Purdue University Launches STEM Charter School


Purdue University is opening a STEM charter school aimed at creating a direct pipeline to polytechnic programs at the University. STEM education, also known as science, technology, engineering, and math education is recognized as a key focus area in which to train students for jobs of the future.

The University will launch the Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School, a charter school aimed at bringing STEM education to low-income students in the Indianapolis area. The charter school program backed by the University may expand to other cities in Indiana 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.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and former Governor of Indiana, said during the launch event that increasing the number of low-income, first-generation and minority students who are prepared is not just an Indiana issue but a nationwide challenge, and that the polytechnic high school is an attempt at direct action.

The plan is notable as it could be a model used by other institutions throughout the US.

As far as university presidents go Mitch Daniels is not an unknown entity either. He was briefly considered as presidential contender in 2010 and maintained a strong focus on education during his tenure as governor. Daniels has also come up again in 2016 election chatter. He was elected to his role as University President in 2012 and released an open letter at the start of his tenure calling on local stakeholders to increase affordability while maintaining academic rigor.

“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,” Daniels added.

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. USA Funds has provided a $500,000 planning grant, administered by EmployIndy, for the start-up of the school, which is expected to be in downtown Indianapolis.

Purdue faculty, primarily from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, will develop the unique curriculum and teaching methods for the school as a blend of K-12 and postsecondary education with an infusion of industry leadership and participation, said Gary Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

Students who succeed in the rigorous curriculum at Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will be directly admitted to Purdue.

The charter school will maintain an open enrollment system. 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 of 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.