with – highly professional, incredibly skillful and unceasingly patient with students, teachers and bumbling social entrepreneurs alike,” he said.

Cadwell and Kloppenberg met through Carol Grewal, a Los Altos resident and veteran Egan French teacher. Her son, Drew, who grew up in Los Altos, is on the African School for Excellence Young Professional Board.

The African School for Excellence has scheduled an information and fundraising session 5-8 p.m. today at First and Main Sports Lounge. ASE invites the Los Altos community to attend.

For more information, visit africanschoolforexcellence.org.

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