LASD rolls out Khan to more than 1,000 students

Photo Elliott Burr/ Town Crier

Loyola School fifth-grader Kendall Menard, left, uses the online Khan Academy with her fellow classmates during a math lesson last week.

Based on the evaluation of a yearlong pilot program, the Los Altos School District is ready to implement Khan Academy, a math enrichment tool, across all nine of its schools.

Khan Academy, an online resource, enables teachers to individualize students’ math learning through instructional videos, assessment exercises and dashboards posting progress. Although the program is free, the Los Altos School District is the only district that has invested a full year determining how best to incorporate the program in its curriculum.

“Using Khan Academy in the classroom allows students to set individual goals that focus on their needs and then lets them work at their ability to achieve those goals,” said Alyssa Gallagher, assistant superintendent of instruction for the district. “While students are working independently and with each other, there is more time for the teacher to work one-on-one with students who are struggling and need further intervention.”

Following a recent districtwide teacher training, more than 1,000 students are now using the program. At the elementary level, all fifth- and sixth-grade classes will use Khan. At the junior highs, select seventh-grade math classrooms will work with the program.

The response from teachers assessing the tool has been positive and enthusiastic.

“For the students who need extra practice, the lessons will reinforce what we’ve already covered in math class,” said Ellen Kraska, fifth-grade teacher at Loyola School. “Students who want to stretch can challenge themselves with new material.”

In addition to individualized instruction, Khan Academy provides teachers insight into the specific progress of each student – where he or she may be struggling and where he or she may have mastered the material.

“The most exciting part for me is the breadth of student data that I have at my fingertips,” Kraska said. “I can quickly access the class profile online to discover what concepts I need to focus on and reinforce. I also can view what material challenges particular students and which questions took them the most time to complete.”

Parent donations through the Los Altos Educational Foundation underwrite the districtwide implementation of Khan Academy. The $100,000 grant supports the professional development of teachers who implement Khan Academy in their classrooms. The grant also enables Courtney Cadwell, a math teacher involved with the Khan Academy pilot, to spend half of her time coaching and providing support to teachers implementing the program.

As the only school district that has incorporated Khan Academy successfully in the classroom, Los Altos is drawing nationwide attention. Recent media coverage includes CBS’ “The Early Show” and Wired magazine. CNN has scheduled a segment for a prime-time show airing in October.

The district’s implementation of Khan Academy also impressed Michael Horn, executive director of education and co-founder of the Innosight Institute, a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank. This week Horn will guide a delegation of education reporters from leading national newspapers as they visit the district and view the program’s use in classrooms.

“This district’s use of Khan Academy is one of the best examples we’ve seen across the country in blended learning,” Horn said. “Los Altos is clearly a leader and innovator in using technology to customize education for how each child learns.”

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