Louisiana Partnership Expands Educational Opportunities for Students 6–12

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Communities have been hit hard these past few years. Cost of living increases. Decreased supply of goods and services. Affordable housing. Struggling businesses. Personnel shortages. Schools, teachers and ultimately students have felt the heavy burden placed on education. Smaller rural communities have been especially hit hard.

Callout: How is a school district to manage the delicate balance of providing quality instruction and advance learning, all while navigating the social-emotional needs of students?

East Baton Rouge Parish sought a creative solution to meet the needs of its 40,283 diverse learners and 2,200 teachers—they leveraged resources available to them outside of their community. 

Finding solutions

Dr. Sito Narcisse, superintendent for East Baton Rouge Parish, faced the challenge that plagues many schools in the U.S., a nationwide teacher shortage. With many families seeking remote education options, Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Virtual Academy (EBRVA) had quickly grown to 1,400 students; nearly half that number in grades 6-12. To help support these students, he knew he needed an innovative solution.

Narcisse was familiar with ASU Prep Digital, an accredited online K–12 school that is part of Arizona State University, the college ranked #1 in innovation for the last eight years by U.S. News & World Report. To help keep students learning and on pace to graduate, he asked for assistance and formed a multi-year partnership with ASU Prep Digital for EBRVA’s 6-12 program last spring. 

Customized model    

In this partnership, ASU Prep is the instructional provider for the school, providing curriculum and quality teachers certified in the subject areas they teach. The ASU educators are completing requirements to also become teacher certified in Louisiana. EBRVA is the students’ school of record and classes operate on East Baton Rouge Parish’s school schedule.

Discover other ways to partner with ASU Prep Digital. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with this community and this partnership helps us serve others and expand and create new learning models,” said Dr.  Christy Cleugh, Director of National Partnerships for ASU Prep Digital. “Their goal is our goal—to provide outstanding educational opportunities for students and provide excellent teachers well versed in the digital atmosphere.”

For all collaborative partnerships, like the one with East Baton Rouge, ASU Prep meets with the school and district’s leadership to first understand the needs of their community of learners. Then, they customize the support and make adjustments if needed along the way.  

Student-center focus and personalization

Dr. Christy Cleugh, Director of National Partnerships at ASU Prep Digital “We strive to get to know each student as an individual and treat each classroom as a classroom of one,” Dr. Cleugh said. “We see a great deal of engagement and have lots of positive feedback. We hear, ‘thank you, we know you care about us’ from parents and students a lot. It feels like we’re building nice solid relationships with the families.”

Dr. Christy Cleugh, Director of National Partnerships at ASU Prep Digital

Providing student-centered focus to ensure all students have the opportunity for success no matter where they live is a core credo at ASU Prep.

Rachel Maleski, Rachel Maleski, Digital Partnership Principal for ASU Prep Global, said, “We know the importance of keeping students at the center of every decision we make—it’s what will lead to the best outcome for students. The core of our mission as an organization is to constantly iterate new models for educational success and increase academic achievement for all learners.”

Rachel Maleski, Digital Partnership Principal for ASU Prep Global

Working together achieves more

Prior to the pandemic, Maleski said she felt educators and schools often worked in silos and competition. But she said she feels a shift now and there is more partnering and emphasis on the importance of collaboration.

“Collaborating really strengthens possibilities. When you partner with us, you are not alone,” she said. “We work together to ensure all students have equitable access to quality instruction. We think about who we are including and how we can make it work for them. It’s a two-way collaborative endeavor. Our partners learn from us, and we’re learning from them and with them.”

ASU Prep is proud of the continued progress students are making at EBRVA, and celebrates East Baton Rouge Parish for leveraging resources and relationships to build bright futures.   

EBREast Baton Rouge Virtual Academy
East Baton Rouge Virtual Academy (EBRVA) is a free, online EBR School System public school for students in grades PreK through 12. Enrollment is open to all families within the East Baton Rouge School district. Learn more at https://ebrschools.org/schools/ebrvirtual/

Partner with ASU Prep Digital
ASU Prep Digital is an accredited online K–12 school providing districts with professional development options customized for their needs, including virtual teacher mentoring. For information on ways ASU Prep Digital can help with teacher shortages and other needs, visit our Teacher Mentoring webpage or email partnership@asuprep.org.

Convergence of Technology and Personalization Play a Critical Role in the Future of Education

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Originally published on K12 Digest

Julie Young, Managing Director of ASU Prep and Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach, has been celebrated as an education disruptor for nearly three decades. She was the founding CEO and president of Florida Virtual School, the world’s first state-wide virtual school and one of the nation’s largest K-12 online education provider. When not leading international school programs, you’ll find her at the nearest beach with several golden retrievers.

Navigating a global pandemic revealed teachable moments in virtually every facet of life, but some of the greatest learning has come in the aftermath. Not only did the pandemic force new methods to emerge, but it also spurred new thinking. Along the way, the collective mindset shifted from what had to be done differently to what could be done differently.

Across nearly every sector, the pandemic forced us to rethink long-held truths and opened the gates wide for considering new approaches to conventional methods. Education is no exception. In fact, education may be the strongest example of them all. Digital learning, once an outlier shrouded in mystique, now permeates education today – from site-based classrooms to hybrid or flex options to fully online.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, missteps were rampant in schools from coast to coast — even around the world. The disruption to traditional learning was abrupt. It thrust educators into a fully online environment with no preparation.

Given the hyper-personalized way many of us live — with ads served up to match our browsing history and custom playlists that reflect our musical taste — the pandemic revealed education as a glaring anomaly.

Historically, while many schools offered online options for acceleration and remediation, those digital options were unevenly distributed and applied. Many schools lacked a comprehensive strategy for how digital learning tools could complement and support their entire instructional plan, and, as the pandemic revealed, staff were largely underprepared to teach in a digitally supported instructional environment.

Yet ultimately, a silver lining emerged from the pandemic. Digital learning has become recognized as a viable delivery method ripe with potential. This is particularly true when it comes to answering individual students’ unique circumstances or personal needs.

Take military kids, for example. These students bounce frequently from one school system to the next — in some cases entering a new district befuddled because the material is advanced well beyond their previous experience, and in others, wasting months in boredom while waiting for students in the new district to catch up. What’s more, with every move there’s a new set of peers to navigate. It’s disruptive, but there are alternatives.

For military families – and scores more — digital learning offers major academic and social advantages. ASU Prep Digital is a K-12 online program that fully integrates with Arizona State University. It operates within the ASU Prep network of K-12 schools, which have become a model for offering a spectrum of digitally-supported learning options, from classroom-based to fully online.

The programs have been embraced worldwide by students of virtually every imaginable background: Ambitious learners whose local school curriculum offers few challenges and a blurry path toward college. Youth with health conditions that leave them strong enough to learn but poorly suited for the rigors of a typical public school. Talented young musicians, artists and athletes whose rigorous practice and performance schedules demand greater flexibility than most districts allow. Young men and women in the war-ravaged Ukraine, who recognize education as the key to a brighter future.

New Models Gain Traction

Interest in alternative learning models has steadily grown since the pandemic emerged. Yet to be clear, the technology isn’t new. Online learning has been happening for decades. What is new is a heightened awareness that not all students learn in the same way, at the same pace, in the same environment — and that’s spurring an unprecedented level of innovation in the education sector.

The result is a steady depolarization. Students no longer have to choose strictly in-person or strictly online. The lines are blurring to accommodate students’ unique needs.

At the core of this forward thinking is a critical question: How do you want to learn? ASU Preparatory Academy offers a glimpse at how putting personalized student needs at the core can shape modalities and offerings. An accredited college preparatory school that serves students in grades K-12, ASU Prep is chartered by Arizona State University. Founded in 2008 with a single live campus, by 2017 ASU Prep had expanded its in-person offering and launched ASU Prep Digital, built on the same college preparatory framework but with classes exclusively online and available to both full- and part-time students anywhere in the world.

Today, ASU Prep’s continuum of options spans on-site immersion campuses in and around Phoenix on one end and fully flexible, any-time-anywhere programs on the other, all designed to keep students on an accelerated path toward college. In on-site classrooms, teachers embrace blended learning as they learn how to leverage digital tools to maximize personalization for each student.

Students and their families can also find a range of hybrid and microschool programs tailored to their unique learning needs and preferences. In addition to five-day in person campuses, two hybrid campuses in the Phoenix metro bring students to the classroom three days a week, leaving two days for more flexible learning.

ASU Prep Local is one of the new hybrid programs designed for online students who crave more personal interaction than a fully virtual model allows; digital coursework is enhanced with in-person collaboration, discussion and project-based learning in small group settings. Moving further along the continuum, the ASU Prep Experience, another hybrid model, provides a single day each week for college-bound online high school students to acclimate to the college environment by attending class on the Arizona State University campus. Both programs answer the growing interest in microschools among families attracted to smaller cohorts and targeted but flexible learning opportunities.

New enrollments at the fully virtual ASU Prep Digital remain strong, although most area schools have long since resumed regular in-person schedules. However, perhaps most telling of the need for more tailored learning options is the strength of the new hybrid modalities, each of which has surpassed enrollment projections at launch and continues to expand to meet growing demand.

Looking Ahead

After the pandemic, there was a rush to “return to normal,” which for many meant a return to traditional classrooms. The challenge, though, is that students need more options — not fewer. Online or hybrid models aren’t for every student, but they may be just the ticket for the student who is not thriving in the classroom or the student whose personal circumstances dictate a need for flexibility.

The future of learning is personalized – it meets students where they are, it assesses what they know, adapts content in real time to ensure comprehension, offers up new modalities if they need to learn differently and stays with them throughout their journey.

Phoenix Business Journal: Q&A with Julie Young

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Julie Young, vice president of education outreach and student services and managing director, ASU Preparatory Academy and ASU Prep Digital, was recently interviewed by the Phoenix Business Journal. Young shares how her interest in digital education began, her thoughts on the misconceptions of remote education, and what true quality virtual learning looks like. 

Listen to the interview here.

See What Our Parents Are Saying – A School to Grow With

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While online learning has been around for several decades, many families only recently discovered it in 2020 when schools pivoted to remote learning because of the pandemic. This elementary school parent wrote to share that they’re staying with ASU Prep Digital until college.  

“Our family’s introduction to online learning started in the Spring of 2020. Much like the rest of the world, our former school went to remote learning. Although it was far from perfect, we immediately started to see the benefits of the kids learning from home. We enjoyed a slower pace with a routine that didn’t involve racing around, and we were able to spend more quality time together. 

Our former school was not set up to offer online learning after Spring 2020. We were so desperate to find an online school that we could trust with our children’s education. Both Mom and Grandma are Arizona State University Alumni and as such keep in touch with the ASU community. It was through an informational email that we found out about ASU Prep Digital. We immediately knew beyond any doubt that we could trust ASU to offer elementary level education that is ultimately geared to preparing each student for college. 

Our older child started in 3rd grade and our younger child started ASU Prep Digital in Kindergarten. Their plan is to stay with ASU all the way to college graduation. We think it’s really cool that the kids can go from Kindergarten to Ph.D all with the same school. We also love that we are more involved in knowing what the children are learning. We feel this digital school format allows the teachers to come into our home and be a part of our weekday routine. It’s very easy to communicate with teachers and staff through Zoom, email, text, and phone calls. 

We also love the fact that the kids can grow with ASU Prep Digital. If the children’s needs and desires change, they have the opportunity to have a hybrid schedule where they can learn from home and enjoy the campus environment. That is forward-thinking on ASU’s part, the future of education is flexibility and having choices in where and how you learn.” 

“This digital school format allows the teachers to come into our home and be a part of our weekday routine.”

There is definitely something to be said about being able to spend more quality time together at a less frantic pace. Thank you for entrusting ASU Prep Digital with your children’s education, for welcoming us into your homes, and making us part of your routine!  

It means a lot when a parent shares how ASU Prep Digital is helping their student succeed. We’d love to hear from you. Share your story with us at Elogan4@asu.edu.

Moving forward when last year’s learners are missing

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Student absenteeism is hardly a new problem, but chronic absenteeism among public school students has more than doubled since before the pandemic. Students who are chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent of days or more in a school year, are at greater risk of falling behind.

A recent article revealed that an estimated 1.1 million American K–12 students registered for the 2020–21 school year but never showed up for class. That is more people than live in the cities of Miami and Atlanta combined. Sadly, there are a lot of missing students.

Prior to 2020, some of the common causes of chronic absenteeism included bullying, mental or physical illness, or failing grades. Nowadays, on top of that, learners may be missing or absent because families have relocated, lack transportation, or have changed their education platform.

Education and teaching must continue to evolve. The sheer number of students absent from classrooms is jarring and many wonder if schools will ever return to “normal.” Most likely, our definition of what is normal may continue to be stretched even further.

Here are a few suggestions you can try to help move forward when last year’s learners are missing.

Hold a classroom “town hall” or open discussion.
Students know when their classmates are missing. Create a safe space where students are free to share their feelings on missing fellow students. Acknowledge the “loss” and empathize that change can be uncomfortable, but humans will undoubtedly encounter many “pivots” throughout their life.

Don’t let current students fall through the cracks.
In addition to being concerned of the absent student falling behind, be cognizant of the spillover effects of chronic absenteeism. Chronic absenteeism not only has a damaging effect on those individuals missing excessive school days, but also has the potential to reduce outcomes and achievements for others in the same educational setting.

Reach out to families who are absent.
Send an email, or even better, call. Let the student and parent know they have been on your mind, and you just wanted to ask how they are doing. Approach the conversation from the heart and be sincere.

Ask students what they would do if in charge.
Have students brainstorm ideas on what they can do, individually or as a group, when they feel overwhelmed by change. Ask how they would want to be approached if they were no longer in class or at school. Creating an action plan based on their insight is a great social-emotional and problem-solving exercise.

Regardless of the reasons why last year’s learners are missing, educational leaders can help keep their students moving forward.  

Check out this post to explore ways to build community and help keep students and families engaged.

Parent and Family Engagement Matters

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How to get your parents and teachers working together in partnership. 

Parent and family engagement in a child’s education is a powerful predictor of academic success. Yet, many parents are noticeably absent from school activities. There are any number of reasons why—stress and survival mode among them. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association showed that 73% of adults said they are overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world right now. 

One sure thing that keeps parents from being involved in their child’s education is their not knowing how to be involved.

  • Be intentional and invite parents to participate. This may sound obvious but keep sharing opportunities with parents on ways they can get involved. Invite them to a live lesson. Ask them to join a coffee chat and discussion. Grade level does not matter. Invite them to participate.  
  • Improve communication. Effective communication is a two-way flow of information. Newsletters, blogs, and online calendars are great at providing information to parents. But it’s critical to actively solicit feedback from parents. Host a family night. Use social media to connect to parents. 
  • Try to view parent involvement through the parents’ eyes. You are teaching their child, but it’s important to realize your student may not be their only child. Parents with multiple children in varying grades are navigating different levels of learning and involvement based on ages and stages. Consider these questions: Is their job demanding and stressful? What does their home life look like? Are they also caring for aging parents or extended family? 
  • Exercise patience. Remember, it’s not within your control whether a parent engages in a school activity. But, if they did not attend, be sincere and let them know they were missed. Find out if they have a special skill or job they’re willing to share as a guest speaker. Keep the open invitations coming.

Want more?
Check out this post to go deeper into the importance of the connection between parents/families, schools, and student achievement.    

Try ASU Prep Digital Professional Development at no cost.
Schools and districts across the country turn to the experts at ASU Prep digital for PD solutions, customized for their needs. For a limited time, we’re offering one complimentary asynchronous training course for your teachers—no strings attached. Browse course offerings on our ASU Prep Digital Training Portal and contact me to claim your complimentary course.

See What Our Parents Are Saying – A Community of Learners

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Being a parent is arguably one of the toughest jobs there is. We want what’s best for our children and strive to put their needs first. But parents also need to balance their own growth and development. Read the letter below we received from a mom who is also going to college full time.

“Being a stay-at-home mom and full-time online college student myself with ASU, I started to worry about finding a school for my son as his kindergarten year approached because times are different. When my own Success Coach told me about ASU Prep Digital, I did not have a doubt in their learning platform because it was in the name itself—they were trained for online learning for KIDS. 

It was flexible, advanced lessons, yet they were taught in the simplest and most fun ways, and had the most engaging staff such as their teacher, specials teachers, clubs teachers, and their own Learning Success Coach.

While there is no in-person interaction, there is still a lot of social learning that is introduced. I have noticed how the teachers call on the students, making sure everyone takes a turn. The success coach hosts homeroom every week, and our coach hosts story time every week with each grade. Additional activities online are open for students to participate in with other kids like fun, live walk-through (kid-friendly & safe) experiments, before or after live-lesson clubs, and small groups where 4-5 kids work with the teacher in mini-lessons. Relationships definitely have grown with the students, teachers, parents, and coaches throughout the year. 

It really has been a remarkable year where ASUPD has set the standard for us in our kids’ education. We have learned to adapt, set new routines, and take on a lot of patience with the learning process. It got easier as the year went by where my 6-year-old no longer needed me to direct him with the software and his work.

Online learning sounds intimidating, especially for children, but ASU Prep Digital has proven itself to be the simplest, most educational, and wholesome schooling that the future is ready for.”

Stay-at-home mom and full-time college student, we see you and hear you. Thank you for sharing how ASU is there for you and your family!

It means a lot when a parent shares how ASU Prep Digital is helping their student succeed. We’d love to hear from you. Share your story with us at Elogan4@asu.edu.