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Arizona State Charter School Wins $2.9 Million Innovation Grant

A charter school system sponsored by Arizona State University will be receiving a sizable grant from the Department of Education in order to integrate the use of technology into its classrooms. ASU Preparatory Academy, with six schools and four locations near or on university campuses, has a mission of providing personalized, "university embedded" academic programs that push students to pursue college. Seven out of 10 students served, many Hispanic, are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The academy has a total of about 2,000 students.

The academy will be receiving $2.9 million over five years from ED's Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) grant competition. The 2013 i3 grants went to 25 applicants out of 618 applications submitted. As part of the funding process, each applicant was required to secure matching funds.

Gathering, Reflecting, Owning our Work (GROW), the program pushed by the academy in its i3 application, is designed to use technology, a blend of "emergent learning strategies" and "innovative teacher effectiveness technologies" to improve student learning outcomes.

Under GROW, students will be given computing devices they can use at school and home, as well as access to learning programs such as ePals, Skype, and digital textbooks. Teachers will receive ongoing professional development to help them learn how to integrate technology-based educational resources into the curriculum.

Another aspect of GROW is to invest in software that allows families to communicate through digital translation. Families will be required to commit 30 volunteer hours each academic year to help promote the idea that family involvement can have a major impact on student success. A "help counter" will assist them in tracking and scheduling their hours. Family members will also be invited to attend a 10-week outreach program delivered at Arizona State to help them learn how to help their children in school.

The charter school was initially opened in 2008 by the university under an umbrella organization, University Public Schools, as a way to help disadvantaged students get prepared for higher education.

"Education and college preparation demands increasing reliance on the latest software applications and technology tools. Solely relying on state funding will not provide adequate resources to create the technology rich environments that are critical to ensuring success," said Beatriz Rendon, chief executive officer of the academy and associate vice president for Arizona State's Educational Outreach and Student Services. "The i3 grant will help us position our students to be among the most successful and competitive students in the world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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