Shortridge magnet's community allies
March 20, 2008
By Charles Dunlap
The Indianapolis Star
Speaking recently in Indianapolis, former Secretary of State Colin Powell cautioned that "America cannot afford" its current volume of elementary and secondary students who fail to learn and graduate. "We've got to fix K-12," Powell said.
"We" is the operative word in a one-year-old effort to develop the Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy. Participants from Indianapolis Public Schools, Butler University and the community are creating a new national model in which civic allies partner with public schools to improve performance and outcomes.
In February 2007, IPS and Butler announced a joint program to develop the new Shortridge magnet school. When it opens in fall 2009, the school will be a college preparatory program for students in grades six through12 focusing on the principles of democracy, justice, respect and service to others. Students will prepare for their role as citizens while exploring legal and social justice careers. They can earn early-college credit while developing public-speaking, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
Other community volunteers, drawn by Shortridge's focus on law and civic engagement, have joined the planning, including the Indiana Bar Foundation and the Indiana State Bar Association. Through curricular programs, We the People and Project Citizen, the foundation works with hundreds of teachers and thousands of students every year. These programs are funded by the U.S. Congress and supported by Indiana's lawyers through the Indiana Bar Foundation. We provide free textbooks and quality professional development training.
The foundation's director of civic education, Erin Braun, is active on the Social Studies Curriculum Subcommittee. Jane Henegar, state coordinator of Project Citizen, sits on the Shortridge Magnet Steering Committee, along with Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins, Indianapolis lawyers, Shortridge graduates, and representatives of IPS, Butler, the Indiana Supreme Court, Indianapolis Education Association teachers' union, and the Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis.
IPS chief of professional development, Dr. Douglass Ann Kinkade, co-chairs the steering committee with Butler Dean of Education Ena Shelley and Associate Dean Lucinda Wilson. Butler representatives sit on most of the 24 curriculum subcommittees.
Opportunities for students to job shadow and hold internships, especially in legal and social justice professions, are expected to be a hallmark of Shortridge school.
An art curriculum subcommittee has discussed courses covering censorship, free speech and fair use of copyrighted art, a growing concern in the Internet age. Planners envision a community-based cooperative for mural projects or public displays of student work.
Ideas being floated for social sciences include scheduling history and literature courses together as an American studies block. Shortridge students might present class projects at Butler's annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Faculty from both schools hope to team-teach college-level/dual-credit courses at Shortridge.
Corporate and private donors have funded scholarships and programs to benefit Shortridge's students. A National City scholarship will allow talented Shortridge juniors and seniors to earn early-college credits at Butler, starting in 2010. Through another gift, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana will institute mentoring that pairs Shortridge and Butler students for up to four years.
In its earlier life as a high school, Shortridge produced such distinguished graduates as authors Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield, historian Dr. Emma Lou Thornbrough and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.
Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy promises to be a launching pad for Indianapolis' future social and political leaders.
We hope those graduates will be inspired by knowing that many community interests worked together to develop their school as a place where young people could prepare for active, contributing citizenship.
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