Purdue University to Open STEM-Focused Charter School


Purdue University has announced that it will be opening the Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School in August 2017, a STEM-focused charter school that will offer classes designed and developed by the Purdue Polytechnic Institute faculty. The venture aims to be a Purdue university pipeline that will help more low-income and minority students continue at Purdue.

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels announced the university's plan to open a new charter school by the summer of 2017. Initially the school will open for 9th graders only and then welcome about 300 to 400 students. The high school will:

"[P]rovide a bridge for inner-city students and others to succeed in high school and to be admitted directly to Purdue University," Daniels said during the high school announcement June 18.

Faculty from Purdue will create a new curriculum that will be a fusion of K-12 and postsecondary education with a focus on industry leadership and participation according to Gary Bertoline, Purdue Polytechnic Institute dean.

Purdue faculty from both the Polytechnic Institute and the University will mentor the school's teachers.

For the first two years, freshmen and sophomores will participate in problem- and project-based learning. The curriculum will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, always in connection with real-life challenges.

Eleventh grade students will then have to choose which skills to expand on further and will be able to earn college credit while expanding their industry credentials.

Seniors will complete an internship in the STEM field of their choice. Upon graduation, successful students can enroll directly in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

At the moment, too few black and other minority students are graduating from public high schools prepared to study at Purdue.

"Our two basic objectives are to offer an alternative learning environment designed to better prepare students for today's workplace and to increase significantly the unacceptably low number of Indianapolis Public School students who are qualified to succeed at Purdue."

The school will be located in downtown Indianapolis. Purdue University partnered with EmplyIndy, the city of Indianapolis and USA Funds to open the school. The latter donated $500,000 for the school's planning.

"Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis will accelerate completion of a rigorous curriculum, saving students time and money, and better preparing them for rewarding careers with the skills that central Indiana employers value,"William D. Hansen, USA Funds president and CEO said.

The Purdue Exponent surveyed students on their opinion on the new STEM high school, with reactions mostly in favor of the school.

"Do I think it will work? Yes, but I would caution against bringing kids without being able to financially support them during and after college (i.e. reducing student loans)," Jake Brosius, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts said.

 "I feel as though if inner city students knew more of the opportunity that they have as well as the capability to obtain the opportunity, then more students would be willing to try. I feel like this school will help students realize that they can become something better and instill in them the willpower to do so,"Jordan T-Moore, 2012 alumnus of the College of Engineering responded.

The school will partner with local businesses to offer its students internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. This concept could be widely adopted, Daniels says.

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