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ASU Prep network expands reach locally, around the world

ASU Prep Digital helps schools pivot to remote learning during pandemic

July 30, 2021
Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2021 year in review.

Arizona State University’s K–12 charter school network has flourished during the pandemic, expanding its offerings to more learners around the country and creating a stronger college-going culture to its students in Arizona.

ASU Preparatory Academy is a network of tuition-free charter schools with about 3,300 students in four metro Phoenix locations, plus ASU Prep Digital, a K–12 online school that serves over 42,000 learners around the country and the world.

Over the past year, the network has added grade levels, specialty academies and partnerships to create high-quality digital education that students can access in their classrooms and at home.

Among the new offerings at the ASU Prep immersion locations, which start classes Aug. 2:

New academies: ASU Prep has created the Academies at ASU Prep Poly STEM High School for the upcoming school year. In this model, all of the high schoolers will choose from one of six academies, each aligned with a college at ASU that’s based at the Polytechnic campus.

ASU Prep students, including full-time ASU Prep Digital students, can take two university courses per semester at no charge, and the new academiesThe academies are the W. P. Carey School of Business Academy; the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Academy; the College of Global Futures Academy; the Health Careers Academy, aligned with the College of Health Solutions and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovations; the College of Integrated Science and Arts Academy, and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Academy. allow Poly STEM’s high schoolers to be even more integrated with the university, according to Carrie Larson, head of schools for ASU Prep’s immersion schools.

The academies, which eventually will expand to K–12 and other locations, will focus on project-based learning. Three hours a week, students will work on a project connected to the ASU college or program they’ve selected.

“This will allow us to bring in guest speakers from the university,” Larson said.

“Students can learn from the university, ‘What does it mean to be a successful student in the College of Global Futures?’ They can build those skills now.”

Spark Institute: Also focused on project-based learning, the ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy started the Spark Institute last year for seventh and eighth graders.

“The entire teaching team comes together to support the project-based learning,” Larson said.

“A lot of people might have pressed pause on that in year when we had a pandemic, but this team really pushed for this. They kept it going even when students were virtual and had big project launch events and presentations.”

Hybrid learning: When the pandemic forced students to learn remotely, ASU Prep surveyed parents across the network to gauge their interest in having students learn from home two days a week. Based on the results, three locations will offer a hybrid learning model this year: the Poly, Casa Grande and Phoenix high schools plus third through sixth grades in Phoenix.

Students will attend class in person two days a week and learn from home two days a week, supported by a facilitator who will keep them on track. Fridays are flexible days, reserved for experiential learning, such as field trips, labs, presentations, performances or project-based learning.

“Based on parent interest, we’ll expand this model as we’re able to show what hybrid learning looks like,” Larson said.

ASU Prep Digital

ASU Prep Digital, launched in 2017, is available two ways — a full- or part-time online charter school that can accelerate the time it takes for students to earn a degree, and an a la carte offering to boost curriculum in partnership with existing district, charter or private schools.

ASU Prep Digital has been critical in filling educational gaps. In May, the National School Boards Association recognized the collaboration between ASU Prep Digital and the Pendergast School District in the West Valley for its work in advancing equity and supporting underserved students.

Over the past year, ASU Prep Digital has expanded its grade levels to include elementary and middle school, and helped hundreds of schools create high-quality digital education for students to access at home. Some schools tap ASU Prep Digital to pivot their own curriculum to digital, while others use ASU’s courses.

Helping students learn remotely: One of the partnerships launched during the pandemic was with Kamehameha Schools, a network of private schools in Hawaii.

When the lockdown hit, Kamehameha needed a way to quickly provide its Hawaiian culture-based curriculum to its students at home. The result was the Kamehameha Digital Platform powered by ASU Prep Digital — a solution that was so successful, the Hawaii Department of Education asked to expand it to K–5 students across the state, including many in remote fishing villages.

Also during the pandemic, 31 school districts in North Dakota partnered with ASU Prep Digital to transition to remote, digital learning quickly and at a lower cost than doing it themselves. ASU Prep Digital also trained the North Dakota teachers on best practices for remote education.

Math Momentum: In July, ASU Prep Digital started a three-year partnership with the Arizona Department of Education to boost math education among students in fifth through ninth grade. Math Momentum, projected to eventually reach 4,000 students, will begin in 19 rural and tribal districts this fall, according to Jill Rogier, head of school for ASU Prep Digital.

“Out of all 8th graders, only 41% scored proficient or highly proficient in 2020 in the AzMERIT,” Rogier said.

“That’s really the impetus for this.”

ASU Prep Digital will also help math teachers develop engaging, personalized math lessons and provide support to schools who don’t have a highly qualified math teacher.

“If they don’t have a math teacher or they have a beginning teacher or are not getting good outcomes, we can support them. Our teachers can be a co-teacher, or work with small groups of students,” she said.

Top image of ASU Preparatory Academy in South Phoenix by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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