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STEM charter

New STEM school forges pathway to college


Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indianapolis aims to increase diversity in university STEM pipeline

Purdue University and Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) will open a new STEM-focused charter school aimed at encouraging minority students and traditionally underrepresented students to apply and pursue their STEM interests at the university level.

Purdue Polytechnic High School Indianapolis is scheduled to open in fall 2017, and applications are already open.

“For this freshman class, we were only able to admit 26 students from the entire IPS system. That’s unacceptable and someone has to find a way to do better,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “We thank IPS and the city for this unique partnership, which we hope will build a new pathway to Purdue and to successful careers for future students from downtown Indianapolis.”

The challenges are not unique to Indianapolis. Among the 48,000 Indiana high school graduates in 2014 who took the SAT, only 101 African Americans and 156 Hispanics had SAT scores and GPAs in the range of the average Purdue freshman. Among that same set of graduates, only seven African Americans and 16 Hispanics fell in the range of the top 15 percent of Purdue freshmen.

Next page: How the STEM curriculum will help students prepare for college and the workforce

Daniels said that if the Indianapolis high school can be made successful, the university would hope to open similar high schools in many of the eight other Indiana cities where the Polytechnic Institute already operates technology centers.

Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will have open enrollment for a technology-based curriculum. The first two years will encompass problem- and project-based learning focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a connection among those subjects and real-world challenges.

Students entering 11th grade will select a specific pathway to master skills, earn college credit and gain industry credentials while learning in the high school classroom, at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and in the workplace. In the 12th grade, students will complete an internship in 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. Additional information is available online.

“Today, the city of Indianapolis is thrilled to welcome the significant investment that President Daniels and Purdue University are prepared to make in this building in order to bring Purdue Polytechnic High School to the Eastside of Indianapolis,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “When the doors to the school open in a little more than a year, we will be doing more than merely putting Indianapolis kids in a high-quality educational environment, we will be helping the young men and women from Englewood and other Eastside neighborhoods reach their full potential, prepared for today’s fast-moving economy.”

Space will be available for 150 students in the first year, and a new freshman class will be added each year, working toward a total enrollment of 600 in grades 9-12. Applications are available at the high school’s website. Students who live within IPS boundaries will have first preference for spaces.

As part of the IPS Innovation Network, Purdue Polytechnic High School will have access to transportation and food services provided by IPS. In turn, Purdue Polytechnic Institute and Polytechnic High School will provide professional development opportunities for IPS teachers and staff related to STEM education.

“We are pleased to engage in this exciting partnership with Purdue University, as it is certain to have a profound impact on IPS students, our educators and our community, said Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, IPS superintendent. “With the expertise of Purdue’s faculty and research, we have the opportunity to inspire students and unlock their limitless potential.”

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Laura Ascione

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