Use of Khan Academy and Mathematics Achievement: A Correlational Study With Long Beach Unified School District

Use of Khan Academy and Mathematics Achievement: A Correlational Study With Long Beach Unified School District

Kelli Millwood Hill (Khan Academy, USA), Kodi Weatherholtz (Khan Academy, USA) and Rajendra Chattergoon (Khan Academy, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5074-8.ch003


In summer 2017, Long Beach Unified School District partnered with Khan Academy to support pilot teachers in their implementation of Khan Academy in the classroom. This study examined how the use of Khan Academy in the middle school mathematics classroom relates to student achievement on the mathematics portion of the state standardized assessment. Results indicated that students who used Khan Academy for more than 30 minutes a week, the recommended usage time, scored an additional 22 points (0.20 standard deviation units) on the 2018 mathematics portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, compared to students who did not use Khan Academy. Additionally, these results hold true regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, eligibility for free/reduced lunch, or English learner status.
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Khan Academy’s mission is “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” It is available in 40 different languages and 18 million people use Khan Academy each month. As of spring 2017, more than 10,000 practice exercises, short instructional video tutorials (5-15 minutes each), and informational articles were available the Khan Academy’s website ( These resources are organized into different courses, including grade-specific K-12 math courses, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and college and careers. Khan Academy’s content is curated into custom courses aligned to Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. As part of Khan Academy’s commitment to improving learning experiences for students, this content is regularly updated. These instructional resources have the potential to empower learners to study at their own pace inside and outside of the classroom either on the web or on a mobile device.

Historically, the focus of Khan Academy was on creating educational content for independent learners. In 2017, Khan Academy decided to invest in long-term partnerships with school districts to provide instructional support to teachers and classroom learners. This organizational shift was motivated by a commitment to help address the persistent problem of educational inequity by strategically targeting learners with the highest needs. As a consequence of this decision, Khan Academy established an internal Efficacy and Research department to help rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of its product. Inspired by the recommendations of educational researchers, the Efficacy and Research department began developing long-term research collaborations between Khan Academy and school districts. These partnerships were organized to investigate the persistent problem of educational inequality and implement solutions for improving educational opportunities for all learners in schools and school districts.

Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) in Southern California was one of the first school districts to formally establish a research partnership with Khan Academy. LBUSD’s mission is to support the personal and intellectual success of every student, every day, and this mission closely aligns with Khan Academy’s values. LBUSD is a large, diverse, urban school district serving about 72,000 students, approximately 65% of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged. It is a majority-minority school district with about 12% of students identifying as non-Hispanic white. Khan Academy approached LBUSD after recognizing that LBUSD was one of the districts in the USA with the highest use of Khan Academy content. During the 2017-18 school year, LBUSD began a multi-year partnership with Khan Academy that sought to improve student outcomes by integrating Khan Academy into instruction.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe findings from a pilot study conducted in 2017-18 that explored the relationship between using Khan Academy and student achievement in LBUSD. We conducted a correlational study that explored the following research questions:

  • 1.

    How does using Khan Academy for 30 minutes per week, or approximately one class period, relate to student achievement on standardized tests?

  • 2.

    Does the estimated association between using Khan Academy at the recommended level and student achievement differ across student subgroups?

We found evidence of a positive association between using Khan Academy at the recommended level and students’ math achievement after controlling for prior achievement and demographics. We also found this association did not differ by students’ ethnicity, gender, eligibility for free/reduced price lunch, or English learner status. The remainder of this chapter presents an overview of prior research on the effectiveness of educational technology with a focus on the efficacy of Khan Academy, describes the methods and main findings of our study, and discusses the implications of our results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

EdTech: Short for educational technology, which is using technology (both hardware and software) to support learning.

English-Language Learner: English-language learners are not proficient in the English language and typically require specialized or modified instruction. Often abbreviated as ELL or EL.

Proficiency Level: Ranges of scaled scores are typically segmented into four achievement levels that denote proficiency levels such as below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced.

Professional Learning: Training for teachers that is interactive and sustained as a way to support teachers in learning a new topic for implementing in their classroom.

Personalized Learning: An approach to learning where a customized learning pathway is created for an individual student based on their goals, needs, strengths, and interests.

Formative Evaluation: An evaluation conducted during the implementation of a program designed generate insights to further improve the program.

Eligibility for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch: Students who live in households considered low income qualify for the National School Lunch Program and the student may receive free or reduced-priced meals at school. Often abbreviated as FRL and used in research as a proxy for low-income.

Scaled Score: Overall numerical score.

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