Racing into the future with ASU Prep Poly 5th grader William Macdonald

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Tech-savvy 5th grader William Macdonald takes STEM-centered learning seriously. As a student at ASU Prep Polytechnic STEM Academy, William has a passion for coding and an entrepreneurial spirit that shines as bright as the circuits he loves to tinker with. Recently, it inspired him to orchestrate the first-ever ASU Robot Race.

William and a friend presented a proposal for this innovative event to the school counselor and Principal Claudia Mendoza, receiving an enthusiastic green light. William then designed marketing materials on Canva, recruited participants, and planned a challenging track filled with obstacles designed to test the mettle of each competing robot.

While William won’t be competing in the race he designed, he is thrilled to oversee the competition that includes grade representatives in grades 3 through 6. The grand prize on the line? A pizza, cupcake, and movie party for the winning contestant’s entire class.

William Macdonald at a racing track

 

William’s knack for technology isn’t just limited to school projects. Check out the February 2024 issue of Epic Kids to learn about his other enterprises, including constructing walls and wiring the lighting in his family’s home. With dreams of following in his parents’ footsteps to attend ASU for his undergraduate studies, William Macdonald is a shining example of where curiosity, creativity, and a love for technology can lead.

ASU Preparatory Academy Poly STEM Elementary earns prestigious A+ School of Excellence Award

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We are thrilled to announce that ASU Preparatory Academy Poly STEM Elementary has been named one of just 37 Arizona public schools to receive the esteemed A+ School of Excellence Award for the 2023-2024 academic year by the Arizona Educational Foundation. This award, a testament to high-quality education, recognizes ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary “as a model and a beacon of success to schools throughout Arizona and the nation.”

ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary, a tuition-free K–6 school, offers an innovative and rigorous STEM-infused curriculum in a learning environment where students are encouraged to explore, inquire, and engage in real-world problem-solving that will ultimately guide them to college and career success. Additionally, ASU Prep Polytechnic is a STEM-certified school, one of the few with this additional level of rigor for students.

The coveted A+ designation, the highest state-level award given to public schools, underscores the school’s dedication to educational excellence. Initiated in 1983, the A+ School of Excellence award process evaluates schools on multiple aspects including teaching and learning strategies, student achievement, leadership, and community integration. The selection process involves an extensive review by a panel of A+ principals, teachers, and district leaders, followed by a multi-day site visit led by a team of A+ award judges.

ASU Poly STEM students

ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary’s A+ achievements

ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary Principal Claudia Mendoza shares some insights into what sets the school apart:

  • Our school prioritizes innovative teaching methods and fosters a dynamic learning environment that encourages curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among students.
  • We are committed to ensuring that every student reaches their full potential academically, socially, and emotionally. Through personalized instruction and support, our students consistently excel in their academic endeavors.
  • Our instructional leaders, teachers, and staff demonstrate exemplary leadership skills by setting high expectations, providing guidance and support, and fostering a positive and inclusive school culture.
  • ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary actively engages with the community to enhance the educational experience of our students. We collaborate with parents, local organizations, and businesses to provide enriching opportunities and resources that extend beyond the classroom.

Upon receiving this recognition, Principal Mendoza expressed, “This award is a validation of our collective efforts and reaffirms our commitment to excellence in education. It serves as a source of pride and motivation for our students, staff, parents, and community partners, inspiring us to continue striving for greatness.”

The school plans to celebrate this achievement to honor everyone who contributed to this success. Principal Mendoza shares, “It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate our accomplishments as a school family, and this recognition is definitely worth celebrating.”

Learn more

We invite you to attend an information session to learn more about what makes ASU Prep Poly STEM Elementary an A+ School of Excellence.

ASU Honors Black History Month with Community Events

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of the profound contributions that African Americans have made to all facets of society. Throughout this month, we come together to honor the legacies and ongoing achievements of Black individuals. Here is a sampling of Black History Month events hosted by our ASU community:

George Floyd Global Memorial to present ‘Twin Flames’ exhibit

This arts experience is a unique partnership between the ASU Art Museum, the ASU Center for Work and Democracy, and the George Floyd Global Memorial. Enjoy an insightful guided walkthrough in addition to a food truck with delicious bites, mocktail bar, and entertainment.

Color Cabaret by Music Theatre and Opera

This entirely student-led cabaret helps provide an opportunity for composers, lyricists, librettists, and performers of color, formed through personal connections, friends, and colleagues from all over ASU, to share their creativity.

Black Liberation Through the Marketplace with Rachel Ferguson

Join author Rachel Ferguson as she discusses Black Liberation Through the Marketplace, and come away with a better understanding of Black history and creative ideas for how to make this nation truly one with liberty and justice for all.

International Jazz Day AZ Foundation’s co-presents JADE

Jade Johnson has performed beloved renditions of the National Anthem at Suns, Mercury, Diamondbacks, Clippers and Lakers games, and landed acting roles on TV’s “Blackish” and in theater Off Broadway. From jazz and pop to R&B, hear a focused singer-songwriter hitting her stride.

This is Melanin

Step into a world brimming with entertainment and education. This all-ages extravaganza includes food trucks, music, games, vendors, speakers – and good vibes. Brace yourself for thought-provoking panel discussions and workshops focusing on vital community empowerment topics such as finance, home-buying, and more.

ASU Prep Poly celebrates milestone Sweet 16 birthday

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ASU Preparatory Academy’s Polytechnic campus recently celebrated a special birthday: its Sweet 16.

Since a “Sweet 16” celebration is an opportunity to highlight growth while also looking forward to future successes, the ASU Prep Poly community plans to do just that. Reflecting on the school’s growth, K–6 Principal Claudia Mendoza, says, “Change is good. Because we can’t do the same old thing in the same old way.”

So, what has changed in the last sixteen years? The size of the program, including the number of students and the amazing opportunities offered them, has grown tremendously. And what remains the same is equally important. According to Mendoza, it’s the amazing staff’s “commitment to our school, our students, and our learning community.”

Speaking to the ASU Prep Poly staff, the excitement about this milestone and the school community in general is evident—and contagious. They eagerly take the opportunity to reminisce, reflect and plan for the future. Here are some of their insights.

Continuous progress

As the first ASU Preparatory Academy to open in 2008, the Poly campus was humbly housed in a little office complex, then later shared space in the former Veterans Hospital. Brenda Brown has been with Poly from the very beginning as both a parent and K–6 teacher. She recollects the first informational meeting, as people gathered on lawn chairs in an unfurnished office.

In those beginning years, Coach Brown shares how families and community businesses joined forces for “dirt day,” relocating unused dirt from ASU’s Tempe sports fields to create a P.E. space. Over time, as the students grew up, so did the programs and spaces to accommodate them. The middle school and high school were established and ASU Prep Poly ultimately found its home within state-of-the-art buildings on the ASU Polytechnic campus.

The ASU connection

ASU Prep Poly is proud of its close relationship with ASU, recently ranked No. 1 in innovation for the 9th straight year by U.S. News & World Report. Principal Mendoza explains, “Our kiddos see themselves as Sun Devils from day one” as students from Barrett, the Honors College work with students on projects, like coding. The college faculty is also involved, providing holiday presents for Poly students in need.

“Our kiddos see themselves as Sun Devils from day one.”

—Claudia Mendoza, K–6 Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy

ASU Prep Poly STEM 7–12 Principal Lori Frazier highlights the additional benefits of the ASU connection: every student has the chance to take university or concurrent courses while in high school, saving them time and money when they get to college and exposing them to future STEM careers. Principal Frazier explains that ASU Prep Poly continues to build these pathways for students, working with ASU’s engineering program, for example, regarding future careers in the growing field of semiconductor and microelectronics.

ASU Prep Poly’s innovative education

The school began with a vision to immerse students in project-based and STEM-centered learning starting in elementary grades, and today is proud to be STEM-certified by Cognia, an accreditation based on rigorous, research-based standards and best practices.

Principal Frazier says, “We are truly focused on each individual student and personalizing their pathway, not just high school graduation, but to get them in a post-secondary program.” ASU Prep Poly’s innovative and personalized learning curriculum prepares each student for this journey.

“We are truly focused on each individual student and personalizing their pathway.”

—Lori Frazier, Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM 7-12

“Our education is multidisciplinary,“ shares Mendoza. “Students are exposed to the STEM field in kindergarten, learning how to code robots. They’re learning all about the engineering process. They’re doing things that are meaningful to them, but at the same time, solving problems, utilizing logic and code, and collaborating with their peers. That’s what sets us up for success later on, as students get older.”

ASU Prep Poly’s student life and clubs

ASU Prep Poly faculty takes time to boast about their students’ extracurricular achievements with Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal, making a special note of Colorguard. “Our first Colorguard started 16 years ago with only 15 members. Today, the program has flourished into a remarkable achievement, with more than 110 students across five different groups. This growth reflects not only the dedication our staff has to our students but also the commitment to excellence and inclusivity embedded here at ASU Prep.”

Coach Brown adds some of the ASU Prep Poly athletic programs that have taken shape over the years: volleyball, cross country, flag football, girls and boys basketball, cheer, soccer, golf, softball, baseball, wrestling, swim, and track & field. Not to mention standout clubs like Robotics, Student Government, Key Club, and National Honor Society.

Close knit community

Beth Sullivan, an ASU Prep Poly teacher since its inception, shares how her family moved to Arizona from Michigan in search of a school that would provide “a strong sense of community, as well as a solid, innovative, and academically rigorous education” not only for her three sons as students, but also for her as a teacher. “The four of us began our ASU Prep journey together. We celebrate how fortunate we are to have been surrounded by such an amazing community of families, as well as talented, caring, innovative, and creative educators.”

“We are surrounded by such an amazing community of families, as well as talented, caring, innovative, and creative educators.”

—Beth Sullivan, ASU Prep Poly teacher

Sullivan’s children graduated from ASU Prep Poly STEM High School and went on to complete undergraduate degrees from ASU. Principal Mendoza shares that watching students grow up and graduate is a special part of the job: “I get to see kids go from being little elementary kiddos to being a middle schooler and then on to a high schooler, looking at college and career choices.”

Assistant Principal Kochis agrees, “One of the best things I have had the opportunity to witness was the graduation of students I first taught as Kindergartners. The joy of seeing them successfully navigate their educational journey from the early years to high school graduation is truly rewarding.”

Lori Gutierrez, Health Assistant and 16-year Poly veteran shares a favorite tradition, “Our Senior Walk is so special! I love seeing the seniors walking through the halls at the elementary campus. When teachers and I see students that we have known since they were in elementary school, it brings tears to our eyes. We are extremely proud of them.”

“The joy of seeing [our students] successfully navigate their educational journey from the early years to high school graduation is truly rewarding.”

—Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy

Many of the ASU Prep Poly staff members, including Gutierrez, describe the community as “family.” Principal Mendoza credits the staff for that, describing them as the backbone of the school, whose actions and decisions “come from the heart.” Kochis adds: “The extraordinary culture, dedicated staff, engaged families, thriving students, innovative practices, and a strong sense of community. This is a place where education goes beyond the curriculum, shaping students into well-prepared, confident individuals ready to navigate the world!”

Looking to the future of ASU Prep Poly

Principal Frazier, whose own sons graduated from ASU Prep Poly, wants to continue to share their school community with others, growing enrollment, and further strengthening the ASU pathway to future careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Principal Mendoza adds that as they continue to support students in learning and taking advantage of all the available opportunities, she also looks forward to continued high rankings in state testing and school grades.

“This is a place where education goes beyond the curriculum, shaping students into well-prepared, confident individuals ready to navigate the world.”

—Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy

Assistant Principal Kochis adds,  “My hope is to continue building on the incredible culture already in place and infusing it with innovation. Together, we can continue to create an environment where every student thrives academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Learn more about ASU Prep Poly

ASU Preparatory Academy Polytechnic, along with all the schools in the ASU Prep network, are on a mission to design new models for educational success and raise academic achievement for all learners. To learn more about ASU Prep’s innovative, personalized, project-based learning, visit our website.

Here are some of our favorite moments from this year’s celebration.

 

 

Strong foundations start in Kindergarten.

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ASU Prep Academy is hosting several Kinder Round-Up information sessions at our four elementary locations in the metro Phoenix area.

At the event, families will have an opportunity to meet our teachers, tour our campuses, and learn more about our Kindergarten program, which features:

  • Tuition-free full-day options
  • One-to-one technology devices
  • Individualized learning plans
  • Gifted program options in Spring semester
  • After-school programming

To learn about Kindergarten eligibility and VIP on-site enrollment, click here.

Upcoming ASU Prep Neighborhood Events

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At ASU Prep, we believe that a strong and vibrant community is fundamental to the success of our students! Our community, composed of dedicated educators, motivated students, and supportive families, forms the backbone of our learning environment.

We encourage active community participation to foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect. This community spirit extends to our free, family-friendly neighborhood events. We hope you’ll join us!

ASU Prep Polytechnic High School is hosting a Sweet 16 Birthday Celebration, a very special birthday bash to celebrate sixteen years of serving students. Join us Friday, January 19, 3:30-6:30 p.m. for festive fun for the whole family, including bounce houses, video game trucks, hands-on STEM and robotics, and giveaways! RSVP today.

RSVP Today!

Día de los Muertos event celebrates the magic of tradition and community

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Recently, ASU Preparatory Academy South Phoenix transformed into a vibrant fiesta of colors and sounds, paying homage to the rich tradition of Día de los Muertos. The community gathered for a night bursting with entertainment.

On November 4, the campus filled with families, their faces painted in vivid designs and many had heads adorned with floral crowns, eager to participate in the festive activities offered throughout the night. Guests danced alongside the lively mariachi, watched the twirling baile folklórico dancers and marveled at a daring aerialist performance.

There was authentic cuisine and craft stations to create sugar skulls and paper flowers, but the heart of the celebration was the breathtaking Cihuapactli Collective Altar, where guests paid tribute to loved ones.

The event was a chance for attendees to soak in the spirit of the ASU Prep community as the South Phoenix campus buzzed with excitement. Student Nataly Garcia shared what makes the school special, and therefore, the event: “It’s a small school and everyone here knows each other. The teachers and staff support each kid individually.” Alejandro Bonfil added how fun it was to hang out with friends and classmates at the celebration.

About the festivities, student Zain Gehrig said, “I would totally recommend this. It’s so much fun being here. I’m having the time of my life.” The pictures and memories of this year’s event will linger on, and are already fueling anticipation for next year’s celebration. As Garcia puts it, “You want to make sure you come next year because you don’t want to miss this fun, amazing party that ASU Prep South Phoenix has offered to everyone!”

To see a recap of the event, please visit our YouTube channel.

No need to wait until next year to join in the fun. ASU Prep is hosting more free community events, including the upcoming Creative Fusion Fest at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest and Let it Snow at ASU Prep Phoenix Downtown. Find out more about upcoming events here.

The legacy lives on: celebrating Native American Heritage Month

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November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans and to acknowledge their valued contributions.

In his National Native American Heritage Month proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group. They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward.”

This month, and all year long, take the time to educate, advocate, and raise greater awareness for the rich traditions and histories of Indigenous communities.

The history of Native American Heritage Month

The journey to recognition was not an easy one. It started with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a descendent of the Seneca tribe and the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who was one of the first proponents of an American Indian Day back in 1915. His efforts, combined with the relentless work of Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, led to the declaration of the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day by the governor of New York.

Years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Since then, this commemoration has evolved into what we now know as Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to educate the public about tribes, raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and honor the vital role they play in enriching our nation.

From the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the U.S. Constitution to the Navajo Code Talkers’ contribution during World War II, the impact of Native Americans is deeply woven into the fabric of American history.

Honoring the vital role of Native Americans

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month can come in many forms. One of the most meaningful ways is through education. Take the time to learn about the different tribes, their histories, and their contributions. Many museums, libraries, and educational institutions like ASU offer exhibits, discussions, and resources during this month.

Participating in cultural activities is another great way to honor this month. Many communities host powwows, dance exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events. These gatherings are not only fun but also provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural diversity of Native Americans.

Consider supporting Native American businesses and artists to show respect and appreciation. By purchasing Native American art, jewelry, food, and other goods, you’re helping to sustain their traditions and support their communities.

Learn about the important contributions of barrier-breaking Native Americans who continue to shape our society, lead their communities, and impact our culture today. Research Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first female Native American to travel to space or Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who became the first Indigenous Cabinet member in U.S. history, among countless others.

Lastly, advocacy is a powerful way to celebrate. Stand with Native communities in their fight for recognition, rights, and respect. Advocate for policies that protect their lands, cultures, and identities. Arizona State University has taken steps to increase awareness & appreciation, as well as motivate advocacy, through the ASU Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, recognizing its campuses are situated on the homelands of many indigenous communities, many of whom continue to live in the area.

Continue to celebrate, learn, and honor

Native American Heritage Month is a reminder of the enduring and resilient spirit of Native people. The richness of their cultures, the depth of their wisdom, and the strength of their spirit continue to inspire us all. In honoring their heritage, we enrich our own understanding and become more compassionate and informed citizens.

This November, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate, learn, and honor the first people of this land. Let’s remember that every day is a good day to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures and contributions of Native Americans.

Accelerating Math Skills: ASU Prep’s Math Momentum Program

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ASU Prep’s Math Momentum program, a testament to the power of innovative, personalized education, seeks to bolster math education by equipping educators with a diverse set of strategies and teaching models. The initiative, now in its third successful year, supports schools across Arizona, particularly those in rural locations and tribal lands, where access to technology and qualified staff may be lacking.

“Math has always been an area of opportunity in the state,” says ASU Prep Digital Principal Brian Austin. The program, a collaborative effort between ASU Prep and the Arizona Department of Education, rises to the challenge of addressing the pressing need for improved math performance and teacher support in grades five through nine across Arizona.

Unique, Data-Driven Approach

“Everyone can do math at the highest levels,” asserts Austin, and Math Momentum is making the opportunity accessible and possible.

To implement Math Momentum, program leaders analyze student performance data, gather teacher feedback, and review existing curricula. Based on these findings, they design the best model to address gaps using the latest research in math education and evidence-based pedagogy.

As a result, Math Momentum is able to offer bespoke solutions tailored to the unique needs of each participating school. From fully virtual to hybrid program options, the educational experience can be customized to each school’s unique needs. In cases of math staffing gaps, a highly qualified ASU Prep Digital math teacher may lead instruction with the support of onsite facilitators. For schools with strong math teachers aiming to boost student performance, the ASU Prep Digital math teacher is available for team-teaching, working with small groups on more individualized instruction.

Through the program, teachers also have access to the Math Institute, which provides professional development and training opportunities for teachers and staff. This includes workshops, seminars, and coaching sessions to ensure educators are well-equipped to effectively deliver the program and support student learning. Mr. Austin is optimistic about the future impact of the program, stating, “We’re breaking new ground and opening up new territory for them to reach their students in a different capacity. That practice will continue impacting their future students in the coming years.”

ASU Prep Digital Learning Success Coaches play a pivotal role in the success of Math Momentum, managing partnerships and supporting students. Coaches provide instruction and resources for cultivating critical math mindsets that foster essential life skills such as problem-solving, persistence, resilience, and collaboration.

Measuring the Impact

The success of the Math Momentum program is measured by both quantitative and qualitative data to assess program effectiveness and impact on student learning.

By year two of the statewide Math Momentum program, every grade level exceeded Exact Path beginning-year to end-year growth goals. The Exact Path Diagnostic revealed that for students who remained in the program for the school year, 88% of students in rural settings maintained or grew their overall math proficiency level, while 93% of students in urban settings maintained or grew their overall math proficiency level.

The Math Momentum program also had a positive impact on teachers. Many onsite teachers expressed satisfaction with their personal development as math educators or facilitators. “The response has been incredible,” says Mr. Austin. “We have many partnerships where those teachers find that Math Momentum is crucial to their instruction now. We’ve had schools that have asked us to expand to their entire math team. And that’s because they’ve seen the results.”

Looking Ahead: Expanding the Momentum

The mission continues to grow, with the goal of extending the Math Momentum opportunity to more schools throughout Arizona and beyond, promoting math excellence and preparing students for college and career success.

“What’s great about Math Momentum is it’s happening directly in the classroom. This isn’t only for those students who have access to transportation or access to technology at home. This is for everyone. I hope to continue serving our Arizona students with Math Momentum,” shares Mr. Austin.

Learn more about Math Momentum and how the program is improving math mindsets and boosting math and digital literacy skills across Arizona.

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 asuprepdigital.org/professional-development.