Student Success Through Innovation

Catholic School Innovation and Khan Academy Minnesota

By Maggie Sonnek

When Marisa Blue’s twin 12-year-old sons, Andy and Matt, came to her for guidance with their advanced math homework, she felt helpless. Confessing that math was never her strong suit, she suggested they try Googling the specific math question. When that search ended up fruitless, a recommendation from their math enrichment specialist at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Medina provided an answer: Khan Academy.

Khan Academy is a free, web-based program that includes thousands of exercises, videos and articles covering a range of K-12 subjects.The program moves students through math concepts at their own pace until they’re able to master the subject. Meanwhile, classroom teachers can identify gaps in their students’ understanding and tailor their instruction.

Last year, the Catholic Schools Center for Excellence (CSCOE) implemented a unique pilot program with Khan Academy. Sixty-four teachers attended a Khan Academy-led training before 37 schools and 1,335 students began integrating the innovative tool.

“I like everything about this program,” said Holy Name of Jesus’ Math Enrichment Specialist Lenise Best, who is leading the partnership.“It meets the students and parents where they’re at while challenging them and reinforcing skills.”

Mike Strommen, former principal at St. John the Baptist in Vermillion and business leader at 3M, helped initiate the partnership. He said the results have been remarkable.

“We saw students gain two or three grade levels in one year,” he said.“One of the reasons we implemented this partnership was to instill skills students need to succeed, like creativity, collaboration, grit and problem-solving. By allowing and empowering students to stretch themselves through Khan Academy, we’re reinforcing these skills.”

Now halfway through year two, Lenise Best intends to continue tracking test results to measure the impact. This includes the NWEA assessment, which measures a student’s current performance in the fall and then sets their personal achievement goals to ensure they make at least one year’s worth of progress in the academic year.

“The primary goal this year is to see if 30 minutes of dedicated, in-class Khan Academy work helps students achieve their NWEA assessment math goals,” she explained.

Parents like Marisa Blue are confident that Khan Academy is making a difference in their lives and the lives of their children.

“One of my sons experiences anxiety. When he doesn’t understand something, he gets really frustrated,” she explained. “Khan Academy has been a tool we can all turn to for support and understanding.”

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