AZ Department of Education, ASU Prep Digital develop 3-year partnership to bolster math outcomes

New Math Momentum program is being piloted this summer

July 12, 2021

ASU Prep Digital announced July 12 a new $9 million, three-year partnership with the Arizona Department of Education to address challenges students are experiencing with math education in the state. The key focus of the partnership is a new Math Momentum program, designed to help middle schools increase math learning outcomes.

The current AzMERIT passing rate percentage for eighth-grade math overall (Arizona students who scored as proficient or highly proficient) was only 41% in 2020, according to the Arizona Education Progress Meter, a measuring tool that uses a series of metrics to show where there is work left to do with education in the state. Co-created by Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Arizona Education Progress Meter has a goal of boosting the eighth-grade math AzMERIT passing rate percentage to 69%. woman teaching in front of classroom Download Full Image

“With year after year of stagnant math proficiency growth, it is time for Arizona to invest in next-generation learning environments and student math literacy,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “By succeeding in math, students also build important critical thinking skills. This exciting partnership with ASU Prep Digital will allow students from across Arizona to catch up and thrive.”

Designed to boost the math and digital literacy skills of fifth-to-ninth-grade students using data-driven interventions, Math Momentum course offerings include grades five–eight math, pre-algebra, algebra and geometry. Initially designed to serve about 4,000 students each year, the program can be customized to each participating middle school based on its needs. For example, ASU Prep Digital offers a fully virtual program offering or a hybrid offering that combines virtual instruction with on-site, in-person learning facilitators.

ASU Prep Digital will also provide a dedicated teaching partner for participating math classrooms, a benefit for middle schools struggling to find highly qualified math teachers. For schools with math teachers on staff, learning coaches from ASU Prep Digital will collaborate with and assist the on-site teacher in delivering engaging, differentiated and live math lessons to support the individual learning needs of each student.

“This new Math Momentum program will target some of the greatest systemic and student-level challenges that Arizona middle schools face in teaching mathematics,” said Amy McGrath, deputy vice president at ASU and chief operating officer of ASU Prep Digital. “It will blend a high quality, adaptive math curriculum with innovative approaches in learning recovery and acceleration. We also will leverage the power of relationships, math mindsets and adaptive technology to elevate the state’s math achievement.”

ASU Prep Digital is piloting the program this summer. Select school districts around the state, particularly those in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, will participate. The summer pilot also offers flexible options to meet the variety of needs that middle schools have in addressing math learning outcomes in their district.

“Through an innovative program like this, we’re bringing our proven digital tools into classrooms to better personalize learning opportunities, especially for those students who are returning to school for full-time, in-person learning, this fall,” McGrath said. “ASU Prep Digital offers a variety of custom teaching pathways that not only help to address learning losses as a result of the pandemic but also assist students in accelerating their math skills and improving their math scores.”

Teacher and facilitator training will be a core component of the Math Momentum pilot program. ASU Prep Digital will offer a comprehensive training program for all participating teachers and school site facilitators along with yearlong support from its teachers.

“Partnering with ASU Prep Digital on this pilot program made perfect sense because they have a proven track record of success and the ability to stand up a successful program quickly,” Hoffman said. “In middle school, math gets more complex. At the same time, it offers so many opportunities for students to practice patience, develop their problem-solving skills and learn from their mistakes. A one-of-a-kind partnership like this one delivers very individualized teaching methods and techniques to fit the needs of students today. It also gives Arizona middle schools the chance to bridge learning gaps caused by the pandemic. Most importantly, students receive all the tools, resources, coaching and support they need to enrich, accelerate and advance their learning.”

To help ensure the success of this new program, ASU Prep Digital will leverage successful models from the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute, another initiative co-funded by the Arizona Department of Education this past year. Experienced trainers from the institute are designing flexible synchronous and asynchronous options, both for this summer and the duration of the new school year.

Learn more about the Math Momentum program.

Media contact: Angela Menninger, or 602-373-8212.

Watts College interim associate dean eager for new role she first trained for years ago

Megha Budruk to oversee academic personnel function, work to advance faculty careers

July 12, 2021

An academic leadership role hadn’t really crossed Megha Budruk’s mind before the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions' then-Dean Jonathan Koppell nominated her several years ago to attend the ASU Leadership Academy.

But once enrolled she realized she already occupied such a role, because leadership is fundamental to the work faculty members do. Since then she has led a variety of research efforts, grants, faculty-student teams and ASU’s engagement with the Young African Leadership Initiative East Africa program, a public management leadership program in Kenya. Megha Budruk, ASU, Watts College, interim associate dean, faculty affairs Megha Budruk is the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions new interim associate dean for faculty affairs. Photo courtesy of Megha Budruk Download Full Image

Budruk, an associate professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, begins work Aug. 2 as the Watts College interim dean for faculty affairs, appointed by Interim Dean Cynthia Lietz.

“I have directed a lot of projects, but never considered it as leadership,” Budruk said. “I thought of it as getting a project going to achieve an outcome for the communities we serve."

She said as an administrator she can provide an opportunity to give back to the college and bring her skills and experience as a faculty member to a position that supports faculty.

“When Dean Lietz approached me with the position, I thought the time was right. It was a good moment to step into the role, a natural progression for me,” she said.

Budruk, who has taught at ASU since 2004, said the Watts College’s visibility within the university community has noticeably grown in recent years.

“The work our college has done, whether at the local, state and national level, has had more impact,” she said. “That’s being recognized now. It’s the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 17 years.”

Lietz, a President’s Professor of social work, said she is very pleased that Budruk will be serving in such an important administrative role this year.

“Dr. Budruk will bring a high level of care as well as meaningful experience as an educator, researcher and leader as interim associate dean for faculty affairs,” Lietz said. “I am confident in Dr. Budruk’s abilities and know that she will be a positive and effective contributor in this new role.”

Budruk will oversee the college’s academic personnel function. This includes recruitment of new faculty as well as helping to advance the careers of the talented faculty in Watts College.

“The past 15 months have brought on many challenges but also opened up opportunities to rethink how we have done things in the past,” Budruk said.

Budruk anticipates her position will require creativity and flexibility in how to approach faculty-related policies and practices.  

She said her interdisciplinary academic background and experience living on three continents has taught her to value a difference of opinions and surround herself with diverse ideas and people of varying backgrounds.

“The best ideas come out of a multitude of perspectives,” Budruk said.

While serving in her leadership capacity, she will continue to teach and conduct her research in the area of parks and recreation management.

“I enjoy being in a classroom with students, figuring out their passions, and helping them achieve what they really enjoy in their degree programs,” Budruk said.

That includes teaching a wilderness course that is open to students across all majors.

“It’s about our relationships with nature over the past 500 years,” Budruk said. “Every semester we have something new to talk about: wildfires, management and mismanagement of natural resources or how evolving societal forces shape what nature means to us.”

Human beings’ relationship with nature is a subject she said is close to her heart and where her research as a natural resource social scientist is focused. Nature became a refuge for millions under stay-at-home orders worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, which has brought the importance of this kind of work to the forefront.

Budruk earned her PhD degree in natural resources at the University of Vermont. She has two master’s degrees. One is in recreation management and tourism from ASU. The other is in environmental sciences from the University of Poona in India, where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions