IDOC tries innovative learning system

Khan Academy logo
By Julie Oye-Johnson, IDOC Education Program Director

The Idaho Department of Correction is on the cutting edge of what many people think is a revolution in the field of education.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation funded the nation's first statewide pilot in Idaho to raise math competencies for all students. Their aim is to help students build their math skills by supporting schools in the use of Kahn Academy and to measure student gains. Northwest Nazarene University is implementing the pilot project through its Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. The center is dedicated to improving education through the use of technology and sound educational practices.

The Khan Academy is a non-profit organization with a goal of providing "a free, world-class education for anyone anywhere." Supporters say its strength lies in the fact that it allows students to progress at their own pace, so those who are struggling don't get left behind and those who are learning quickly don't get bored.

Seventy-five Idaho schools and school districts applied for funding from the $1.5 million dollar Albertson Foundation grant. Just 47 were chosen. The IDOC will be first in the nation to implement Kahn Academy in its statewide correctional education program and to measure the results of Kahn Academy with adult learners.

"The fact that our Robert Janns School was chosen from a long list of applicants speaks volumes about the caliber of educators we have working in our institutions," says IDOC Director Brent Reinke.

Offenders enrolled in all levels of educational programs in seven Idaho correctional facilities are taking part in the pilot project focusing on math curriculum. "The educators who have received these grants were carefully selected because they had a vision of meeting every student's needs with a personalized training experience," says Khan Academy founder and executive director Sal Khan.

"The Kahn Academy will give each correctional education site a common math reference and offenders a recognizable math mode of delivery between locations," says IDOC education program director Julie Oye-Johnson.  "Many of the offenders pursing a secondary education in prison left the public school system with problems in basic skills; math is a common issue with our students. Kahn Academy will allow programming to match the student's need. It also allows offenders to explore post secondary education possibilities"

The Khan Academy's website offers more than 4,300 short, video lessons. In addition to web-based tutorials, the Khan Academy offers an offline version, called KA LIte. It was launched in December 2012 for the 70 percent of the world's population which does not have access to the internet. Because IDOC inmates are prohibited from having access to the internet, they are using KA Lite.   

The seven IDOC facilities involved in the pilot program are South Boise Women's Correctional Center, North Idaho Correctional Institution, Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino, Pocatello Women's Correctional Center, Idaho State Correctional Institution, South Idaho Correctional Institution and Idaho Correctional Center.

Story published: 07/29/2013
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