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ASU Prep Digital promotes college-going culture in rural Arizona high school

High school in Miami, AZ, using blended learning with ASU Prep Digital in class.
September 11, 2017

New program provides rigorous content to existing schools and to online students

When Miami Junior-Senior High School in eastern Arizona wanted to boost its students’ chances of going to college, it found a partner in the new ASU Prep Digital online program, which is seeking to fill learning gaps in schools around the state and the country.

This school year, about 95 sophomores are taking English and biology using the ASU Prep Digital curriculum while sitting in their Miami classroom with their own school’s teachers.

“Almost all my kids, if they go to college or formal vocational training, they are the first in their family to do so,” said Glen Lineberry, the principal.

“So that postsecondary training is like a cliff and we’re trying to build a ramp up to it.”

Arizona State University is blurring the line between high school and college with ASU Prep Digital, a new program that is offered in two ways — as an a la carte offering to boost curriculum in partnership with existing schools, and as a full- or part-time online charter school that can accelerate the time it takes for students to earn a degree.

“We’re here to impact national college attainment and help students prep for college, prep for careers and prep for life,” said Amy McGrath, chief operating officer for ASU Prep Digital.

“That doesn’t just happen when you turn 18 and come to ASU. ASU can help you do that when you’re in ninth grade and someplace where you don’t have access.”

Miami, a small mining town about 70 miles east of Phoenix, has struggled with unemployment and poverty, and the junior-senior high school was underperforming. About four years ago, the district launched a new initiative called “There’s no D in Miami” to increase achievement and help pave the way for students to go to college. Lineberry said that the faculty restored upper-level courses like physics and the school added a career and technical education program, which students are required to complete for graduation.

Partnerships have been key. The school joined forces with Northland Pioneer and Prescott colleges for juniors and seniors to take courses that earn college credit.

“But in order to have students do college work as juniors, we needed to step up the level for freshmen and sophomores, so ASU Prep Digital is helping us to do that,” Lineberry said of the blended-learning model.

The district decided to make the investment in the ASU Prep Digital classes, which use the Cambridge International Curriculum, a rigorous and popular qualification system around the world. The teachers in Miami have been able to tweak the content as needed, for example, adding a lesson in lab safety that’s customized to the school.

“We’re getting great curriculum, and the kids are engaged and we think it’s a key part of getting the kids ready for college,” said Lineberry, who added that he would like to expand the offering next year.

ASU is connecting with the Miami students in other ways as well. Parents can take advantage of the American Dream Academy, an eight-week program for families to increase achievement and prepare for college. The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is working with students who have expressed interest in becoming teachers, helping them with the application process.

“Part of the reason we’re trying to do this is because in 2012, a study came out that found that most high school teachers actually teach within 40 miles from where they went to high school. So we’re trying to recruit locally,” said Nancy Perry, associate dean for the Office of Grants and Partnerships and a clinical associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

And Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College student-teachers in Miami will learn how to educate in a blended-learning environment.

“We have many teachers around the state who are trying to be trained in that now, so our partnership is cutting-edge,” Perry said.

Miami is the first blended-learning partner with ASU Prep Digital, which a month after rolling out has 1,500 students in its digital high school, mostly from Arizona but also in 11 other states and China. ASU Prep Digital joins the network of ASU Preparatory Academies, which include campuses in Casa Grande, Mesa, downtown Phoenix and — also new this year — ASU Prep Tempe, on the campus of Compadre High School.

The online classes use the Cambridge International Curriculum as an add-on feature, and students can opt out of the Cambridge components, according to Julie Young, deputy vice president and CEO of ASU Prep Digital. Students can potentially earn college credit by scoring proficiently on the Cambridge end-of-course exams.

ASU Prep Digital offers the core high school classes, as well as Latin, Arabic, entrepreneurship and leadership. Students also can take college courses such as sustainability, criminal justice and modern social problems at a reduced tuition rate.

“I like that the courses are online and I can work on them at other places rather than just at school, anytime I want,” said Riley Guthrey, a sophomore at Miami.

When Young first became involved with digital education in 1996, access to the internet was via dial-up. Now it’s a critical component to lifelong learning.

“We believe that for students to be career, college, and life-ready, they need to know how to learn in this environment,” she said. “When they graduate from high school, whether they decide to become a mechanic, a chef, a real estate agent or a Wall Street banker, they will be continuing their education online. It's a life skill."

Miami Junior Senior High School is holding a kickoff celebration of its new partnerships and academic initiative at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, in the school gym, 4739 Ragus Road. For more information on ASU Prep Digital, click here.

 

Top photo: Janaya Sullivan (left) looks at the large monitor at the front of the class as students log into the ASU Prep Digital lesson in biology class at Miami Junior-Senior High School. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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September 11, 2017

ASU co-hosts IT Awareness Day at Tempe campus, one of a pair of job events focused on giving military vets meaningful work

Military veterans are disciplined, task-focused, team-oriented and get the job done.

These are the same traits required in the information technology field.

Arizona has one of the fastest-growing economies for IT careers, with more than 17,000 full-time career positions currently unfilled, according to experts at ASU and networking hardware company Cisco Systems. At the same time, there is strong need for career support for veterans transitioning to civilian life.

“Far greater than saying to a veteran, ‘Thanks for your service,’ is to hire a veteran and give them meaningful work,” said Benjamin C. Freakley, former commanding general for the U.S. Army and special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow for leadership initiatives at Arizona State University.

“I can train someone to fix a computer, but I can’t train them to show up to work on time, to be a valued member, to be a leader. The military trains and imbues all those positive traits in the men and women who served our country.”

Now ASU and Cisco are hoping to serve veterans by hosting the inaugural IT Awareness Day on Thursday, Sept. 14, at ASU's Tempe campus. This six-hour event starts 1 p.m. at the Memorial Union and will feature Cisco, Amazon, Intel and other prominent members of the community and tech sector. Panelists from veterans service organizations and career representatives from industries such as health care, manufacturing, energy, transportation and logistics will also provide insights into trends in IT, work culture and a look at what the future holds for professionals within the state of Arizona.

Designed with veterans in mind, the free event is open to the public and will be streamed for those who can’t attend in person. Registration is encouraged.

The IT Awareness Day will be followed up by a Nov. 10 hiring event at the Phoenix Convention Center, where job seekers can be pre-matched with jobs and potentially have interviews on the day of the event.

Steve Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said pairing veterans with the IT and STEMscience, technology, engineering, math sectors is a seemingly natural fit, but a few gaps still do exist.

“Veterans get a lot of hands-on experience using high-tech equipment and are really primed for the IT field because in a lot of ways, it’s what they do in the service,” Borden said. However, he added, often what they are lacking is the civilian-equivalency certification to leverage their experience.

Borden said veterans are also not aware of the importance of branding and marketing themselves as they enter civilian life.

“Joining the military is seen as a selfless service, and an individual trying to advance themselves too openly is often looked down upon and usually does not do well in the military,” Borden said. “Helping veterans in that aspect of transitioning and appropriately advancing themselves in the civilian sector needs to take place.”

The two events were prompted in part by co-sponsor Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT and networking. Its leaders decided at a June 2011 meeting to make it a priority to hire veterans.

“The question asked at that meeting was, ‘We give hundreds of millions of dollars around the world for charitable causes, but what are we doing for our veterans?’” said Michael Veysey, director of veterans programs at Cisco Systems.

Veysey said Vietnam-era veterans such as himself were not often the beneficiaries of today's goodwill, but employers have changed their attitudes over time. He said companies like Cisco recognize the value veterans bring to jobs and are doing what they can to help.

He said Arizona’s veteran population, estimated around 650,000 people, can put the state at a great advantage by sending a message that vets can be a force after their careers in the military.

“We would like to establish Arizona as a national center of excellence for veterans in employment innovation.”

IT Awareness Day

What: A day dedicated to raising awareness of career possibilities in information technology, featuring industry panelists and hiring managers.
When: 1-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.
Where: Memorial Union, ASU's Tempe campus.
Admission: Free and open to the public.
Details: Event schedule can be found here. RSVP here.

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176