Sal Khan seeks to reinvent the American classroom

In 2006, hedge fund manager Sal Khan launched "Khan Academy," to provide YouTube tutorials for his 12-year-old cousin who needed help with unit conversions. The online school now delivers more than 580 million online lessons in over 36 languages.

Last fall Khan expanded his influence by creating his own brick-and-mortar school in California.

"It was my dream to start a school even before Khan Academy started. But now that Khan Academy has had this reach, we've working with a bunch of schools trying to push the envelope on mastery-based learning, blended learning, project-based learning. We said, 'Let's do it under our offices for real.'"

The Khan Lab School runs differently from traditional schools. There's no homework or grades, and students - ranging from ages five to 12 - share the same classroom.

"It's only 150 years that we separated children by age in classrooms," said Khan. "The idea is you can learn a lot from the students who are a little older than you and if you're 12 years old you could exercise a lot of leadership being a teacher assistant for the younger students."

The school also breaks up the students based on their "independence level," rather than their age.

"Whatever independence level you're on--whether in math reading and writing - you're on your own track," he explained.

Another unique feature of the school is that it runs all day, all-year long. Khan said the current school schedule - that he says was originally designed for a one-income household -- is not enough learning time.

"The gap between the U.S. and Shanghai test scores can be purely accounted for by time in the classroom," Khan explained. "You have the summer learning loss, which is not only time that you're not learning when you could be, but you're actively forgetting the things that you learned at the end of last year."

As Khan Lab School enters its second year, Khan said he hopes to use the reach of the Khan Academy - currently boasting more than 30 million registered users - to send students and teachers information on how to create similar learning experiences in their classrooms.