Future of Schools

The New York Times profiled Indiana’s adult high schools. Here’s why they’re getting attention.

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Excel Center graduates cheer their classmates.

The New York Times debuted a new section devoted to covering learning today, and one of their first stops was Indiana. In a feature story, the Times profiled the state’s Excel Centers, charter high schools that educate adults.

The schools, which are run by Goodwill Industries, have had a remarkable impact since they were founded in 2010. Initially begun as a single campus in Indianapolis, more than a dozen schools across the state are now run by Goodwill, as well as campuses in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

The New York Times highlighted the program as a model that is growing nationally and offers older students intensive support. The story profiled several students and graduates from the network, focusing on why they enrolled and their experience at the schools.

Chalkbeat has been covering the schools’ rapid expansion and how they have shaped the lives of Indianapolis students. Here are some highlights about the network:

  1. Adult high schools serve a wide range of students, including immigrants to the U.S. This year, an Excel campus on the south side of Indianapolis saw the largest spike in the proportion of students learning English in the state, in part because of growing refugee enrollment.
  2. When the schools were initially created, a quirk in the law allowed them to get funding from the same pool as traditional charter schools. The network grew so rapidly, however, that state lawmakers became concerned about the cost. Now, adult high schools are funded separately from other charter schools, and there are limits on their expansion.
  3. The schools have seen explosive growth since the first one opened in 2010, when it graduated just four students. The network now runs 14 schools in Indiana with another one in the works, and it graduates hundreds of students each year.
  4. Many students at the Excel Centers — which offer childcare — are parents. Graduate Heather Brown said that’s what inspired her to return to school: “When I look at my kids, I want them to have a really good example. I want them to graduate.”
  5. In addition to helping students earn high school diplomas, Excel helps them earn career credentials. Tammy Burrus earned her diploma at age 51 and received a certification as a pharmacy technician.

#GovTest

Where Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker stand on key education issues, from charters to Chicago’s school board

PHOTO: (Rauner) Alex Wong/Staff/Getty Images; (Pritzker) Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Our conversations with Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and challenger J.B. Pritzker will be aired on Oct. 3 on WBEZ 91.5 FM.

The race for Illinois governor is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history, and anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has probably seen or heard one of the barrage of ads for the candidates. There have been puppies, toilets, and plenty of barbs over wealth and taxes — and the back-and-forth has drowned out the discussion over where the candidates stand on education, arguably one of the most crucial policy areas facing the state.

To dig deeper, Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

The interviews will be separate, but will be broadcast back-to-back on WBEZ 91.5 FM on Oct. 3 starting at 8 a.m.  

In advance of the discussion, Chalkbeat and WBEZ asked each candidate for his position on five questions, and we’ve reprinted their answers in their entirety. We’re also soliciting interview suggestions from our readers and listeners. Use this form to submit a question to us, and follow along with the discussion on Oct. 3 using #GovTest.

#GovTest

What would you ask Gov. Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker about education?

Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

Use the form below to submit questions for the conversations, which will air back-to-back on Oct. 3 at 8 a.m.