How Educators are Using Khan Academy in the Midwest — and Seeing Results
How Educators are Using Khan Academy in the Midwest — and Seeing ResultsCrystal Barrick, Assistant Director, Communications
As of Feb. 9, 2016, more than 800,000 unique users had visited Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice website to prepare for the PSAT/NMSQT, and about 16 million practice items had been completed — 2.5 million during the most recent exam week alone. The College Board’s Aaron Lemon-Strauss delivered this good news at the Midwestern Regional Forum, then passed the mic to two educators who’ve found innovative ways to encourage SAT practice in their own communities: Maria Salinas, site coordinator at University of Michigan-Flint’s Neff Center, and Mark Lomax, senior director of teen programming at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus, Ohio (BGCC).
Salinas works in the Beecher Community School District, a rural area that serves about 1,000 students, 95 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Partnering with GEAR UP Michigan, University of Michigan-Flint, and other local educators and organizations, she focuses primarily on helping 11th-graders prepare for the unique pressures and demands of the 12th grade and beyond. “All of our organizations work and learn together,” she said, emphasizing the power of groups uniting to ensure student success.
Since Michigan began offering the SAT to all students, Salinas and her colleagues have started a number of initiatives to help students prepare for the test. Every junior in the district attends an SAT prep course during the “sixth hour” of their school day; three teachers lead these courses, with the support of a rotating group of University of Michigan students. In October 2015, they also organized their first SAT Boot Camp, a four-day event created to motivate students to prepare for the SAT, familiarize them with Khan Academy’s practice resources, and reward them (with a pizza party and game night) for taking initiative. Salinas and her team are piloting a two-day version of this boot camp later in February, and hope to support more students with increased one-on-one tutoring and focused SAT practice time during study halls.
Over at the BGCC, Lomax has been thinking about how to use students’ out-of-school time to help them prepare for their future. In his communities, students suffer from low expectations, he explained — 65 percent of their parents did not graduate from high school and 95 percent are un- or underemployed. Because most of these students feel pressure to support their families, Lomax realized he may be able to increase participation in academic programs by providing a financial incentive. He asked his students to attend four three-hour SAT practice sessions (using Khan Academy) on Saturday mornings in exchange for summer job placement at a site that paid at least $10 an hour. Thirty students signed up; of the students who had previously taken the SAT, 80 percent reported improved scores after these sessions. All 30 were placed in a summer job.
Lomax also worked with local schools to ensure that the transition from using Khan Academy at school to using it at the Boys and Girls Clubs was seamless, and he instituted “power hour” tutoring sessions, during which students use Khan Academy resources to build foundation skills in reading and math. To continue this momentum, he plans to hold additional trainings for staff and volunteers, streamline implementation at all 10 local Boys and Girls Clubs so students can move easily from center to center, and encourage all students with smartphones to download the SAT practice app.
When asked about one thing all educators could do now to support SAT practice, both Salinas and Lomax agreed: “When they say they don’t have homework, always get them on Khan Academy.”
To see more tips for using Khan Academy resources in your own setting, visit satpractice.org/k12.