I recently read Salmon Khan's book The One World School House. The book chronicles the history of the Khan Academy. It also presents alternative methods of instruction and curriculum design that emphasises personalized learning and pacing. I enjoyed the text and found myself in agreement with much of the content.
One of the pilot programs that the Khan Academy setup involved a mathematics class. A class was designed in which the curriculum assigned was based solely on the Khan Academy. Students would work through the practice problems, view videos when they required direct instruction, and work with their teacher/facilitator for extra help. The resources and structure for this implementation are available on the Khan Academy website. While this concept of flipped learning and personalized planning is not a new idea their selection of "where to start" was unique. Rather than having all of the students in this Algebra I course start with Algebra I, the students started with simple addition and worked their way up through the math concepts.
The idea of starting from the beginning provided an opportunity for students to fill the gaps in their mathematical knowledge. If they struggled with a particular math topic in earlier grades or possibly just a had a "bad day" when a certain concept was taught the result may be a gap in knowledge that follows them. What is interesting is that they were able to meet the requirements of Algebra I even by starting with addition because of the autonomy, personalization and accessibility offered by the Khan Academy. The class that followed this instructional shift recognized a significant increase in performance. One would assume that this method provided each student with the remediation that they needed in the most efficient manner.
In high schools across the country students are placed into remedial math courses if they have not passed a high stakes test required for graduation. These classes are test prep classes that prepare students to retake the assessment. I wonder if a better placement is to identify at-risk student preemptively and assign them a course based on the principles of the Khan Academy pilot?