Purdue University plans to open a charter high school in downtown Indianapolis that will focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields with the hope of opening in the fall of 2017.
It’s a concept, Purdue President Mitch Daniels said, that could eventually spread across the state because public schools are not graduating enough black and other minority students who are qualified to even attend the Big 10 university.
“We are tied of waiting for the current system to produce enough low-income, first generation, minority students,” he said at Purdue’s Indianapolis office. “We are hardly alone. Every major university is facing this difficulty but we decided we wanted to take some direct action on that.”
The Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will use project based learning and partner with local businesses to provide internships and experiential learning opportunities. The Purdue Polytechnic Institute, formerly the College of Technology, will oversee the high school. Areas of academic concentration are expected to include robotics, manufacturing and cybersecurity. In 11th grade students will select a specific pathway to master skills. Internships will be required during the senior year.
“The teaching is cohort based. It is very hands-on and integrated,” said Gary Bertoline, dean of the Polytechnic Institute. “So when students learn some of the core topics, like a math or English, it is actually put in with the technology course so they are learning in context.”
Graduates of the school can directly enroll in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute or can focus on a industry credentials for a career path.
Bertoline expects a principal will be hired in the next nine months. Purdue faculty, including those at the College of Education, will mentor teachers who are hired. West Lafayette faculty will also teach at the school.
In a press release, Daniels singled out Indianapolis Public Schools for its lack of graduates who are qualified to enroll at Purdue. But during a media event, Daniels said he was not picking on IPS but only using the urban district as a graphic example of what is happening across the state.
“In the entire state of Indiana last year, there were 101 African-American students at the median profile — median profile — at Purdue,” he said. “There were seven in the whole state of Indiana who matched the profile of our top 15 percent. There’s just not a big enough pool.”
The university is collaborating with USA Funds, EmployIndy and the city of Indianapolis to open the school which will open to 9th graders first and eventually enroll 300 to 400 students. USA Funds provided a $500,000 grant to plan the school.
Purdue has yet to be given approval by a charter authorizer to open the school. The university will likely seek its charter from the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office.