Khollaboration with Khan Academy (KWiK)


  • Arlington Independent School District, Texas

Focus Area

  • Education

For many teachers, the main thing stopping them from taking the next step towards helping their students with Computer Assisted Learning programs is a lack of guidance or support.

The Issue

One teacher catering to the minds of 25 unique students: that’s what it looks like inside the average U.S. primary school classroom. Personalizing lessons to so many students is a challenge in itself, but when teaching math, where an individual’s degree of understanding can vary so greatly, it can be even more difficult. Teachers must tailor lessons to the needs of those who have fallen behind while also covering the necessary curriculum for their grade level and keeping advanced students engaged. Research has shown that inside the average 5th-grade classroom, students are performing at as many as seven different grade levels. Yet, teachers are pushed to make sure that each of the students has learned the same material before the end of the year. 

Especially in mathematics, concepts build over grade levels, so things can quickly snowball out of control when a student falls behind. For example, a skill that a student was supposed to learn in 5th grade may be integral for 6th-grade learning. This means that a lost lesson in 5th grade is never isolated to that year, but becomes a gap in knowledge that can build and grow even larger with each new grade level.

And that was all before the pandemic.

Covid-19 school shutdowns meant 55 million U.S. school students had their learning interrupted. As school started up again, many parents, teachers, and experts were concerned about the learning loss students would encounter. Learning loss is particularly difficult for children in low-income communities to overcome without additional resources. One projection estimated that students would experience a 50-60 percent learning loss in mathematics due to Covid-19 school closures.

Achievement in elementary school math classes can be a strong indicator of a student’s future success, so it’s important to get ahead of this problem. Those that fall behind can carry those consequences with them into the future unless something intervenes. A critical step for researchers is determining what programs work best to address student learning loss.

One possible solution is Computer Assisted Learning (CAL). CAL is a type of educational software designed to help students progress through topics at their own pace while receiving feedback and advice, similar to the kind that a tutor might provide but on a computer.  

It mimics much of the effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring by offering customized learning paths. However, an added benefit of Computer Assisted Learning is that it can be provided at a lower cost than traditional individual tutoring programs.

Recent studies have consistently shown significant positive impacts on test scores for students who use CAL. Programs that focused on math were particularly effective. A current example of a popular CAL program is Khan Academy, an online educational resource offering lessons and learning materials in many subject areas.

Still there remains a gap in implementation; although these CAL programs exist, they are not widely adopted. This is often because using CAL to support classroom learning requires much school coordination and administrator organizing. Also, teachers must spend time shifting their approaches to incorporate CAL and become familiar with the software. For many teachers, the main obstacle keeping them from taking the next step towards helping their students close the learning gap with CAL programs is a lack of guidance or support.

The Intervention

To address this difficulty with implementation, Khan Academy is partnering with the Arlington Independent School District (AISD) in Texas to offer a program known as Khollaboration with Khan Academy (KWiK) that combines CAL with guidance for teachers. The program asks grade 3-8 math teachers to incorporate CAL into their curriculum by having students complete a minimum of one hour practicing math with Khan Academy each week. This will translate into students completing numerous lessons per week that help them close the learning gap by mastering skills from earlier grades, and that cover the material of their current grade level so they are set up for success in math moving forward. Teachers use already existing lesson plans and resources on Khan Academy to encourage their students’ participation.  

As a way to help teachers transition to using this new program in their classrooms, KWiK partners each teacher with a Khan Academy “Khollaborator.” These individuals serve as the first point of contact with teachers, working with them individually to help them incorporate Khan Academy into a weekly routine of reinforcement and mastery of student math skills. Khollaborators meet with teachers to set up a plan, monitor progress, and communicate information about the program with teachers, students, and parents. Additionally, teachers are provided training sessions leading up to the school year.

The primary goal is for teachers to help students establish a routine of spending at least one hour each week on Khan Academy math lessons.

Research Question

What impact does a program that helps teachers incorporate Computer Assisted Learning in their classrooms have on student engagement with Computer Assisted Learning lessons and math achievement?

Intended Outcomes

  • Students whose teachers participate in KWiK will experience improved math achievement as measured by performance on standardized test scores
  • Students whose teachers participate in KWiK will engage in more learning minutes on Khan Academy

Research Study Design

The Khollaboration with Khan Academy (KWiK) evaluation is a randomized controlled trial. The program is implemented in Arlington Independent School District across 64 schools with 312 voluntary teachers. Teachers are given a cash incentive to participate in the research and an additional incentive to continuously participate in the KWiK program.  

Teachers who register for KWiK are randomly assigned into one of two groups. Teachers randomly assigned to begin the program in the 2021-22 school year make up the treatment group. Teachers randomly assigned to begin KWiK in the 2022-23 school year make up the control group. The study compares the math achievement of students whose teachers have been offered support from a Khollaborator to those whose teachers have not yet participated. 

At the conclusion of the study, LEO researchers will compare the outcomes between the two groups to identify the impact that KWiK had on student math achievement as measured by standardized test scores. 

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