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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.