Purdue Polytechnic High School opens in Indianapolis with bold proposal to revamp education

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Doors opened for the first time Monday at Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School, a first-of-its-kind venture between Purdue University and Indianapolis Public Schools, operating within the district but given its own flexibility.

“I save the biggest thanks for you and the families who together with you decided to bring you to this school,” Purdue University President Mitch Daniels told the group of 162 students Monday morning.

The bold experiment will focus students on project-based learning, specifically in math and science, to better serve low-income students and students of color.

“If you’ve been as fretting as I have about the distressing scarcity of college ready young people from those kinds of environments, you see the possibilities just in the first class,” Daniels said.

The former Indiana governor wants to build what he calls his own pipeline of students from IPS and eventually expand the concept statewide.

Students who succeed will have direct admission to the university.

“I think the idea that a major research university here in Indiana is starting a high school to really increase a pipeline of particularly lower-income and minority students going to Purdue is awesome,” said Scott Bess, the head of school.

The lure of college, and specifically Purdue University, is what brought Christian Tettey to the school. The 162 students accepted this year won a lottery because interest was so high.

“I know I want to do engineering and Purdue is really good at that,” Tettey said. “I like project-based learning more than testing and quizzes all the time.”

While the concept’s risk may be high, supporters say the reward will be tenfold.

“We have been setting records at Purdue the last couple years for underrepresented students, low-income students,” Daniels said. “We’re far short of where we need to be, and if we wait on the standard public school system, we’ll never get there.”

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