Ben Davis University High School (BDUHS) is an Early College program where students can earn a Core 40 high school diploma while also earning college credits toward an associate’s degree from Vincennes University through dual credit opportunities. The program includes internships with business partners, project-based learning, and inquiry learning. Sheryl Garrett, principal of BDUHS, explains how this program came to be, the seven different pathway options for students, and how the physical learning environment contributes to student achievement.
Ben Davis University High School began from research conducted by a 30-person advisory board. The board—consisting of community members, teachers, parents, and a school board member from the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township—met three times each month for 20 months to study different small school options. In addition to examining existing models, they studied the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township’s data to understand trends regarding high school graduation rates and postsecondary attendance. The school district conducted surveys of parents, students and community members to determine their level of satisfaction with current schooling options. With Wayne Township only having one large high school with 3,200 students, the board sensed a need for a small school option. Members studied various school models and charter schools before determining the Early College model as the best fit for the district. BDUHS opened as an Early College High School in August 2007.
BDUHS created a college culture within the high school setting. During the planning stages, school leaders emphasized the development of the college environment and ensured the school facility clearly identified itself as college preparatory.
After gathering feedback and hosting community forums, the district decided to extensively renovate the original Ben Davis High School building to house BDUHS. “Part of the Early College philosophy is to get students in the college setting,” said Garrett. “BDUHS doesn’t look like a traditional high school." Garrett described the school as conveying an “upscale, mature and adult atmosphere.” Outside of the school facility, students spend two weeks on Vincennes University’s campus between their junior and senior years, which also helps transform high school into a college experience.
To recruit students to Ben Davis University High School, relationships were established with the Chapel Hill and Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Centers and the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center. The Ninth Grade Center houses eight student teams, one of which is the University Team for future BDUHS students. “Mr. Taylor [Ninth Grade Center principal] worked with BDUHS to create the University Team,” explained Garrett. “This team serves as our pipeline for incoming tenth-graders. We help recruit eighth-graders into this ninth-grade team, explaining that they’ll have the opportunity to earn college credits as ninth-graders and will be well-prepared to enter BDUHS.”
Once at BDUHS, students have the option of seven different college pathways.
Liberal Arts—This pathway provides a broad field for students planning to attend college following high school graduation.
Business Management—This pathway comes with an emphasis on distribution and logistics. Given the high amount of industry surrounding Wayne Township, the pathway was created to help students earn an associate’s degree and enter the workforce upon graduation.
Fire Science and Safety Technology—Students interested in becoming firefighters as a career choose this pathway, which includes in-class academics as well as in-the-field, hands-on learning.
General Studies—This pathway comes with an emphasis on nursing and health careers. Vincennes University worked with the school to ensure that students selecting this pathway could enter almost any area of the health field.
Information Technology—In this pathway, students learn the building blocks for a computer- and technology-driven career.
Pharmacy Technician—This recently added pathway was suggested by Vincennes University given the variety of mail order pharmaceutical companies located in Wayne Township, the influx of job opportunities, and the need for an educated and qualified workforce in this high-demand job field.
Biotechnology—Scheduled to soon become a seventh option for BDUHS students, this pathway is designed for students interested in the health field, especially pre-medicine, who have achieved advanced levels of math and science.
According to Garrett, the selection of pathway offerings is driven by student interest, market needs, course costs, and success rates of current offerings. “The kids and their selection of pathways help drive the process of what we do or don’t offer,” explained Garrett. “For example, we offered Emergency Management and Planning for the past two years, but students weren’t selecting it, so we dropped that offering. Student interest now leans toward Biotechnology, which is one reason we’re moving to bring this as a new pathway.” BDUHS also works closely with the career center to understand what students at Ben Davis High School find of interest, which recently noted law enforcement and the legal field.
The school also determines student pathways by examining community needs. “One of the reasons this program came into being was because community members and educators wanted graduates from this school to feed into the workforce of the west side of town, which is our neighborhood. We want students to graduate from our program highly educated, ready for the workforce, and able to help strengthen the economy and community of this neighborhood,” said Garrett.
In addition to job need, program selection depends upon financial cost. Because students do not pay tuition, BDUHS had to consider the cost of each pathway to determine feasibility. The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township covers the cost of tuition and books, which it receives at a reduced rate from Vincennes University.
Student and Staff Perspectives
La Dria Turner, student of the 2010 class, shared her thoughts on the school. "Here at BDUHS, the family environment and close relationship with my peers has caused me to excel in and out of the classroom. My GPA and attendance have become much better and the fact that I am making straight A's while taking college-level courses is a major plus! I feel that being here at BDUHS has opened up several opportunities that I would not get at a normal high school."
Lorene Sandifur, a first-year math instructor at BDUHS shared, “BDUHS is the epitome of the vast array of opportunities that can be afforded to students in a secondary education environment. I have witnessed the transformation of students in terms of their work ethic, motivation and academic maturity from first to second semester of their sophomore year. Students take pride in the facility and recognize that Wayne Township has invested much in their success, which translates into them becoming successful. BDUHS should be a showcase for the direction that education needs to take in order for students to survive and thrive in the ever-changing future.”
To learn more about Ben Davis University High School, visit www.wayne.k12.in.us/bduhs.
Published: February 2009