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AACC, Khan Academy discuss developmental math


​AACC President Walter Bumphus and Paulette Altmaier of the Khan Academy lead a discussion on using data to better serve students in developmental education.

More photos from the meeting

Photo: Matthew Dembicki

​Leaders from the American Association of Community Colleges and several member colleges met Friday with officials from the Khan Academy to explore potential collaborations, particularly in serving students in developmental math.

The meeting was a follow up to a chat in April at the AACC annual convention between AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus and Khan Academy Founder and Executive Director Sal Khan, who expressed an interest in working more closely with community colleges. Friday’s meeting was for both organizations to get to know each other better, with discussions touching broad areas, such as improving developmental education, to specific programs geared toward boosting student success, such as Achieving the Dream.

Paulette Altmaier, head of education partnerships at the Khan Academy, briefly described tools available on the popular free education website, particularly how they are used to help students in developmental math—an area of particular interest for community colleges. She noted how such tools could help two-year colleges reach certain goals outlined in AACC's 21st-Century Initiative report​.

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Although the Khan Academy is best known for its educational YouTube instructions, Altmaier emphasized that the company’s website includes interactive activities that are “effective” in helping students understand concepts. For example, the site presents a math problem and allows students to work through it, offering hints when a student requests help. Coaches—whether teachers, tutors, parents or the participating students themselves—can then access online tools to see which concepts they’ve mastered and which areas they are struggling with.

“You can have a very targeted intervention,” Altmaier said. “The data really is the catalyst for doing things differently.”

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At the meeting, officials from the New England Board of Higher Education highlighted a demonstration project it is leading for 15 community colleges in New England, including state systems in Connecticut and New Hampshire. The participating colleges will use Khan Academy tools to help students in developmental math.

“We’ll have a lot more to say this coming fall,” said Stafford Peat, a senior consultant on the project, which is funded through a three-year grant from Lumina Foundation.