When I read what my friend Purdue President Mitch Daniels is doing at the high ed level, I get fired up to do similar things at the K12 level. For years, we (the country) have been complacent and willing to accept students spending 13 years in school (K-12) and ending up with a high school diploma. Today, many think they are innovative by increasing AP or IB or STEM programs (and the list goes on), but in the end, most high schoolers simply earn a high school diploma.

Not so in Gary, Indiana. Our students earn Associate Degrees (two years of college) in addition to their high school diploma with the same public dollars most others use to earn a high school diploma. One student earned her Bachelor’s degree (from Purdue). That’s Raven in the pic with Mitch above. She graduated from high school with a Bachelor’s Degree from Purdue debt free! She is a reading interventionist at our school earning a salary, retirement, and has health and dental benefits. What were you doing at age 20? I was going into college debt. I had no job, no retirement, no heath care. Heck, I didn’t get my bachelor’s until I was 22. That was because that was tradition.

Five other students in our school are rejecting tradition and are currently working hard to follow in Raven’s footsteps. Nine of my seniors also reject traditional thinking and will graduate in 2019 with an Associate Degree (two years paid for). On average, my 2019 grads will each earn 20 college credits. The entire school rejects traditional thinking and traditional high school outcomes!!

21st Century Charter School in Gary, Indiana isn’t as big as Purdue, and I’m not a former governor of Indiana, but our efforts at the K12 level might be just as important as the efforts at Purdue. And, if others follow, imagine the impact we will have on families, household incomes, state revenues, poverty, crime, healthcare, and more. Remember, to get to higher education, you have to get through the K12 gauntlet first. And it is a gauntlet especially if you come from a community with high poverty and few opportunities. At our schools, we make sure you make it to higher education.

Sharing this with my small group of friends seems like throwing a pebble in the ocean but maybe by doing so, we can turn a ripple into a wave of reform at the K12 level where we no longer read about traditional outcomes on our latest generation IPhone. We don’t have rotary phones any more. We shouldn’t accept traditional K12 outcomes any more either. Help start the wave. Don’t just “like” this post. Share it. Thanks for reading. Onward!

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