Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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November 29, 2012

Redefining education

Harris Academy offers alternative concept

BROWNSBURG — Harris Academy Principal Bill Titus says he’s been giving the same speech for 33 years: “Grow up.”

“I’ve given it so many times I have it memorized,” he said. “I wrote that dude myself.”

The school in Brownsburg takes students from all walks of life. The students work at their own pace in a format designed to give real life experiences on the way to graduating from high school.

“To me, it’s all about relationships, not data,” Titus said. “These young people are human beings with dreams and goals and ambitions. They’re not numbers and we’ve got to stop treating them like they’re numbers.”

Harris is a small learning community serving Avon and Brownsburg high school students who are typically juniors or seniors. The school year calendar consists of four nine-week quarters.

Harris has between 150 to 200 students on any given day. As people work at their own pace, they graduate at their own pace too.

Students there sometimes work full-time jobs. Some are parents who appreciate the free day care service that’s available. The student body is made up of both teen-agers and adults.

The teens can still play sports at their home high school and still get to attend prom.

This is not a school for students who couldn’t cut it at their regular high school, but rather a school for anyone and everyone. Some students may have had an outstanding grade point average at their regular school and needed a quicker pace to be challenged; others may have struggled to keep up at their regular school.

“There’s not one thing that any two people on the planet do at the same pace,” Titus said. “We grow hair, we walk, we talk, we run, we chew gum, everything at a different pace. But for some reason, we expect young people from 5 years old to 18 years old to learn the exact same stuff on the exact same day on the exact same pace as the 29 other students in the classroom for 180 days and we expect them to do that for 13 years. Now I don’t understand that.

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