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The future is now in Indiana K-12 schools

By Martin C. Jischke
President, Purdue University


People often wonder what the future will look like. It's not difficult to envision. Visit any schoolroom and you will find the hope for tomorrow: Bright students, dedicated and energetic teachers. But you also will find some challenges. Not all students are succeeding in school; not all teachers are able to handle the difficult challenges they face.

Perhaps the most important responsibility of any generation is the education of the generation that follows. Indiana school systems and teachers are sending excellent students to Purdue University. Purdue students are career-oriented and serious about their studies. The academic preparedness of our incoming classes is consistently outstanding.

I thoroughly enjoy being around these students. They give me a great sense of confidence in the future. Some of them are truly exceptional in their perception and ability to think on their feet.

But we need more of them. Too many students are not prepared for the promise of higher education. That's why universities have a vested interest in helping the K-12 effort. In fact, I believe education in Indiana should be approached strategically. We should be thinking about the experience our young people have from the first day in pre-kindergarten through college – and even through graduate school and lifetime learning opportunities.

Purdue is already engaged in efforts to support our public schools. For example, the university sponsors the statewide Reading Recovery programs to help young students who are being left behind.

Purdue is actively helping teach youngsters a love for subjects such as science and math through special programs on its campus and in classrooms across the state.

Our Science Bound program works together with the Indianapolis Public Schools to help its students prepare for college. Thanks to generous donors, those who succeed are guaranteed full scholarships to Purdue to pursue careers in engineering, science, math, technology or math/science education.

Also, Purdue and the Indiana Association of School Principals are partnering to conduct academic competitions for students throughout the state. Through this collaboration, the principals' association plans to grow and expand its competition schedule. This includes:

• spelling and math competitions involving teams of elementary, middle school and high school students;

• a statewide academic decathlon in which teams of high school students compete through tests, essays, speeches and interviews to advance to a national competition; and

• "Super Bowls" in which teams of middle and high school students compete in English, math, science, fine arts and social studies categories.

Purdue has committed $100,000 per year for the next three years to these programs. We also are hosting the competitions and assisting with question writing, presentation of awards, and promotional and technical matters.

Purdue invites others around the state to ask themselves how they, too, can help. No university, no corporation, no individual can do it alone, but a concerted, strategic effort can put Indiana schools at the head of the class. These investments will shape tomorrow because they shape children today.

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