Innovation in College & Career Preparation

Purdue-Affiliated Charter School Will Address Indiana’s STEM Education and Jobs Pipeline

By Gary R. Bertoline, Dean and Distinguished Professor of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, Purdue University

Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will offer an educational experience designed to provide a bridge for inner-city students and others to succeed in high school and to be admitted directly to Purdue University. The new charter school will open in downtown Indianapolis in August 2017. We believe that this high school aligns well with USA Funds®’ Completion With a PurposeSM focus.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, on June 18, 2015, announced the university’s plan to open the new STEM-focused charter school with the possibility of eventually expanding statewide to cities where Purdue has polytechnic centers. The high school curriculum will mirror the transformed Purdue Polytechnic Institute on the West Lafayette campus and serve as a pipeline to the institute.

BP5_0774HandsOnThe Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will be unlike any educational experience offered in Indiana and, potentially, the nation. The rigorous curricula and learning environment will be built on strong industry relationships, an innovative partnership with Purdue University, and a shared goal to ensure a diverse student body succeeds in the 21st century economy.

We have two basic objectives for the high school:

1. Offer an alternative learning environment designed to better prepare students for today’s workplace.

2. Increase significantly the unacceptably low number of Indianapolis Public Schools students who are qualified to succeed at Purdue.*

Embedded in these objectives is the goal to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and minority students who are prepared for success. This is not only an Indiana issue — it is a nationwide challenge. The Polytechnic High School is an attempt at direct action where waiting on the current system has not worked.

A steering committee composed of leaders from Purdue, the city of Indianapolis, USA Funds and EmployIndy has been working for the past year on plans for the new school. We are grateful for the leadership provided by USA Funds, which has provided a $500,000 planning grant, administered by EmployIndy, for the startup of the school.

Purdue faculty, primarily from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, will develop the unique curriculum and teaching methods for the school. With open enrollment, it will be a blend of K-12 and postsecondary education with an infusion of industry leadership and participation. Students who succeed in the rigorous curriculum at Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will be admitted directly to Purdue.

The Purdue Polytechnic Institute (formerly the College of Technology) offers a 21st century polytechnic education to provide students with skills, knowledge and experiences required by business and industry today and in the future. Our programs combine theory-based applied learning, team-based projects, and experiential components such as industry-sponsored capstone projects, internships and applied work experiences. Our students study a wide variety of technology-driven subjects, including robotics and manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, cybersecurity, biometrics, and technology leadership.

The charter school’s curriculum will be influenced by our own academic approach. The first two years will encompass problem- and project-based learning focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a connection between those subjects and real-world challenges. Students entering 11th grade will select a specific pathway to master skills and earn college credit and industry credentials. Students will learn in the high school classroom, at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, and in the workplace. In the 12th grade, students will complete an internship tied to their chosen pathway. As part of the program, Purdue also will provide programs that help students transition from high school to college and college-level courses.

As students progress through the school, they will become the next generation of skilled technical talent. They will be able to seamlessly transition from high school and postsecondary education to high-wage, high-demand jobs. They will emerge from Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School with skills that meet the evolving needs of industry, dual credits for continued postsecondary education, industry-recognized credentials, and a mastery of a defined high-tech pathway. Industry will play an important role in curricula development: Curricula will be informed by industry, align with industry needs, and result in a robust pipeline of skilled, ready-to-work talent.

* Among the 48,000 Indiana high school graduates in 2014 who took the SAT, only 101 college-bound African-Americans and 156 Latinos had SAT scores and GPAs in the range of the average Purdue freshman. Among that same set of graduates, only seven college-bound African-Americans and 16 Latinos had SAT scores and high school GPAs in the range of the top 15 percent of Purdue freshmen. Source: College Board’s Enrollment Planning Service.

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