Mijares: Khan Academy partnership poised to ‘supercharge’ instruction

It began as a simple act of altruism. Sal Khan wanted to remotely tutor his cousin in math, so he made a few YouTube videos, using his closet as a studio.

A decade later, the nonprofit Khan Academy offers an array of practice exercises, instructional videos and personalized dashboards to help learners anywhere in the world study a variety of subjects at their own pace. And now it’s about to be scaled up to new levels in Southern California.

An image of Orange County Superintendent Al MijaresThe Orange County Department of Education recently joined forces with five other county offices of education to announce new partnerships that will ensure a greater number of students have access to the standards-based resources provided by Khan Academy.

Speaking to an audience of more than 700 educators, parents and elected officials who gathered in Irvine on April 24, Sal Khan outlined an innovative vision of equity, access and individualized learning with leaders from OCDE and the Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino county offices of education.

Here’s how these partnerships will work: Khan Academy will connect with area schools that wish to participate, providing planning and implementation support to help educators utilize its products in strategic and targeted ways. This will provide students — particularly those from low-income families — with a boost on their paths toward college readiness.

County offices of education will play the role of facilitator, working with districts and streamlining the process of engagement to make it as simple as possible. We will also help with content, research and professional development. Meanwhile, by working closely with educational leaders, the Khan Academy team will better be able to evaluate and fine-tune its learning tools.

“This will help us create a better program that can help millions more,” Sal Khan said at the event. “We want to work with all of you to ensure Southern California is the model region for the world.”

This collaboration has the potential to transform how we educate students in Orange County and throughout the region. While it’s true that Khan Academy already offers its instructional resources at no cost, a high percentage of students and teachers have not yet utilized these tools. We can make it easier to do so.

Under our agreement, Khan Academy will work directly with teachers and principals at the site level to first understand local priorities before developing plans that make sense for each campus. That means Khan Academy may be used in different ways depending on where it’s deployed.

The goal, however, will be the same — to provide personalized instruction and universal access to college preparation resources, including Khan Academy’s new SAT-prep tools.

To borrow a term from Sal Khan, this is about helping teachers and administrators “supercharge” instruction. And it starts now, in Orange County’s classrooms.