ASU Foundation Receives $2 Million Grant From The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation

PHOTO: A middle school student at ASU Prep Phoenix Middle School, one of the middle schools where the MACS tool is being tested. This image was taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ASU Foundation for A New American University has been awarded a two-year, $2 million grant from The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.

The funding will directly support the development and delivery of the Math, Computer Science and Statistics (MACS) Accelerator, which provides digital, educational resources to students across Arizona.

Established by Arizona State University, the MACS Accelerator aims to leverage artificial intelligence and cutting-edge tools to dramatically improve the teaching and learning of math and computer science at the middle school level. The two initial learning tools – focused on pre-algebra and personalized tutoring – are designed to provide students access to individualized learning support in real time and ultimately achieve mastery in the subject.

“The quality of math and science education provided at the middle school level has a direct impact on a student’s lifelong learning,” said President and Executive Creative Director of PXG Apparel Renee Parsons. “These tools focus on that critical window, heighten educational resources and lead students to academic success in high school and higher education.”

Math and computer science are considered critical building blocks for today’s youth, yet only 41 percent of Arizona eighth graders are math proficient, according to 2019 AzMerit test results by Expect More Arizona. Additionally, minority and low-income students – which encompass more than half of Arizona youth – are found to have lower educational attainment rates. This data shows there are clear learning gaps at the K-12 range that often hinder a student’s ability to master critical learning objectives at the postsecondary level and beyond.

“Learning is a lifelong journey, unique to each individual, and ASU is committed to providing access to higher education for anyone who is committed to doing the work,” said Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow. “Bob and Renee Parsons’ support will enable us to advance on this important mission, and their gift will help more students attain a high-quality education and be prepared for next generation STEM careers, which are vital to the workforce of the future and to economic expansion.” 

The pre-algebra pilot will provide schools with a customized diagnostic and remediation tool to meet students where they are in the learning process – whether they’re behind due to the effects of COVID-19 remote learning or ahead of state standards. The tool uses an algorithmic, AI-approach to identify areas that need improvement and discover the most efficient methods to address these deficiencies. Additionally, the pilot will include added features to further delve into the social and emotional components of learning. ASU plans to implement the tool in 250 Arizona schools by spring 2022.

The first phase of the tool will also include a technology-powered, personalized tutor that offers real-time guidance and intervention during the learning and problem-solving process. These technological advancements will help lay the program’s foundation and work to construct the building blocks for additional computer science and data science curriculums, two critical subjects for students to master when preparing for several of today’s jobs.

“Education is a powerful tool, and it’s our duty to help ensure we’re meeting the academic needs of all students – regardless of their background,” said PXG Founder and CEO Bob Parsons. “The innovations being deployed by ASU will prepare students for success not only in higher education but future long-term careers.”

Driven by teachers, coaches and newly designed adaptive learning tools, the MACS Accelerator will help ensure students can achieve academic success and master the skills needed to pursue STEM-oriented career pathways.

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