Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

“Given that too many schools don’t teach math, chemistry, and physics, CalTech allows potential students to demonstrate their skills in these areas by using Khan Academy,” writes Slashdot reader Bruce66423. Los Angeles Times reports: One of Caltech’s alternative routes is to take Khan Academy’s free online classes and score 90% or higher on a certification test. Sal Khan, founder of the academy, said Caltech’s move is a “big deal” for fair access to the university. Although Caltech is small (only 2,400 students, about 40% of which are undergraduates), Khan said he hoped its prestigious reputation would encourage other institutions to examine their admission barriers and find creative solutions to alleviate them. The Pasadena-based institute, which had a 3% admissions rate last year, boasts 46 Nobel laureates and cutting-edge research in fields such as earthquake engineering, behavioral genetics, geochemistry, quantum information and spaceflight. “You have one of the most academically rigorous schools in the world that has perhaps one of the highest entry requirements, saying that an alternative track that is free and accessible to all is now a means to meet their demands,” says Khan, whose non-profit provides free courses, exam prep, and tutoring to over 152 million users. […]

The impetus for the policy change began in February, when Pallie, the admissions director, and two Caltech colleagues attended an equity workshop hosted by the National Assn. for assistance with university admissions. They were particularly struck by one speaker, Melodie Baker of Just Equations, a non-profit organization that aims to expand math opportunities. When Baker pointed out the lack of access to calculus for many students, Pallie and her team began to question Caltech’s entry requirement for the course, in addition to physics and chemistry. Pallie and Jared Leadbetter, professor of environmental microbiology and head of the faculty admissions committee, began exploring possible course alternatives. Pallie connected with Khan’s team, who founded a second non-profit,, during the 2020 pandemic to offer free tutoring. Peer tutors on the platform certify they are qualified for their job by scoring at least 90% on the course exam and video recording themselves explaining how they solved each problem. The video ensures that the students actually take the exam themselves and understand the material. That video gave Caltech assurance of the integrity of the alternate path.

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Under the new process, students would take a calculus, physics or chemistry class offered by Khan Academy and use the Schoolhouse platform to certify their mastery of the content, as teachers do with a score of 90% or better on the exam and an at video-recorded explanation of their lessons. reasoning. Proof of certification is required within a week of the application deadline, which is November for early action and January for regular decisions. Pallie and Leadbetter also wanted to test whether Khan Academy’s courses are rigorous enough. Several Caltech students took the courses to assess whether all concepts were covered in sufficient breadth and depth to pass the on-campus placement exams for those courses. Miranda, an up-and-coming Caltech junior studying mechanical engineering, took the calculus course and gave it a thumbs up, though she added that students would likely want to use additional textbooks and other study materials to deepen their preparation for Caltech.

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