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Grant helps Idaho schools plug into online classes

Thousands of Idaho students in public, private and charter schools big and small next fall will be able to log into math, physics and history classes provided by the Khan Academy, a growing content provider focused on making free education available to anyone, anywhere.

With $1.5 million in startup money from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, Khan Academy content will be provided in 47 schools, making Idaho the nation’s first proving ground for a statewide implementation of the academy’s free educational content and teaching model.

Schools selected to take part were picked from more than 75 applicants, with winners ranging from districts in the Treasure Valley to smaller, rural areas like Castleford, Cottonwood and Kellogg.

“Idaho has the students, the schools and the determination to succeed in showing the nation how to innovate within our public education system,” said Jamie MacMillan, executive director of the Albertson Foundation. “Khan Academy is a demonstration of the learning revolution in Idaho.”

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.

The Khan Academy has partnered previously with more than 40 schools in northern California, and last month Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim agreed to underwrite the translation of thousands of the organization’s online classes into Spanish.

But the Idaho experiment is the first coordinated statewide effort, according to the academy. Ideally, the academy’s content will be used in a variety of needs. 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.

Salman Khan paid a visit to Idaho last year, taking part in an ongoing-education speaker series. After his visit, the Khan Academy’s number of registered users in the state spiked from 40,000 to 55,000. A two-day educator conference in Boise touched off a 70 percent increase among educators and others, prompting Khan to partner with the Albertson Foundation and academics at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa.

Staff at NNU will help integrate the pilot program statewide and develop teaching methods that can help get the most out of the technology.

The Khan Academy also will take part in monitoring student improvement in math on the MAP assessment tests.


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