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The State of Education in the United States

Despite countless reforms, the U.S. education system remains deeply ineffective and unequal. In math, for instance, only a quarter of 12th graders score at or above proficient according to NAEP standards. Due to inequality, white and wealthy students are more likely to perform well than minority and poor students. COVID-19 and school closures have only amplified this inequality.

Although few interventions have shown to make a big dent in educational outcomes, one stands out from the rest: quality small group tutoring. In repeated randomized evaluations, tutoring programs have shown tremendous results. In Chicago, for example, a tutoring program propelled students 1-2 entire grade levels ahead of where they would have been otherwise.

The problem is that until recently, tutoring was a solution only for the wealthy few. Academic tutoring is often expensive and does not scale. At its worst, it cuts away at public education and erodes the promise of a level playing field in society.

Peer-to-Peer Tutoring is a Powerful Solution

A peer-to-peer tutoring platform can change this. Like other types of tutoring, peer tutoring is a powerful intervention for struggling students. But unlike other tutoring, it can also be educational and empowering for the tutor, as well as inspiring and motivating for the tutee. In fact, with the appropriate training and support, student peers are often the best tutors for a given subject, because of their ability to relate to the learner. Most notably, peer tutoring is sustainable and scalable in a way that traditional tutoring isn’t.

Sal Khan’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

As soon as COVID-19 hit, schools transitioned to online learning and students around the world craved more social interaction. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, saw that access to personalized and personal help was more inequitable than ever. This urgency, along with his vision of a peer tutoring platform originating from his 2012 book, The One World Schoolhouse, prompted him to start Although set up as a separate non-profit from Khan Academy, the two are complementary.

What is is a free, peer-to-peer tutoring platform in which anyone, anywhere can receive live help, and then certify their mastery to also become tutors and share their certifications with the world. The current focus is high school math and SAT reading & writing, with plans to expand to other areas soon. All the small-group tutoring sessions happen over Zoom.

The previous pilot platform was used by thousands of students from over 40 countries. Students have overwhelmingly rated their tutoring sessions as “super helpful” (91% of the time). In January 2021, a redesigned platform was relaunched and is now ready to serve hundreds of thousands of students.

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