– Hi, everyone, Sal Khan here from Khan Academy Welcome to the Ed Talks livestream Some of y’all might be wondering what happened to Homeroom? Well, this is Homeroom, but this is the flavor of Homeroom that is focused on education related conversations And we have a really fascinating conversation coming for you, a really great guest But before we jump into the conversation, I’ll get my standard announcements Reminder, we are not for profits, we can only exist through donations from folks like yourself So if you’re in a position to do so, please think about going to Khanacademy.org/donate I also want to give a special shout out to several organizations that have helped support Khan Academy well before the crisis, but especially during the crisis, when they realized that we were running a deficit and our costs had gone up because of all of the load and demand on Khan Academy, Bank of America, Google.org, AT&T, fastly, Novartis, really stepped up And even though they’ve made a lot of- provided a lot of help, we still need more So if you can do so, please think about making a donation Also last announcement- So I’m excited to introduce our guest, Dr. Jharett Bryantt, Jharett, are you there? I’m sorry for the technical difficulties My internet connection has been spotty, (chuckles) Let’s just call it that, Jharett- – Good to see you too, Sal, how are you? – I’m doing great It’s been a little while since we saw each other in Houston Oh man. Might’ve been a year and a half, two years ago, but good to see you – Yeah, no, it’s a pleasure to be here Like I said, I want to shout you out Like I’m one of your biggest fans So I’ve been using Khan Academy since forever I think you literally taught me calculus when I had to take my teacher certification exam way back when I had to refresh on some of these difficult topics and I always had Khan Academy there to help me out So it’s been huge, and I kind of took that with me to my work in HISV – Well, it’s exciting you’d mentioned that the first time we met and I was kind of blown away that I guess I am now so old that people who have been using Khan Academy are now Assistant Superintendents of major school districts But I think you’re also unusually precocious in your career, and you’re- but that’s flattering And you know, that’s the exact hope of why I’ve always wanted to do Khan Academy, and why I wanted to focus on education because if you can empower other folks, they then can they go on and empower others to do incredible things, and I think you’re an incredible example of that Houston ISD for those who don’t know, I believe it’s the fourth largest or third largest school district in America It’s one of the top five, I think – Seventh largest in the country – Okay, I was close, seventh largest in the country I’m curious, you know, and there’s a lot to talk about I want to talk about post-secondary success and some of the things y’all been seeing there, but given the fact that we’re continuing through the COVID period, and this has been incredibly hard on, I could imagine you and your colleagues How have you all been dealing with it? Take us through, what’s been going on for all of y’all and what’s been going on through for the district since last spring And how have you all navigated the crisis – Yeah, well, fortunately, I work alongside thousands of incredible colleagues, tens of thousands of amazing teachers our senior leadership our superintendent our trustees And in the middle of a crisis, we all rolled up our sleeves and did whatever we could for students So, and obviously we shut down the schools in March and we were virtual for quite a long time We transitioned back to in-person learning, but you know,
going virtual in the middle of the spring semester, was really eye-opening for me because you realize how fragile some of the processes are that exist out there to get our students into higher education And that happens to be my work in Houston ISD Is focusing on what can we do to get students college credit while in high school? What can we do to ensure that students received college counseling? That’s amazing, that’s effective That’ll take them to where they want to be wherever that is And of course, when you go virtual, that’s all in jeopardy But I will say that the great thing about working in Houston ISD is that we’re very forward-thinking We’ve been thinking about online learning for a very long time, even before my time in HRSD, which has been about eight years All of our high school students had laptops We had been talking about what they call the flipped classroom or blended learning, which is a fancy way to say, you can use your laptop to study for class before you even go to school We’d be talking about these things for a very long time, as you know, so we’re very huge fans of Khan Academy In fact, we had a series of campaigns over the last few years called the You Khan Do It campaign or your Khan Athlons, because we really believe in virtual learning and everything that comes with it to supplement what’s going on in the classroom So even though it was challenging for everybody in the country, I would say that it was really quite the experiment to kind of use all these tools we’ve been building for years and putting them to the the real task, which is making sure that our students are ready to move forward, to go beyond and achieve their dreams regardless of any crisis – And, you mentioned you’re kind of, one of your focal areas is preparedness for college What have you seen you? I was listening to the radio this morning and they’re talking about studies around, the number of kids who were enrolling in college this year is 20% lower than what we see in normal years, and it’s disproportionately, I believe the number for low income kids or kids from historically under-resourced groups is actually at 30% lower rates of college enrollment Are y’all seeing something similar from the graduates of of Houston ISD? – So we’re looking at that data too, those are nationwide trends and there are a lot of reasons for that more so than ever before We’re hearing on the ground that students are having real thoughts about, “Do I need to earn money to support my family, or do I go to school? Do I go to a four year that’s outside of the very large state of Texas? Or do I stay somewhere more local?” Maybe go to an open enrollment college that, ultimately will change their entire life trajectory But we had a lot of bright spots, even in the myths, the COVID pandemic in March I support a very special program called Emerge, which focuses on our high achieving low income students And we work with them to get into highly selective schools And one of the things that makes that program great is that we invest in these students and we send them all on an out-of-state college tour And we had a cohort of students that weren’t able to attend an out of state college tour We had a lot of students that have a lot of anxiety around, how are they going to make it to the finish line and get to these highly selective schools that are far away And for that program, our numbers were unchanged We had actually a higher percentage of students enrolled at highly selective universities all over the country, but that’s because we made strategic investments into students that really needed an extra layer of support, but it doesn’t always look like that for other districts and schools across the nation So we’re feeling the pinch too, but we’re really trying to roll up our sleeves and figure out, well, what can we do to change that? Because we want students to have all the options that will help them achieve whatever their life condition is, whether it’s two or four year college or whatever that may be – Yeah. And on both fronts, kind of the COVID and the getting ready for college front post-secondary success side, it looks like we have another six months of weirdness. I think, we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with hope around a vaccine How are you at the district thinking about that? What are the conversations you’re having both in terms of, how do you keep kids learning? How do you help fill in any gaps for kids that might’ve been disengaged during the pandemic? And then how do you ensure that y’all continue to beat the national trend, of making sure kids aren’t dropping out, and getting to college? – Yeah. I mean, it’s a lot of hard work and I’m just one person that works in a giant orchestra professionals that are really thinking about how can we make the most of time if that time learning has to be virtual Right now we have some students that are in-person learning We have some students that are learning online, and we’re trying to make the best of it Obviously we’re going to have weirdness for a very long time, but I think the other piece to this is that school districts don’t operate in a vacuum We’re also subject to a lot of policies and this isn’t just a Houston ISD thing This is a school districts across the country thing where a lot of districts are wondering, well, how will I get funding if it makes sense for us to be virtual for longer?
Or how do I approach whether or not I want my schools open if our counties are saying one thing and other folks are saying a different thing? So it’s really a giant, big logic tree to figure out what we’re going to do But I would say that us, like many districts are really focused on, well, how are we going to make sure that our students are safe? How are we going to make sure that they’re receiving the best education possible? And it’s really enthralling being around colleagues that are willing to do whatever it takes, whatever that looks like to make sure that our students are learning, they’re engaged and they’re receiving a high quality education And I do want to give a shout out for things that we’ve been thinking about for a really long time, well, before this pandemic We’ve really seen the value in personalized learning to supplement what happens in a classroom So that’s why we entered in a partnership with Khan Academy a couple of years ago, we were the first district in Texas to sign on for such a partnership because we really saw the beauty in what a product like Khan can offer Not that I’m a Khan commercial, but like I said, I was a kid that used Khan Academy, so I really believed in it, and it’s something that I brought into my work, and most of my contemporaries don’t have that background, but you know, today what’s neat is that we give PSATs and SAT exams for free to our students during the school day So we have a ton of data as to where kids are at We’re able to use that data to personalize their learning experience This is something that we valued for years So, when it came to put that to the ultimate test, we still utilize tools like Khan, and what’s great about, our formal partnership is being able to look at the data to see, okay, well, you know, how many minutes are students using the tool? And what we saw and equivocally is that students were using the tool more than they ever had Even we did all these amazing things, we had our Khan Athlons and all those things I mentioned for years, but this was something that they needed, and this was something that we wanted to push on them too, because like I said, I was worried about how are we going to get these students to college credit that they were going for and their advanced placement exams? We have a lot of schools offer associate’s degrees while in high school, how are they going to be able to finish up their coursework to get that degree? We have all these students that had all these post-secondary ambitions as a 16 or 17 year old And for all of that to be kind of put on the whim of something none of us have control over, it’s a lot, but we’re thankful that we have incredible college counselors out there on the field that are helping think through and not to mention advocate I think the advocacy to higher education is another piece to this We can talk about the amazing things going on in classrooms, but systemic changes need to happen too, and it reminds me a lot about when I was leading similar work during hurricane Harvey in Houston Another piece of this is appealing to the universities to make sure that they know all the bears that especially low income students face when they’re thinking about what’s next after high school So they really need to meet us halfway on a lot of different things, and we did that So we did that, we have the instruction piece, and then we had our digital tools that we use when it made sense to use them because we had been investing in it for years So when that way, we were very pressing our thinking – No, I mean, it makes a lot of sense I mean, just a couple- I’m curious about Houston ISD in particular We’ve been hearing nationwide numbers about digital divide, about even where the digital divide is closed there’s still, we’ve been hearing 5 to 10% of kids that were just having trouble reaching What are those numbers looking like in Houston? What percentage of kids have had trouble accessing, digitally? How did y’all address it? And then even with that support, what percentage of the district are y’all having trouble engaging with? – So I wouldn’t have specific numbers on that, and we have incredible professionals in our IT division that really took the lead on some of the logistics, but I will say that it was a high priority It was a top priority to ensure that there wasn’t a digital divide in terms of devices There was a point during this pandemic where every student that requested device got a device, and that’s something that we were able to leverage So that way, as instruction needed to be digital, we were able to do that So for that, we’re really proud of, and then, obviously the philanthropic community and the community in general, wanted to do whatever it takes to really fulfill this need for the students in Houston, and for those of you who don’t know in Houston ISD eight out of 10 students at least qualify for free reduced price of lunch, and the number of students that are going through economic troubles certainly increased during this pandemic So, really you have 200 plus thousand students that have more needs than they’ve ever had before when they were ready and underserved communities So it was a beautiful thing to see how many organizations, public and private in the city and other folks stepped in
to make sure that we address those gaps as much as possible – That’s super, super powerful I’m curious, you know, there’s, and I get this question a lot, and I’m fascinated to know your answers are kind of- you’re a practitioner There’s obviously a lot of negatives from COVID, a lot of them are obvious, and there’s probably some ones we’ll discover Have there been some silver linings? And do you think there’s going to be some long-term implications of what we’ve just gone through that are going to last well beyond 2021, 2022, 2023? – You know, I hope so I hope that something’s changed I know that all of us want to go back to January of 2020, or December of 2019, but I’m someone who really cares deeply about urban education, and let me tell you that things weren’t perfect back then either, as it relates to education for students nationwide I think if anything, that this crisis really unveiled a lot of inequity and access to things and made it worse for the students that already got the short end of the stick So I do hope that certain things can change, some of that falls on school districts, other that falls on, the state I think that we could re-evaluate the way that we provide funds to schools, especially during crises I think we can think about the role of curriculum, the ways that we can finance technology in a sustainable way I hope that there are a lot of conversations that just show that when things like this happened, we really need systemic level change And then there are some practical things that I really do hope change too Now some students really struggled in the digital learning environment, but I do want to point out something that I think was shared on the show by another guest Some students really thrived in this environment, and maybe they didn’t anticipate that, or maybe they did, but in some ways, being able to learn in a virtual way, really allowed students to achieve things that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise So I think that it’s incumbent upon education officials and administrators to think about, well, how do we know the type of learning modalities that will help students achieve at the highest levels that they can? And how can we think about adjusting our programming to making sure that students have access to that type of modality? You know, I think back to the one room classroom, not that I was ever in a one room classroom, but I think a lot of practices that we still use in education nationwide, go back to that way of teaching I don’t think that classrooms across the nation look very differently than they did 50 a hundred years ago And isn’t this an amazing time to think about what classrooms could look like moving forward There are all sorts of little nitpicky things that I could pick on, but I’ll give one concrete example that I’m passionate about So just as an individual I’m very passionate about access to community college, and one thing that always boggled my mind was that community colleges often put requirements for students to take courses at the college They need to score a certain number on the test, like an SAT or whatever that is, otherwise they’ll need to go into remedial coursework And the problem with that is when you look at open enrollment institutions of higher education, the graduation rates are abysmal Sometimes they’re in the single digits, so whatever the system is, it’s not working in some ways, I think policies like that can gatekeep students from pursuing a degree that may have nothing to do with math or reading So isn’t this an opportunity to say, “Hey, how about we change that and figure out ways to get students taking courses that excite them right now, without that course right now.” And that’s what happened during COVID, a lot of community colleges across the nation weighed those requirements simply because students couldn’t access those exams But I would be curious to know what that data looks like And you may see more students thriving in their degree programs than ever before And that’s because we were forced to do something that we had been doing just to do something, and we’re doing it completely different now Things like that, I think are all over the place, the opportunities, right? Not just in education, but in industries across the field, I think we’re reevaluating what remote learning, and what remote working can look like Imagine if school districts and organizations really stopped thinking about who’s the best person for the job close to our office How about who’s the best person for a job that lives in the entire United States, especially for small districts and small organizations I think that could be game changing So those are just a couple of examples I really hope something can changed for the better when it comes to our students and underserved communities – The last point you made is actually- I mean, all of those were really interesting points That last point you made was fascinating because I actually never thought about that Obviously, a lot of- we as Khan Academy is actually a distributed organization We have a headquarters and we’re kind of thinking about to what degree how that will be afterwards, but I hadn’t fully thought about that notion that even school districts,
which you’ve used, a very local thing, even those might be able to tap talent at a national level of which could be quite powerful And you know, some of what you talked about, community college requirements, I agree with what you’re saying It will be interesting to see the data when they waive those requirements And also one of my pet projects is trying to figure out how we can get kids, the credit for things like not even just the remedial work, but the college algebra or that first English language or writing course before they graduate high school But that we could have a whole conversation on that We’re getting questions incoming on social media and anyone watching, feel free to put your questions in for Jharett. I will try to get to as many of them as possible, but we’re getting a lot of questions about people curious about your career pathway I guess I alluded to, it seems like you’re on a rocket ship in terms how quickly you’re progressing The first question is from Susanna Garcia Dominguez from YouTube, who is a regular on this show “Hello, Dr. Bryantt, how did you know that you wanted to go into administration instead of being a classroom teacher?” And I know you started as a classroom teacher, but tell us how that pathway works I think most people know how to become a teacher Most people don’t know how to become an assistant superintendent – Yeah. I think that’s a really a great question because here’s the thing, I was one of many people that went to college thinking that my only path to success would be to be pre-med or to think of these very conventional things And I was going to do that I went to a place- – My mother still thinks my only path to success is pre-med, but anyway, sorry, I interrupted – No, it’s fine But the thing is that I didn’t know that my job existed I didn’t know that teaching existed I took a course in college that changed my life, it was called Solving the American Education Crisis, and it was about all these inequities that happen in urban school systems that I hadn’t thought about That was my experience, I thought schools were fine They’re not fine And I felt really compelled to go into a classroom and to experience that firsthand And then I think the thing that changed the game for me was that I wasn’t so much thinking about being in the classroom versus not being in the classroom I was thinking about what gives me energy? And I would say the turning point for me, because I did have a lot of steps between what I do right now, and when I was a classroom teacher, but the lesson I learned remains exactly the same So I was transitioning out of the classroom and I thought that I’d go off to be what they call management consultant, basically put together spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks for a living, but really expensive and really important to some people But anyway, I met somebody that changed my life because he was founding an organization that really targeted those high achieving students in underserved schools to help get them to highly selective universities like Stanford or Harvard or wherever that is because those schools full rides to students who are low income So anyway, I chose to drop everything that I was doing to make that program work And I think what I learned from that experience was you need to figure out where you get that energy from I never felt that energy again, or at least as strongly as when I spoke to the founder of that organization about that special program, but that energy, that feeling of desire, that feeling of wanting to make a difference in this way, I just had to pursue it And it ended up looking different over the years, I realized that it wasn’t so much that particular program I was passionate about, it was really speaking up for the underdogs in society and making sure they get their fair shake and they get resources So then it looked like putting counselors in all the high schools That looked like thinking about how do we get as many low-income students as possible to pass an advanced placement exam Then it looked like, you know, XYZ But the common denominator is I stopped listening to incredible people that I really admire because there are still people that tell me I should be doing X and Y, but I always follow my heart And I know that sounds trite, but I was very lucky that something spoke to my heart, and for the first time I stopped following my gut and I just did it and it could have totally failed, (chuckles) but it didn’t I truly think that that’s what made the difference for me – And on the other side of that coin, what are the things that you think you’re doing? And I know this is a hard question to answer, but what do you think of the things that you’re doing that have given you that success, that have allowed you to be an effective, not just educator, but administrator as well, and for people to recognize that? – I think the number one thing is you have to be around people that are willing to take a chance on you Even if I were to consider different roles in education or whatever it is elsewhere, some people aren’t willing to take a chance on somebody that thinks about things unconventionally It goes back to what I mentioned before, I’m probably one of the only contemporaries in my building that use Khan Academy as a high school student, obviously for obvious reasons But I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had mentors,
I’ve had an amazing boss who really been willing to take a chance on somebody who maybe didn’t have the most conventional background for something, but they saw something, they saw a spark, they saw potential and they’re willing to take a risk So that something that I think made the difference for me was that I did have somebody who signed off on me taking on this job I think I was 25 at the time And some people would say that’s crazy I recently was- I made the Forbes under 30 list and I finally got some Twitter haters Like I felt like a mini celebrity for like a minute And I saw some of the things that were put out there and it’s like, wow But I had mentors that really saw beyond what people will say on Twitter and that sort of thing, and they just really believe in investing in somebody, and I wasn’t perfect, and I had people that were willing to do what it takes to make me see things that I didn’t see in myself So, I value that, I really aspire to be that for somebody one day – Now, that’s incredibly powerful, and I think it’s going to be inspiring to a lot of people who are watching, people of all ages And the time we have left and maybe this kind of combines both parts of our conversation, your journey, and also the journey of education generally What are the things that you’re most worried about right now, either in your own life or in education or in your job? And what are the things that you’re most hopeful about? And any other advice you have for those watching, especially the young people out there – You know, I’ll keep it real I feel I’m a little worried that people are going to really romanticize what it was before this pandemic I think that we’re all really wanting things to go back to normal, and I just hope that we don’t over-correct and go back to the things that really started inequity Remember, inequity didn’t start with the pandemic, it was already there, and that’s probably a theme that comes up in a lot of different fields It really accelerated things that we’re already there So the flip side, the positive thing about crises, whatever that may look like, is it’s an opportunity to put a shock in the system, to reflect and to do things better So while I’m very concerned that people are going to want to go back to the way that we did things, including the things that really didn’t help propel our underserved, I am really excited about this idea that we’ll look at technology differently, that we’ll think about education differently, that we’ll learn how to operate school systems, school funding, school finance at state level, even federal policy There are so many things that I want to advocate for that I don’t think people would have listened to for two seconds had this pandemic not put it on their radar as an issue And I know we’re running out of time, but maybe next time I can talk about those particular things So stay tuned, my friends – We look forward to that Well, Jharett, thanks for joining, and I know there’s a lot of work You have your work cut out at Houston ISD, but it sounds like y’all are doing better than most And I think we’re going to see a lot more from you in the education world doing really great things – Thank you Sal, it was a pleasure to be on – Thanks for joining Well, everyone, hopefully you enjoyed that conversation I always think we’re like 10 minutes into it and I look at the clock and I’m like, Oh wow, we’re almost out of time, (chuckles) time flies when we’re having fun But hopefully you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Bryantt, and I am always blown away that he actually used Khan Academy in high school, in college So, one good we’re having impact, but we’re getting older than some of us would like to admit (chuckles) But we’ll see you all, have everyone have a good rest of your week and weekend, and we’ll see you next Tuesday We’re going to have a real good conversation Continuing the conversation about families and their ability to engage during the pandemic But I will see you then