Khan Academy, NWEA Team Up to Link Assessment Results With Learning Resources

Associate Editor

Two high-profile education organizations—Khan Academy and NWEA—are piloting a new tool designed to match a student’s test results with online instructional materials recommended to help that student learn a given subject in school.

Called the MAP Accelerator, the new platform will pair findings from a student’s performance on the NWEA‘s MAP Growth Assessments with Khan Academy resources to address the specific skills a student needs to master in his or her learning progression.

Teachers will receive the recommendations based on each student’s MAP Growth results and will be able to choose which assignments to make, given the learning opportunities identified. The assessment is typically given three times a year: at the beginning of school, in the middle and at the end.

More than 150,000 students in four school districts will begin a pilot of the MAP Accelerator in math in English and Spanish for grades 3-8 in September, including the Clark County School District in Nevada, according to the organizations. The first pilot test will last one year, and English/language arts will be introduced as a new pilot for the 2020-21 school year.

MAP Growth, which was released for K-12 in 2001, is an adaptive assessment that helps identify where a student is on a learning pathway. NWEA sees matching Khan Academy resources with its assessment as an opportunity to help teachers faced with students’ diverse academic needs, said Chris Minnich, the CEO of NWEA.

“We’re taking the guesswork out of it for teachers. We want to empower them to have ‘what’s next’ for students,” he said.

“Students will have a personalized course based on their MAP Growth work, and we’ll use the mastery mechanics of skills-based practices, unit tests, and course challenges,” said Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy.

The organizations are recommending that the platform be used 30 minutes a week to make a difference, and they say it can work in conjunction with any curriculum schools are using. By identifying gaps in a student’s learning, and pairing them with practice, the program aims to allow students to tackle “far more questions in their zone of proximal development than they’re typically able to do,” Khan said.

Educators have the final say on which assignments students receive based on their assessment results.

Besides Clark County in Nevada, the districts that will pilot the program are three in California: Madera, Pajaro, and Glendale County.

Khan said the idea of combining NWEA’s assessments with his organization’s learning resources came in a casual conversation with an ed-tech investor friend who said that companies had been pitching him on “the Khan Academy narrative around personalization and differentiation.” That investor suggested Khan speak with NWEA about a possible partnership between the two non-profits. Khan was familiar with the MAP assessments because they had been used as a measurement tool in his organization’s previous efficacy studies. A week later Khan reached out to Minnich.

“We talked about how tests really aren’t going to move the needle for kids; tests themselves don’t teach kids anything,” said Minnich. “We’ve got to make connections.”

The two groups are interested in serving “the most marginalized students in America,” said Khan. “You could be Superman or Superwoman as a teacher, but when you have 30 to 35 kids and a lot of them have gaps from two, three or four years ago, there’s no way to address those gaps … that is not incredibly resource-intensive.”

A focus on efficacy will drive the pilot, Khan said. “We want to be as transparent as possible. If it doesn’t work, I don’t want anyone using it,” he said. Their focus will be on, “How can we get better by looking at those efficacy results?”

Khan said he has had 70 percent of his 210-person organization working on the integration of Khan Academy resources with NWEA’s assessment indicators for the past year. “District rostering alone is very complex,” he said.

As for implementation, he believes that NWEA’s large district support and training staff will help teachers understand how they can implement the accelerator.

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