Students in Idaho schools will have access to courses and other academic tools offered by the famed Khan Academy thanks to a generous $1.5 million grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Forty-seven schools will split the money and use it to set up the infrastructure needed to implement the a teaching model that makes extensive use of the material provided on the Khan Academy website.
In total, more than 75 schools from around the state submitted applications to the program and the ones selected run the gamut from those situated in rural areas, the suburbs and cities. The common thread is that they cater to a diverse body of students both economically and demographically.
The key to being picked, according to Jamie McMillan, the executive director of the Albertson Foundation, was showing a determination to help students succeed. She also predicted that the introduction of Khan Academy materials into Idaho schools will prove to be a revolutionary change that completely overturns old ideas about what K-12 education really means.
The Khan Academy was founded in 2008 by former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan with the goal of making its courses in math, science, history and art available free through the Internet to students of all ages and backgrounds. The courses are available through videos, but the nonprofit also provides practice problems and data for reports and other projects.
Idaho schools will use a “flipped learning” method where students use video instruction as homework to learn new lessons and use class time for one-on-one instruction.
Idaho isn’t the first state to form a partnership with the Academy. More than 40 schools in parts of California have also combined efforts with the company and recently – thanks to efforts by the Mexican businessman Carlos Slim – the Academy will begin its first formal partner relationship with the school system outside the United States.
However, what sets Idaho apart is the fact that the schools will be working together rather than designing their programs independently.
For teachers, the online courses could be used to fill gaps in content and challenge students at different levels. For students, the new education option provides access to fit their individual learning needs.
“Instead of a one-size-fits-all lesson, teachers will be able to focus their attention on specific students who are struggling while the rest of the class engages with material appropriate for them,” Salman Khan said in a statement.
The idea for the partnership came about after a visit Salman Khan paid to Idaho last year to take part in a series of education-related talks. The interest in what the Academy had to offer was high, and the site registered more than 40,000 new users as a result of the visit.