Essay Writing Khan Academy – Khan Academy, the popular online learning platform, has formed a rare partnership with the College Board to bring free test preparation software to the public. While the College Board is overhauling the dreaded SAT admissions test, Khan Academy is giving access to real test questions in hopes of creating a more sophisticated curriculum for affluent students.
Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, writes to me: “The bigger picture of success is that getting into college (and succeeding in life) is less about income and less about earnings.
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We think we can level the playing field by building a best-in-class tool and making it free. “In addition to students, we hope these tools will be used by school and college preparatory programs.”
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With generous funding from some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent philanthropists, Khan Academy has evolved from YouTube lectures to a fully-fledged personalized learning platform. When the new test prep software launches in spring 2015, students will have an AI-powered learning experience that detects weaknesses and makes step-by-step adjustments to improve—instead of taking a $30 one-size-fits-all SAT. Preparation book
The disparity between privileged and disadvantaged students is difficult to overstate. Only 34 percent of students from the bottom quarter of the income distribution attend any of the nation’s elite colleges. Among the wealthiest students, the figure is 78 percent.
Individually gifted students from poor districts cannot access exam preparation courses and supplementary courses. “It’s really up to us to create these resources,” said USC student Winona Leon.
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The pervasive nature of inequality affects even those who overcome adversity. Those who attend elite schools find themselves in a sea of unfamiliar faces, competing with students who run away with experience, networking opportunities, and extracurriculars.
Test Prep Don’t Panic: Education researchers repeatedly warn parents not to spend thousands of dollars on third-party providers like the Princeton Test, an average score of 30 out of 1,600. That’s why training programs are so expensive. A lack of success is likely to blame.
Claudia Buckman, an Ohio State professor who studies income disparities in college prep, said universal access to test prep won’t help close the achievement gap. “I expect it won’t do much to improve college access or equity because it’s ‘too little, too late,'” he writes to me in an email. In many areas, inequalities persist to ensure that rich children have an advantage over disadvantaged children in entering and passing college.
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The College Board agreed. “The effectiveness of these expensive test prep materials has been repeatedly questioned, and the College Board has never supported them,” spokeswoman Carly Lindoer said.
But I am told not to despair. The College Board hopes the newly introduced SAT will be less of an intellectual test and less of an indicator of academic preparation. Since its relaunch in 2016, the questions are more similar to those implemented in schools across the country under the new Common Core National Standards.
It should be noted that this is a redesigned test and a new approach to SAT preparation. “We have never developed such comprehensive content before, especially with the expert guidance provided by Tim Hahn,” John McGrath, vice president of communications for the College Board, said in an email.
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“As part of this partnership, we will train teachers, counselors, educators and others to help students take full advantage of these resources. An already high-scoring third-party test is no longer a useful comparison.
“Typical exam preparation basically teaches you how to ace the exam,” says Shantanu Sinha, president of Khan Academy. Instead of test-specific tactics (like guessing a “C” instead of leaving the answer blank), Sinha argues that the newly designed SAT rewards students for learning the material.
“The reason we’re optimistic is that it’s not a new product … we’ve done a lot of work with classrooms,” Sinha said. Later this year, Sinha expects the results of a detailed evaluation of Khan Academy’s work in pilot schools, but from schools using the software. He notes that the initial evidence is “very impressive.”
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Indeed, the results of the Khan Academy should not be scoffed at. When classrooms began experimenting with self-directed learning, teachers discovered that so-called “unsuccessful students” were actually connected to a simple concept. While students could watch (and re-watch) lectures at home, some rushed to class.
When an urban charter school in Oakland, California, implemented Khan’s Academy lectures, among other changes, academic achievement increased from 20 percent to 99 percent.
As for the SAT, automated coaching and tracking is still in its infancy, so we don’t know what its more affluent peers can do for those without personal tutoring. However, Khan Academy deserves credit for hiring a team of data scientists to carefully evaluate their projects.
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“We want to be intellectually honest with ourselves that what we’re offering is a really great resource,” said Elizabeth Slavitt, a representative of Khan Academy.
If narrowing the national achievement gap on the new intelligence assessment isn’t enough, Khan Academy still has two big problems to figure out how to solve.
Access bandwidth first. The team seems to understand the irony of creating a mobile multimedia resource for a population that doesn’t have access to high-speed Internet. Tech companies have pledged nearly $1 billion to help President Obama get online, but there’s still some time left.
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A second challenge, perhaps the most formidable, is the College Board’s emphasis on “evidence-based” writing. When I was in college, it was widely recognized that persuasive writing was the key to good grades, but few students learned this skill in high school. “Analytical reading and writing are critical to success in college,” said McGrath, a member of the College Board.
The difficult part is deciding how to grade academic essays. Some providers of extensive free online courses have experimented with algorithmic essay grading, but it’s early days. The Khan Academy team seems to recognize that they have signed undivided land. “We’ve done a lot of internal resources,” Slavitt said optimistically.
So one of the nation’s top online education providers enlisted Silicon Valley’s best ideas to fight educational inequality. It is a noble mission, but uncertain.
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