Beyond brick and mortar: Podcast highlights ASU Prep Digital’s success

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The Learning Accelerator, a national nonprofit, is on a mission to connect teachers and leaders with the knowledge, tools, and networks they need to transform K–12 education. On their “Stories of Learning: Beyond Brick and Mortar” podcast series, they highlight real-world education leaders making effective, equitable, and innovative learning a reality.

Who better to discuss the success of virtual and hybrid learning programs than ASU Prep Digital? Jill Rogier, Head of Schools for ASU Prep Digital, and Betsy Fowler, Head of Schools for ASU Preparatory Academy, were special guests on the podcast, sharing insights on what makes ASU Prep Digital an exemplary educational program.

What sets ASU Prep Digital apart

The podcast episode highlights the integral role played by Learning Success Coaches (LSCs), who are in constant contact with their assigned students, providing guidance and support. This led to the topic of building meaningful staff-student relationships. Rogier explains that thanks to a comprehensive curriculum setup, ASU Prep Digital teachers “can focus more on the incredibly important human side of online learning.” They can foster better student engagement rather than spending time on curriculum development.

On the podcast, Rogier and Fowler highlight how ASU Preparatory Academy programs, including ASU Prep Digital, are also unique in providing an accelerated path to college and careers, offering full-time students the opportunity to take two concurrent courses at Arizona State University per semester, tuition-free. Students save both time and money toward their future college degree!

Listen to the podcast

To hear more about how ASU Prep Digital is transforming K–12 education through its flexible, student-centered approach, tune in to the podcast: Beyond Brick and Mortar: ASU Prep Digital on Building Relationships and Human Connections in Virtual Learning.

ASU Prep’s Science of Reading training program is empowering educators and achieving student success

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Ensuring students can read proficiently is a critical goal for schools and educators. ASU Prep is proactively addressing literacy challenges with its Science of Reading training program, which aims to empower educators and improve student literacy. The program is approved by the Arizona State Department of Education, demonstrating the commitment to science-backed teaching methods and student-centered learning.

The primary goal of the program is to equip teachers with the knowledge to make data-driven decisions in the classroom, aligning curriculum with research and data. ASU Prep’s program recognizes many students enter early grades without strong foundational reading skills, relying on pictures rather than phonics-based skills. Teachers are shifting their focus toward addressing the unique needs of their students, as opposed to strictly adhering to a predetermined curriculum or scope and sequence. This shift signifies a move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to education, promoting a more student-centered learning environment.

By focusing on early intervention and equipping teachers with the tools to identify and address struggling readers’ needs, ASU Prep aims to ensure students are proficient readers by the time they reach third grade. This proactive approach can help prevent reading difficulties and empower young readers to become lifelong learners, even though the transition may be challenging. ASU Prep fosters open dialogue and peer collaboration among educators to ease the process.

The success of the program will be measured through pre- and post-assessments for teachers and student outcomes, evaluating knowledge growth and literacy proficiency improvements, and promoting a student-centered learning approach. Student assessments will help determine whether the program leads to increased literacy proficiency.

The Science of Reading training program comprises nine sessions, each focusing on essential components of effective reading instruction, including research findings, structured literacy, phonological awareness, word study, scaffolding instruction, understanding dyslexia, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and language structure. The program also offers further learning opportunities through an asynchronous Camp Reading course and a book study on Equipped for Reading Success A Comprehensive, Step-By-Step Program for Developing Phonemic Awareness and Fluent Word Recognition by David Kilpatrick.

Ms. Heidi Morton, Training Specialist and Professional Learning Program Manager, has already observed a notable benefit in the evolving mindset of the teachers enrolled in the training. Within finishing one session, Ms. Marilyn Monroy, a teacher in the program, noted a correlation between Science of Reading lessons and improved test scores among her students. Ms. Monroy praised the implemented mini lessons for improving student assessments, with her students improving on spelling tests and even achieving perfect scores.

The initial 45 hours of the Prep Reading Endorsements are scheduled from August 2023 to May 2024, with the next 45-hour segment happening in the subsequent year for a total of 90 hours, further enhancing student-centered learning opportunities.

ASU Prep’s Science of Reading training program represents a forward-thinking and proactive approach to addressing literacy challenges in education. ASU Prep aims to transform students’ reading outcomes and equip educators with the skills to meet the diverse needs of each individual student. As the program continues to evolve and gather data, its impact on students’ literacy development will become increasingly evident.

For more information about ASU Prep’s training programs, including the Science of Reading training program, visit

ASU Prep Digital: fostering global citizens

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In today’s interconnected world, empowering high schoolers to be global citizens is more important than ever and ASU Prep Digital believes in providing students with opportunities to broaden their horizons and experience different cultures. A new pen pal-type program, created by ASU Prep Digital German teacher Ashley Crane, is doing just that.

The program, still in its development stage and an optional part of the curriculum, aims to promote cultural exploration and diversity in high school education.

Sister City pen pals

Ms. Crane’s Level 2-4 German students connect with students in Emmingen, Germany, which is Glendale, Arizona’s sister city. Sister Cities International’s goal is to promote friendship and goodwill throughout the world, which the students are accomplishing through the unique pen pal program.

Ms. Crane collaborated with the Emmingen teacher to set up the program to encourage students to communicate and engage with one another, and as she describes it, “Work together to promote exchange, global leadership, and digital citizenship.”

High school initiative for global engagement

Being a new initiative, the program is still working around different time zones and contrasting schedules but are finding ways to use technology to interact.

Enthusiastic and curious students interact through Canvas, where they communicate in both German and English. They upload pictures and discuss topics that interest teenagers universally, like food, trends, and social norms. Ms. Cranes explains, “It gives our students an opportunity to learn about German culture, but also reflect on their own American culture.”

The future of the German pen pal program

Ms. Crane shares that she hopes to see the program grow: “My ultimate goal would be to establish a partnership exchange program where a German student comes here one summer and then the next summer, an American student travels to Germany. That’s the absolute best cultural immersion opportunity for students.”

While still in the early stages, ASU Prep Digital’s German pen pal program is already cultivating cultural awareness and understanding, equipping students to confidently navigate an increasingly global world.

Keep up to date with more cool happenings on ASU Prep Digital’s blog.

Exciting news: ASU Prep Global named a 2023 Yass Prize Semifinalist!

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ASU Prep Global is proud to be named a 2023 Yass Prize Semifinalist, selected from nearly 2,000 applications representing 27 million students in grades PreK–12 across all 50 states.

The prestigious $1 million Yass Prize, to be announced December 13 in New York City, is considered the “Pulitzer of Education Innovation.” The Yass Foundation for Education, powered by the Center for Education Reform (CER) in partnership with Forbes, calls the 33 distinguished semifinalists “the guiding light…who deliver the most innovative education across the country.”

Semifinalists: influence and impact

Celebrated in style at the inaugural Yass Summit, the Yass Prize semifinalists each received $200,000 as they await the next stage of the Yass Prize journey. Semifinalists, including ASU Prep Global leaders, are invited to a four-week business accelerator program, gaining exposure to top-tier resources and collaborating with other industry innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as experts in journalism, finance, and politics. This is an opportunity for ASU Prep Global to strengthen the mission to provide innovative education that raises academic achievement for all learners.

The semifinalist cohort will also have the opportunity to collaborate even after the initial program is over, accelerating educational change through national exposure and access to the media, attendance at global events, contributions on and sharing with policymakers how best to replicate their good work.

If awarded the $1 million Yass Prize, ASU Prep will continue to expand its own ASU Prep Microschools, in addition to launching the Microschool Fellowship Program, which is designed to empower parents, educators and local entrepreneurs to design customized microschools powered by ASU Prep curriculum, adaptive tools, teachers and Learning Success Coaches. “ASU Prep is deeply committed to accelerating new models of education that raise academic achievement for all learners,” said Amy McGrath, ASU Vice President of Educational Outreach and Managing Director of ASU Prep.

PLEASE VOTE: Parents Choice Award

This year, each Yass Prize semifinalist is in the running for the Parents Choice Award, chosen by a nationwide vote through November 25. The winner will be announced at the December Yass Prize gala, receiving an additional $100,000 for school community or organization improvements.

Please vote today – and EVERY day until November 25! Encourage your family and friends to vote as well!

ASU Prep Global’s 21st century, personalized approach

The Yass Foundation for Education recognizes “best in class education providers who can tackle the big education challenges of the day and deliver an education for students that is Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless.” Let’s highlight some of the ways ASU Prep Global’s personalized, online education earned this significant honor.

Sustainable education

With Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) funds, families have the flexibility to choose educational offerings that best meet their learners’ needs. ASU Prep’s Global microschools offer the convenience of online courses plus the benefits of in-person interaction.

Transformational learning

The blend of digital and in-person learning in our microschools offers students ultimate choice in their day. Each learner’s academic journey is supported and guided by passionate teachers and Learning Success Coaches. With immersive and innovative technology, students can explore a living cell in biology class or interact with a museum statue during history.

Outstanding results

ASU Prep Global’s model has proven outstanding, with a 96% retention rate and a 90% overall satisfaction rating in the 2022-2023 school year. Parents are actively engaged in their children’s learning, providing feedback, and supporting their academic journey. Learners have the flexibility to self-pace and blend learning styles, leading to improved engagement and success.

Permissionless innovation

ASU Prep Global microschools can adapt lessons based on student interests and choice. This fluidity fosters an environment where pace, place, and experiences are personalized, not standardized.

What’s next

As ASU Prep Global waits for the Yass Prize finalists and $1 million winner to be revealed, we look forward to engaging in unique conversations with industry experts and advocating for change. We are excited to continue fueling new pathways that enable more students to access our offerings and transform their educational journeys.

Learn more about the Yass Prize here, and be sure to vote every day through November 25 for ASU Prep Global to win the Parents Choice Award and an additional $100,000.

To Be Globally Competitive, the U.S. Must Value STEM as Much as Literacy

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Originally published on The74.

K-12 education needs to be rethought and redesigned: The engine for STEM learning is curiosity and imagination.

Curiosity is king. Students start their educational journey curious, creative and thirsty for knowledge. This is what drives STEM, particularly science. Our job is to cultivate that and not let a standardized approach to education quash those highly valued traits of a learner.

The world is dependent on innovations, systems and equipment that are designed and sustained using science, engineering, technology and mathematics. This means the nurturing of STEM talent cannot be reserved for a slice of our student population but, instead, an essential component of every student’s educational journey.

It turns out, industry agrees.

Our colleagues in the semiconductor community report the need for curious and creative professionals who can work in teams to solve the toughest problems encountered in the fabs and labs of our most advanced workplaces.

Because innovation is happening at a quickening pace, readying students through the curriculum for every workplace scenario will be impossible. The ability to design solutions from scratch, in real time, is necessary to the innovation enterprise.

Whether this is perceived as an issue of equity or economics, the goal is the same: To value STEM knowledge in the same way we value reading.

K-12 needs to be rethought and redesigned or it will not only fail to meet the needs of a STEM-dependent world, it will fail to meet the needs of a unique generation of students who learns, thinks and engages with the world around them differently than any before.

Millennial and Gen Z parents are tech-integrated and experience-driven. Their children are hard-wired to be the same. Practically, this means they innately use technology to learn anytime, anywhere. But it also means they want to learn by doing. They consider technology their guide but want in-person engagement for connection, collaboration and support.

These were the trends and challenges we had to consider when designing ASU Prep. ASU Prep is a P-20 system of schools and educational services embedded in a larger learning enterprise at Arizona State University. The needs and preferences of our student body is what drives our iterative design. Students become masters in various learning domains from home, at a K-12 campus, on a university campus, at their parent’s workplace or even with peers at a coffee shop.

Thanks to the innovative K-12 policy environment in Arizona, students who can do a day’s worth of school work in less time can fill the remaining hours getting ahead in courses, catching up on concepts where they struggle, working, pursuing an interest in music, theater, Olympic sport or even launching their own small business.

Online learning should not be remote from people. We pair students with Learning Success Coaches to help students build personalized educational pathways into their desired future career. From kindergarten on, ASU Prep students build their own learning plans in concert with a guide and present it to their parents.

Our students are exposed to ASU courses as soon as they are ready and can take any of the 4,000-plus courses on the ASU catalog: in person, online or through our Universal Learner Platform. High school students at ASU Prep are applying their learning via paid internships and hybrid high school/university schedules.

It’s working. With graduation and college-going rates that exceed the averages and large numbers of students matriculating to STEM careers, we believe that we are the school system of the future. As part of ASU’s New American University, ASU Prep is wired like no other K12 system in the country and is poised to design and open access to a K12 model fit for the future of work.

We do all these things not to simply grow enrollment but to develop a knowledge base of what works to share with the broader community and the ASU teams that are increasing university enrollment in underrepresented communities.

Stakes are high for both our country and the families striving within. We embrace the efforts laid out in the New Essential Education Discoveries (NEED) Act to evaluate what is happening right now in the most innovative systems in the United States and apply those lessons rapidly for the benefit of all students.

There is brilliance in every household. We believe it’s our job to design new educational models that value curiosity and show every student that they do, in fact, have a path to a successful future.

Amy McGrath is an educator, vice president for ASU, and managing director of ASU Preparatory Academy, a system of schools and innovations designing new models for all learners.

Science and Engineering Fair hosted by ASU Prep Digital

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It’s time for the annual Science and Engineering Fair, and all 3rd – 12th graders across the ASU Prep network are encouraged to participate in order to showcase their imagination, innovation, and wonder about the world around us!

ASU Prep Digital organizes this special event and lead Science teacher, Brooke Toon, is instrumental in making it a success. Thanks to her relentless efforts, ASU Prep Digital was awarded grant money from Arizona State University and other benefactors whose generous funding provides for participant shirts and awards, as well as a student project fund that aids students with necessary supplies for their projects.

From curious kids to future scientists

ASU Prep’s innovative K–12 curriculum is committed to preparing students for college, careers, and life. The Science and Engineering Fair is a perfect fit with a project-based approach to learning that enhances STEM education and fosters creativity and curiosity. The previous fair welcomed more than a hundred participants showcasing their innovative projects, and the organizers are hoping to match or surpass that this year. For younger students, involvement in the fair is often about nurturing an innate interest and curiosity while encouraging STEM skills through project-based learning. For older students, it’s about fostering innovation and encouraging them to pursue their STEM career goals and possibly, an opportunity to earn a college scholarship.

Preparing for the fair

The fair is divided into four divisions: Lower Elementary (3rd–4th), Elementary (5th–6th), Junior (7th–8th), and Senior (9th–12th). Project categories vary based on division but include animal sciences, behavioral and social sciences, cellular and molecular biology, physics and astronomy, and engineering. To participate, students must submit a proposal for their project idea and then have through February to prepare. The fair is held virtually, allowing students to record their presentations in a variety of ways, from Google Slides to video editing apps. The uploaded projects are then evaluated by three separate staff members who don’t know the others’ scoring. Winners are announced during an award ceremony in late February, with the top projects moving on to compete at the state level in April.

Fostering innovation and exploration

Through initiatives like the Science and Engineering Fair, the entire ASU Prep community continues to foster a learning environment that encourages students to explore, innovate, and push the boundaries of their knowledge. ASU Prep Digital Principal Dr. Robert Streibel recalls a project that he says truly demonstrated remarkable ingenuity and creativity: a student inspired by a sibling’s medical condition studied the dissolution of over-the-counter medications with the goal of figuring out what would work best.

We are excited to see this year’s budding scientists’ and engineers’ innovative projects that demonstrate creativity in STEM education.

If you’d like to learn more about the Science and Engineering Fair, there will be information sessions on October 25 & 30 and November 2 & 8. Contact Mrs. Toon for more information.

ASU Prep Digital hosts first ever virtual open house

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ASU Prep Digital recently hosted its first virtual open house for current students and families. Led by the entire ASU Prep Digital team of more than 100 staff members, this virtual open house was a fitting display of how technology can bring together a school community.

More than 100 families pre-registered and received a link to the teachers’ Zoom rooms, making the experience smooth and efficient. Principal Dr. Robert Striebel and the administration team welcomed families and remained in the main webinar room throughout the event to give families the opportunity to meet the administrative team, ask questions, and provide any feedback.

The open house was designed for attendees to spend 10-15 minutes in a Zoom room with each of their student’s teachers. Families learned about exciting course updates, new curriculum, upcoming ASU guest speakers, an ACT test prep program, and were also introduced to new courses rolled out this year, including Fashion Design, Culinary Arts, and Principles of Engineering.

Inaugural success

The event concluded with an exit ticket survey that communicated stellar ratings from families. Dr. Striebel shared the positive feedback from the survey with the staff. “I really wanted to congratulate and celebrate the efforts of our team.” Dr. Striebel was proud to have in attendance the entire staff of nearly 100 members spanning the country in different time zones.

Building community

Dr. Striebel emphasized the importance of these events, especially for new families. “We have families and staff from all over, even internationally. So, we take this type of initiative to make sure that families know that this is a great place to learn and grow and that the entire team is always accessible.”

Dr. Striebel mentioned ASU Prep Digital’s commitment to staying connected with families. “We offer welcome calls and a welcome letter to every single family. That call really goes a long way but a lot of the feedback that we did see come from this open house was that they appreciated meeting the teacher ‘in person’ and seeing their faces.” Other consistent feedback complimented the event’s organized format and the benefit of receiving a course overview from each teacher.

This successful event is just one example of how ASU Prep Digital is dedicated to creating an accessible, engaging learning environment for students and their families. ASU Prep Digital plans to make this an annual event and host another virtual open house at the beginning of each school year.