The nonprofit Khan Academy, known for its free online video tutorials, has started formally selling its services to school districts, Chalkbeat reports. These include teacher training, test preparation resources and data dashboards that can help educators track how students are doing across subject areas and by race and ethnicity.
Around 218,000 students in three states will be using Khan’s paid resources this fall, costing $12.50 per student in districts that use all three offerings.
Past surveys of teachers and students have shown positive results, but rigorous research on Khan is limited, with the most comprehensive study completed in 2014, according to the article.
The launch of Khan Academy Districts, as the program is called, comes two years after the nonprofit started a pilot program with California’s Long Beach Unified School District.
According to a correlation study of the program, Khan Academy resources were associated with student gains on the California state math assessment — regardless of race, ethnicity, family income and other factors — as well as outperformance of peers who didn’t use Khan Academy resources. (As the Chalkbeat article points out, however, the correlation didn’t prove Khan Academy was behind the benefits, and the nonprofit didn’t reveal its methodology.)
The nonprofit also launched a pilot with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) this year that will help students strengthen specific skills for the NWEA MAP Growth Assessments.
The type of personalized learning made possible with technology like the kind Khan Academy promotes is attractive to district leaders. As reported by NPR last year, a Center for Digital Education survey found personalized learning was the No. 1 priority in education technology.
Still, it’s become somewhat controversial. A recent article in NEA Today, a publication of the National Education Association, states, “The research into personalized learning is thin at best. What is available shows little or no substantive improvement in student learning.”
Even so, “It is difficult for schools with tight budgets to turn away technology. Even if we are growing skeptical of the bright and shiny offers pitched by ed tech companies, many of us are still desperate enough to accept them,” a teacher told NEA.
With this in mind, administrators should approach Khan Academy Districts the same way as other ed tech resources, especially now that schools are paying $10 to $12.50 a head. And now that the nonprofit is claiming a larger stake in the ed tech space, perhaps it’s time for a closer look at its tools and their actual effects on student learning, as experts suggest.