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IUPUI shifts focus to urban education

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IUPUI shifts focus to urban education

The School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) will separate July 1, 2018, from its sister school, Indiana University-Bloomington, and dive deeper into the conversation on race.

IUPUI has been part of the Indiana School of Education since its inception in 1969. The split in programs will allow IUPUI to focus on urban school systems, which are facing challenges such as declining enrollments and difficulty attracting and retaining top teachers.

“I don’t like the word separation,” said Robin Hughes, executive associate dean of IUPUI’s School of Education. “It has a negative connotation to it. We operated under a structure called core campus. I believe when it was first created it worked well and made sense, but now our school is big enough so it makes sense to move on.”

Talks of the school splitting have been in the works for a number of years, said Terry Mason, dean of the IU School of Education.

“The discussion for separation started in 2015,” said Mason. “We had an external review conducted to help us rethink the school and its programs, and the recommendation from the committee was to look at the core campus structure. We had to decide if we wanted to solve the problems or split schools. We reached a strong consensus on both campuses.” 

Hughes said the program at IUPUI will continue to offer a safe space for important discussions about uncomfortable topics, such as race.

“We are really good at those discussions that are complicated and make people feel uncomfortable. This is a safe place to have these conversations, agreeing to disagree no matter how difficult the conversation is,” said Hughes. “We’re really good at social justice.” 

IUPUI has been focused on teaching in urban schools because of its Indianapolis location, whereas IU-Bloomington’s program is traditionally research-intensive and has a broader spectrum of educational programs.

“There’s different priorities,” said Mason. “There is a mission differentiation.” 

Darius Adams, sophomore English education major at IUPUI, says he chose the school based on its location. He wanted to be in an urban setting. 

“I think (the split is) a very bold step in the right direction,” said Adams. “Our campus is surrounded by a plethora of urban school districts — not just IPS — but several townships that fall into the ‘urban’ category. Therefore, it only makes sense to match curriculum and pedagogy to meet the needs of districts surrounding IUPUI. … I truly want to teach in an urban school district. I have had no desire to work in rural or suburban areas.”

IUPUI has a number of partnerships with school districts, specifically Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). Many faculty possess the expertise and skills to work in these urban schools. The School of Education has more than 40 tenure-track and clinical faculty members.

“People ask me what is so unique about IUPUI’s education program, and I believe why we tend to benefit is that our focus is on urban education, but also education in general, which means we are about a lot of people and committed to making the world a better place,” said Hughes.

Mason added, “There are significant needs for schools to respond to the challenges the urban environment presents and (IUPUI) is well positioned to do that. It’s fitting an urban university would be focusing on the needs of the schools in the Indianapolis area.” 

The IUPUI School of Education plans to pave pathways for individuals from underrepresented groups to gain the education necessary to become classroom teachers. 

Hughes says urban schools experience a high level of disproportionality. 

“The data looks like the suburbs are doing good,” said Hughes. “Guess what happens in the suburbs? You have more disproportionality in Black males specifically than other schools that are on the fringe. I think urban education gets a bad rap because the perception is wrong. The grass is greener on the other side, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for brown and Black babies.” 

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