Education leaders gather at The K–12 Innovation Alliance Summit

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The K–12 Innovation Alliance is on a mission to strengthen relationships among K–12 partners, connecting their expertise with the educational resources of Arizona State University and ASU Prep. The goal is to advance innovative solutions to ensure every student has a path to college and future success.

With that goal in mind, innovative school leaders from around the world recently gathered in Tempe at the K–12 Innovation Alliance Summit, an annual three-day event. Amy McGrath, ASU Vice President of Educational Outreach and Managing Director of ASU Prep, described the Summit as an opportunity to bring together “thought leaders to wrestle with the big questions, like emerging technology so we can elevate outcomes for all students.” She further described the Summit as a meeting of open minds, leaning into curiosity to share ideas “in the name of kids.”

Attendees agreed, using the following words to praise their summit experience: high energy, engaging, inspirational, challenging, exceptional, forward-thinking, collaborative, relevant, intriguing, phenomenal, refreshing, and full of opportunities and connectivity.

Summit activities inspire attendees

The Summit kicked off with a welcome reception featuring ASU President, Dr. Michael Crow, whose remarks left Dean Tomita, Senior Director of Enterprise Technology at Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii, reflecting on the importance of “measuring success by inclusion” and considering just how the partnership with ASU Prep provides the necessary resources to do just that.

Melissa Lundquist, Instructional Technology Specialist for Chandler Unified School District, complimented the Summit on addressing the hot topics facing education today, such as delving into new technologies changing education, namely AI. Featured keynote speakers shared insight into how navigating and maximizing these platforms can help prepare learners for tomorrow.

John Bailey, expert on artificial intelligence in the education industry, discussed how education leaders can embrace disruption and leverage new innovative technologies to empower learners. Dr. Peter Liljedahl, Professor of Mathematics Education and groundbreaking author, presented on the best ways of using artificial intelligence technology in a K–12 classroom. Mark Naufel, trailblazing innovator and tech entrepreneur, explored AI’s transformative role in education, discussing how Arizona State University spearheads AI innovation.

Breakout sessions gave further opportunity for attendees to delve into engaging topics. Cajon Valley Union School District presented on how AI is automating personalized learning and career pathways. Northeast Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, reviewed their steps to opening a new school that empowers students for life after high school. Another session covered the importance of developing community partnerships to ensure fiscal sustainability, while Tempe Union High School District and ASU delved into collaborative educational strategies and the successful Summer Bridge initiative. American Leadership Academy Applied Technologies High School reviewed the education model they use that is transforming traditional education into a disruptive school environment where students are empowered to think outside the box. Further, participants learned effective strategies for engaging both student and parent audiences, as well as covering the importance of Science of Reading.

Hands-on workshops covered adaptive leadership, personalized learning pathways, design thinking, and multifaceted approaches to using AI in the classroom.

A highlight for many was the Superintendents’ Roundtable Discussion, which brought together a panel of district superintendents from around the country to discuss topics such as innovative leadership strategies, the role of technology in schools, increasing student outcomes, personalized learning and retention of high-quality educators. Allison Voltaire, Elementary Principal at ASU Prep Digital, considered this a favorite part of Summit, recognizing leaders across the nation are “facing the same challenges within their school districts regardless of their make-up, diversity, size” and this provided a chance to share in those struggles, challenges—and wins. Karen Minshew, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Cajon Valley, San Diego, agreed that the panel was a highlight and enjoyed hearing from these innovative leaders what they’re doing to challenge the current education system.

The Summit also included ASU Prep school site visits. Dr. Kodey Hughes, Utah Superintendent, appreciated witnessing the intentional culture of innovation and opportunity at ASU Prep Digital Polytechnic. He considers the ASU Prep culture “miles ahead of the innovative schools” he’s visited throughout the country during his career and had him reflecting on his own district, asking what they’re doing to intentionally focus on STEM instead of including it as more of an activity.

Dr. Hughes further reflected on his district’s partnership with ASU Prep Digital, citing the need for their resources to engage kids and provide teachers with tools they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Ken Williams of Unfold the Soul spoke at Summit of the importance of marshaling resources to scaffold for students, in order to build cultures of equity, excellence and achievement—without lowering the standard. Summit attendees across the board agreed that their partnership with ASU Prep is doing just that.

Innovative leaders honored with Summit awards

The Summit also took time to honor six leaders in K–12 education for their forward-thinking use of technology to promote education. The following K–12 Innovation Alliance Award recipients serve as role models and inspiration for fellow educators.

Digital Innovator Award: Hawaii’s Kamehameha Schools

Excellence in Blended Learning Award: Utah Private Schools Association

Innovative Community Partner Award: Peoria MET Professional Academy

Innovative District Award: Chandler Unified School District

Education Impact Award: Dr. Jennifer Cruz, Superintendent of the Pendergast Elementary School District in Phoenix

Innovative School Leader: Daniel Tomás Bucheli Figueroa, CEO of Innova Schools of Ecuador

Forward momentum: carrying summit ideas into the future

The K–12 Innovation Alliance Summit was a resounding success, bringing together some of the most trailblazing leaders in education today. The exchange of ideas, strategies, and innovations showcased at the summit serves as a testament to the transformative power of education when coupled with visionary leadership and strategic thinking. As the summit attendees return to their respective schools, they carry with them not only a plethora of fresh ideas, but also a renewed sense of inspiration, ready to instigate change and drive progress in their educational communities. To learn more about the K–12 Innovation Alliance, visit