Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn entered its second year this September, touting a unique six-year program that goes from grade 9 through grade 14, after which students graduate with an associate’s degree. The initiative began in September 2011 to develop science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills in students to better prepare them for the job market. In this program, students pursue a degree in either applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology. Interest has grown remarkably since the program’s inception; in September of 2012, there were 600 applicants, six times the amount that applied last fall. The benefits of the program–namely, a financially feasible opportunity for a useful degree straight out of high school–is obvious to New York City families.
The program was developed in partnership with IBM, and the relationship between the school and the company is ongoing. The curriculum of the school has been developed with consultants from IBM with the desired skills of its employees in mind. From there, IBM employees helped train teachers in the curriculum and even became directly involved in students’ education through a mentorship program. By developing the program this way and providing students with positive relationships, the likelihood of a job prospect at IBM or a similar company is hugely increased. And the fiscal benefit is undeniable, especially to the students themselves: “It’s giving me the opportunity of getting my college degree without having to pay for it,” says Lamar Agard, a freshman in the program.
P-TECH is an opportunity for students who learn by doing. According to Stephen F. Hamilton, professor of human development at Cornell University, some students learn best when they are able to answer, “‘What does this mean? Why am I doing this?’” Much of the P-TECH curricula strives to answer those questions. In the program there is an emphasis to develop STEM skills, which Stanley S. Litow, president of IBM’s International Foundation, deems to be invaluable: “Because that is the problem. Too few kids have these skills.” Additionally, students develop skills in workplace learning, critical thinking and presentation skills, which even trickle down to students’ self-imposed dress codes. Some students come to school wearing ties and carrying briefcases, mindful of appearing business-like to future employers.
This program and the ones like it nationwide are not simply the difference between a low-wage job and a middle-class job–although that remarkable benefit should not be overlooked. Students at P-TECH also have big ideas for their future. These students have dream careers in mind: technology law, cardiac surgery and health technology, to name a few. The development of critical skills and the acquisition of an associate’s degree certainly put students on the path to their goals.
“At Technology High School, Goal isn’t to Finish in 4 Years,” The New York Times, accessed November 19, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/nyregion/pathways-in-technology-early-college-high-school-takes-a-new-approach-to-vocational-education.html?ref=education.
Early College High School Initiative, accessed November 19, 2012, http://www.earlycolleges.org.
“Julia Steiny: When a School Makes Itself Useful to Business,” EducationNews.org, accessed November 19, 2012, http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/julia-steiny-when-a-school-makes-itself-useful-to-business/.