By Shartel Andy
Nine of the 10 highest performing high schools on the 2020-2021 ISTEP+ assessment within center township are Innovation Network or charter schools. And more often than not, in Indianapolis, these schools are also led by people of color who reflect the students they serve, something education research has long shown benefits all students. Yet, charter and Innovation Network schools remain amongst Indy’s best kept secrets.
Tomia Reed, a parent whose child is enrolled at BELIEVE Circle City said, “I’m glad my neighbor told me about BELIEVE. It’s been really good for my daughter, Mayanna. She enjoys it there, she’s doing well, and the school’s teaching approach works for us. I also really like the opportunity for college credits and smaller classes. And to think I almost didn’t know about it”
Sentiments like this is why Indy Schools is hosting its first High School Fair on Saturday, April 9, from 11am-3pm at The Global Village Welcome Center located at 4233 Lafayette Road. During the event, 17 of Indianapolis’ free, public charter and Innovation Network high schools will be featured.
There will be student performances from BELIEVE Circle City High School, Christel House International, Purdue Polytechnic High Schools, and Thrival Academy. Plus families can take part in educational workshops, learn more about academic resources, college scholarship information, Indy Summer Learning Labs, sources connecting families with teen employment opportunities, and more. Radio One Indianapolis’ B-Swift, a radio host from WHHH Hot 96.3 FM, will also be on-site playing station hits and emceeing the event with raffle prizes and gas card giveaways.
The event is free and open to the public. Attendees can register at indyschools.org.
SO WHAT’S THE CATCH?
The catch is there is no catch.
“Knowledge is power. We simply want to showcase Indy’s free, public charter and Innovation Network Schools,” said Edward Rogers, manager of community outreach at The Mind Trust, which is one of the event organizers.
HELPING STUDENTS EXCEL BEYOND TEST SCORES
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local charter and Innovation Network high schools were already using unique methods of teaching, wrap-around services, student programs like study abroad, project-based learning, early college courses, STEM certifications, and more, all to further help students excel beyond test scores.
“Our scholars were struggling before the pandemic, so we couldn’t let the pandemic keep us from fighting for what our kids need,” said Kimberly Neal-Brannum, BELIEVE Circle City High School Founder and Head of School. “When the pandemic hit, we were even more determined not to allow the pandemic to dictate what is possible for our students,” she continued.
BELIEVE Circle City High School is nestled between Fall Creek and Ivy Tech Community College. The school prides itself on building student agency, involving students in real-life advocacy movements, and taking care of its school community. Back in January, they implemented mobile COVID testing to ensure the safety of their staff and families as everyone returned from the holiday break.
Another school that pushes the envelope of possibility is Purdue Polytechnic High School (PPHS). Not only are their students being accelerated academically with STEM programming, they are also passing along skills to grade school students through their Algebra by 7th grade program. PPHS students carve out time each week to tutor elementary schoolers to ensure they acquire the math skills they need to flourish academically by the time they reach high school.
“PPHS equipped my son with practical, applicable real life skills – not only in academic subjects – but also in skills like effective communication, teamwork, and innovative thinking,” said Robert MacKinnon. His son Joshua graduated from PPHS, and is currently a freshman at Purdue University.
SETTING THE FUTURE UP FOR THE FUTURE
Brandon Brown is CEO of The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit that works to improve public schools in Indianapolis. Speaking to the impact of Innovation Network and charter high schools he said, “Results are clear: autonomous public schools provide strong, innovative options for high school students. Black students attending Innovation Network or charter high schools in Indianapolis are three times more likely to be proficient compared to Black students at district-run high schools.”