Two students work at a computer

Digital summer school students feel ready for the fall

By

Hannah Moulton Belec

Parents and teachers fear the summer slide — the learning loss that can happen over summer break — and the aftereffects of the spring school closures threaten to double the length of potential learning lags for K–12 students. But for the thousands of students who took the summer to delve into adaptive math, engineering, literature and more enrichment through ASU Prep Digital, they’re feeling ready to take on the fall and prepared for any learning methods.

More than 2,000 students enrolled in the third year of ASU Prep Digital’s summer enrichment program. The most popular courses were English and algebra, and offerings included the rigorous Math Momentum program as well as classes that focused on life skills such as financial literacy. 

At a time when parents and students faced months without traditional instruction, Arizona students were able to enroll at no cost.

“Our program has grown tremendously, and this year we expanded our summer school program to all Arizona students for free,” said Michael Kasper, ASU Prep Digital’s director of academics.

“Our program is designed to meet students where they are, whether they are looking to accelerate, try concurrent or university course options for the first time or simply needing noncredit courses to keep current with subject matter.”

Rising junior Kendi Johnson, 16, took personal and family finance this summer to catch up on credits and to get hands-on finance experience. The course covered taxes, the economy and the stock market. The course emphasized applying knowledge to real-life situations and included role-play and adapting finances to life events: The final assignment was to complete a tax return. Johnson found the course both fun and practical. 

“I’m feeling really great about my class. I find it interesting and enlightening,” Johnson said.

“I think that this is a very beneficial class. It has been very cool to learn about it, and I can’t wait to put what I’m learning into action!”

Johnson continued in the second half of the course in July to learn more about buying stocks and investing. She is a full-time ASU Prep Digital student whose family splits their time between Arizona and Alaska. 

May Huang, ASU Prep Digital learning success coach manager, said students and parents are attracted to the customizable curricula, which is adaptive to both getting ahead and catching up thanks to tools such as DreamBox and Aleks

“Summer school was critical this year more than ever because of the learning disparities and interruptions students faced in the spring. With the staggering volume of students that missed out on essential seat time in the spring term, students leveraged the summer months to remediate or accelerate in order to meet their learning goals," Huang said.

ASU Prep Digital has been a trailblazer in rigorous online education for the past four years and began offering full-time K–8 enrollment this fall. The organization has also been a leader to help bolster resources for all Arizona students during school closures due to COVID-19, partnering with the Arizona Department of Education, the governor’s office and the Helios Education Foundation to offer free training for Arizona teachers on digital education. 

“We really tried to think comprehensively about how we could provide strategic support as students transition into summer,” said Amy McGrath, chief operating officer of ASU Prep Digital. “Our goal is to give students learning opportunities that not only help students get on track but also help them take practical, proactive steps towards a college plan.”