With just a few months before classes begin for the first time, the head of Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indianapolis says the model is poised for expansion. Scott Bess says he envisions two additional schools in Marion County and a total of six-to-nine locations throughout the state. He was joined on Inside INdiana Business Television by Fairbanks Foundation Chief Executive Officer Claire Fiddian-Green, who discussed the organization’s recent $1.25 million contribution to the school.
Purdue Polytechnic seeks to attract lower-income minority students, a demographic Bess believes must be tapped into to fill the future needs of the work force. He calls the current rate of students entering STEM-heavy fields from districts such as Indianapolis Public Schools "unacceptably low" and added that feedback from employers indicates the numbers need to change.
Bess says the curriculum at the school is set up differently than a traditional experience. "Everything starts with design challenges and projects – hands-on with integrated academics flowing out from that," Bess said. "The students don’t go to math to science to social studies to English, rather, everything comes from the projects and challenges and all the academic work comes out of that."
Fiddian-Green says the model is a "totally different approach" that could serve as a gateway to careers or direct pathway to a Purdue education. The grant provided by her organization will go toward teacher training and she hopes the relationship and funding that goes along with it is "not a one-time thing." She says teachers have already been brought on for "intense" professional development to prepare for the upcoming school year. Work is also underway to ensure the methods can be replicated at any future locations.
The inaugural class is set to walk through the temporary location in August at The Union 525 in Indianapolis. Plans call for the school’s permanent home to be in the abandoned PR Mallory Building on the east side of Indianapolis.