Helping students who need it most: how one teacher keeps kids learning over the summer

Kenya McGriff understands the importance of keeping students learning over the summer, this year especially. Every summer students show patterns of learning loss, but with school closures due to COVID-19, the NWEA estimates that students may return in fall 2020 with less than 50% of typical learning gains and—in some grades—nearly a full year behind.

McGriff is continuing to teach this summer through Upward Bound, a federal program to support high school students from low-income families and families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. She’s also encouraging students in her school to participate in Khan Academy’s free, virtual summer camp, Camp Khan.

McGriff is a Khan Academy Ambassador and teaches seventh-grade math and pre-algebra at Allapattah Flats K–8 school in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We asked McGriff to share her experiences helping students avoid learning loss over the summer.

kenya McGriff headshot. Quote from Kenya: When I’m not able to explain to students how to do something because I’m with another group, the kids can 'get a hint' on Khan Academy that walks them through how to solve the problem or just gives them enough information to start them off.

Khan Academy: Can you tell us about your work with the Upward Bound program?

Kenya McGriff: The Upward Bound program provides support to students who may be financially challenged or are potential first-generation college students. Students are given the opportunity to participate in curricula and programs that will prepare them for college. This summer I am teaching Middle School ELA for the Upward Bound program at Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida. I am working in the Summer CROP (College Reach Out Program). This is my first year.

Khan Academy: Are your Upward Bound courses remote? And if so, are you experiencing any challenges with remote learning?

McGriff: The courses are virtual, and I have four classes that rotate between technology, math, English/language arts, and French/Creole. The challenges that I’ve faced with teaching remotely include monitoring small group activities. It’s not like in a classroom, where you can just look over and see the students who are not working. They are able to go into a separate virtual room with their group. Sometimes when I leave my small group to check on another, someone has disappeared. I’ve learned to reward the groups that are the most productive.

Khan Academy: How have you used Khan Academy in the Upward Bound program?

McGriff: I have kids in one group work on Khan Academy’s ELA Beta. I was not given a curriculum to work from, so I based my curriculum around the first skills listed in ELA Beta. The other group works with me for about 20 minutes reading and discussing a novel. Then, we switch. The group that is the most productive earns free time. They get to leave class three minutes early, or I give them an automatic 100 on the lesson.

Khan Academy: Why did you think Khan Academy would be a good fit for your Upward Bound courses?

McGriff: I thought Khan Academy would be a good fit because I use it during the regular school day in my math class. When I’m not able to explain to students how to do something because I’m with another group, the kids can “get a hint” on Khan Academy that walks them through how to solve the problem or just gives them enough information to start them off. 

I love the fact that I can monitor progress so easily and the kids can’t cheat. The questions are different. So, kids sitting next to each other can help each other figure out how to solve the problem, but one kid can’t just copy another.

Khan Academy: How have you been using Camp Khan with your students over the summer?

McGriff: I created class codes for third through eight grade so that students can participate in Camp Khan over the summer. My principal sent out a schoolwide email to all of the families. So, the students are signing up on their own and using the class codes that I made.

Khan Academy: How long have you been using Khan Academy in your classroom, and what results have you seen?

McGriff: I have been using Khan Academy for about four years now. I am also the math department chair at my school. I taught professional development at the beginning of the year. I emphasized how Khan Academy eliminates work by giving teachers ready-made centers and doing progress monitoring for you. Later on in the year, someone from the district office in the curriculum department asked what we were using to improve our scores (because our scores have improved nicely). My principal told them about Khan Academy. Another school in our district that has had similar increases in scores also attributed the progress to Khan Academy. By spring break, the principal made Khan Academy a schoolwide requirement for the whole math department (elementary and middle). Unfortunately, it was short lived because of Covid-19. 

I have always received compliments on my students’ scores. Khan Academy makes progress monitoring so easy now. One of the main reasons that I use Khan Academy is because I’ve noticed that the practice questions that we have on the state test almost mirror the same questions that kids have on Khan Academy.


Check out our new 2019 annual report

Millions of people spent 8.7 BILLION minutes learning on Khan Academy in 2019. Wow! That’s more minutes spent learning then there are humans on Earth. Together, in ways big and small, we are all demonstrating that #YouCanLearnAnything.   

Our newly released 2019 annual report contains all sorts of amazing stats. Whether it’s how we’re bringing Khan Academy to public classrooms and school districts here in the United States and around the world, how scientific efficacy research informs improvements to Khan Academy, or how many minutes have been spent singing, dancing, and getting the wiggles out on Khan Academy Kids, our app for two to seven-year olds, we can almost guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t know about the work we’re doing.

The recent events of 2020 show our mission is more important than ever.  We are even more determined to do everything we can to keep everyone learning.  


Honoring Juneteenth: A day to listen, learn and take action

One hundred fifty-five years ago today, enslaved Black Americans in Texas finally learned from a Union Army general that slavery had been abolished; it had taken over two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse for word to reach them. Juneteenth is traditionally a day to celebrate freedom and Black history and culture. But this year, we are in mourning for the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and many others.

We at Khan Academy stand firmly in solidarity with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight against racism.

Our mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy exists to help all learners, but most especially students without access to the educational resources they need to achieve their full potential. We have shared and will continue to share resources about the history and experiences of Black people so we can help educate ourselves and our community and drive real change.

We are committed to doing the work to learn and grow as an organization so we can better serve the students who need us most.

We see this Juneteenth as an opportunity to reflect both on where we’ve come from and how much further we as a society must go to end systemic racism. We have declared Juneteenth as a permanent Khan Academy company holiday to honor Black history. The fight against injustice, inequality, and police brutality faced by the Black community is far from over, and we must take action together. As a first step, today, we encourage you to learn more about Black history and culture, including why Juneteenth is such an important day in US history. 


New math courses to help students get ready for fall -  Nuevos cursos de matemáticas para que los estudiantes estén listos al volver a clases

As we slide into summer, we know many people have concerns about whether they’re ready for next school year. We’re determined to do everything we can to help students keep learning. With that goal in mind, we’ve launched new math courses to equip students with the critical skills they’ll need for the fall. 

We designed the courses, called Get Ready for Grade Level, to help students master the most important skills they’ll need for the next grade. What’s more, students can use our new courses to figure out where they may have gaps before they enter that grade. Teachers can also use Get Ready for Grade Level at back-to-school time to complement grade-level instruction. 

The courses are available in English on our website and mobile app today. Like all our courses, they are completely free. 

Sal Khan, our founder, calls the gaps students sometimes develop “Swiss cheese gaps.” They can build up over time. If enough gaps build up, students can hit a wall. This year the gaps are particularly concerning because of school closures. Research from NWEA shows some students could be nearly a year behind in math come fall. While the learning loss from Covid-19 may be significant, our math experts have designed Get Ready for Grade Level to help.

Students start by taking a Course Challenge. The Course Challenge helps them understand what they need to review. If they have gaps for the grade they’re entering in the fall, students spend their time mastering the important skills they need to fill those gaps. If they don’t have gaps, students accelerate ahead and brush up on the skills they need for next school year. 

All our lessons are Common Core aligned. Parents and teachers alike can track student progress through our parent and teacher dashboards. 

Also, a fun note for middle and high school: We’re launching Camp Khan, a 10-week summer math challenge for ages 13 and up. Students can get weekly tips and advice as well as recognition of their accomplishments as they progress through Get Ready for Grade Level. 

Happy learning this summer!

Nuevos cursos de matemáticas para que los estudiantes estén listos al volver a clases

Ahora que estamos iniciando el verano en Estados Unidos, sabemos que muchos están preocupados de qué tan preparados están para el próximo año escolar. Queremos ayudar a los estudiantes a que sigan aprendiendo y, con esa meta en mente, creamos cursos nuevos de matemáticas para que los estudiantes estén equipados con las habilidades más importantes que necesitarán al volver a clases.

Diseñamos los cursos, que se llaman Preparación para el nivel de grado, para ayudarle a los estudiantes a dominar las habilidades más importantes que necesitarán para el grado al que van a entrar. Es más, nuestros estudiantes pueden usar nuestros cursos nuevos para saber si tienen lagunas antes de entrar a ese grado. Los maestros también pueden usar los cursos de Preparación para el nivel de grado cuando empiecen las clases para complementar la instrucción de sus clases. 

Los cursos están disponibles en inglés y español en nuestro sitio web y nuestra aplicación móvil. Como todos nuestros cursos, son completamente gratuitos.

Sal Khan, nuestro fundador, ha hablado de las lagunas que los estudiantes tienen a veces, y de cómo pueden crecer con el tiempo. Mientras más lagunas tengan, más dificultad para avanzar tendrán los estudiantes. Este año esas lagunas son más preocupantes por los cierres escolares. Una investigación de NWEA (enlace en inglés) muestra cómo, para el inicio de clases, algunos estudiantes podrían estar atrasados un año en sus habilidades de matemáticas. Dado a que la pérdida de aprendizaje por el COVID-19 puede ser significante, nuestros expertos de matemáticas diseñaron los cursos de Preparación de nivel de grado para ayudarles.

Los estudiantes empezarán con un Desafío de curso. El Desafío de curso les ayudará a saber lo que tienen que volver a ver. Si tienen lagunas para el año que van a empezar en el inicio de clases, los estudiantes pasarán su tiempo dominando habilidades importantes para acabar con esas lagunas. Si no tienen lagunas, los estudiantes pueden avanzar y repasar las habilidades que necesitarán en el próximo año escolar. 

Todos nuestros cursos están alineados con los Estándares Académicos Fundamentales de Estados Unidos (Common Core). Tanto los padres como los maestros pueden seguir el avance de los estudiantes a través del panel de padres y de profesores. 

Además, una nota para los estudiantes de secundaria: Lanzamos Camp Khan, un campamento virtual de 10 semanas con retos de matemáticas y diversión para los mayores de 13 años en los Estados Unidos. Los estudiantes recibirán consejos semanales y reconocimiento por sus logros mientras avanzan en su curso de Preparación para nivel de grado.

¡Vamos a divertirnos aprendiendo este verano!


Learn about Black history, politics, and culture with Khan Academy

We believe it is important to educate ourselves and our community about the Black experience in the United States and African history. Our content team helped pull together a list of Khan Academy’s resources on Black history, politics, and culture. Here are a few hand-picked videos and articles if you want to learn more about these important topics. 

Black history in the United States 

Before the Civil War: Watch a video about the role of slavery in early America and read about the lives of African Americans in the early republic. Read about what life was like for enslaved men and women, and hear the story of the Scott family in the heart-wrenching Supreme Court decision Dred Scott v. Sandford

After the Civil War: Learn about the origins of Juneteenth, when the last enslaved people received news of the abolition of slavery. Read about how life did—and didn’t—change for African Americans after the abolition of slavery. Learn more about the failure of Reconstruction and the emergence of Jim Crow segregation. Hear two Constitutional scholars debate the lasting impact of the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision, which permitted “separate but equal” public accommodations. 

The Civil Rights Movement: Read about how the post-World War II economic boom left out African Americans and how Black veterans were excluded from the benefits of military service. This lesson on the Civil Rights Movement covers the major events, ideas, and people from Emmett Till to Black Power. Dive into primary documents by reading Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and examining it closely with help from Sal. Hear from Constitutional scholars about the lasting impact of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.


The history of Africa 

Want to learn more about African peoples and empires? Go back in time to learn more about Nubia and Ancient Egypt, Aksum, and Nok. Read about the states and empires of West Africa and the Bantu Migration. Experience African history through a Ghanaian lens with three videos from the World History Project: 

The Impact of the Slave Trade - Through a Ghanaian Lens 

Experiencing Colonialism - Through a Ghanaian Lens

Resisting Colonialism - Through a Ghanaian Lens

African American art 

The next best thing to visiting a museum in person, the Seeing America project puts art front and center in the history of the United States. Learn more about the work of Black artists in these videos and articles: 

Nineteenth-century artists: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson; William Howard, Carved writing desk.

Early twentieth-century artists: Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series; Aaron Douglas, A beacon of hope; Romare Bearden, Factory workers; Horace Pippin, Mr. Prejudice.

Modern and contemporary artists: Benny Andrews, Flag Day; Thornton Dial, Blood and Meat; Alison Saar, Topsy and the Golden Fleece.

African American trailblazers

From Khan Academy’s middle-school English language arts curriculum, you or your child may be interested in learning about these Black trailblazers: 

Marley Dias: An 11-year-old activist who brought attention to the importance of representation in what we read

Katherine Johnson: A pioneering mathematician who helped launch a man into space

Sojourner Truth: A formerly enslaved woman and abolitionist who speaks about the importance of equality for race and gender  (includes a fictional play that is based on true events) 

Mae Jemison: The first African American woman in space

Granville T Woods: An inventor who helped save lives

CJ Walker: The first self-made woman millionaire and social activist

Recommended books

Want to learn more about Black history in the United States? Check out these seven books and Khan Academy lessons recommended by our employees.