President Obama recognized the promise of a new high school that The City University of New York helped create – the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – in his 2013 State of the Union address.
“Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job,” the President told Congress at a joint session on Feb. 12. “Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.”
CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said, “The President spoke directly to what we are striving to accomplish with Brooklyn’s P-TECH. The future of America’s global competitiveness depends on the critical connection between education and employment. Ensuring that our children receive an education that is academically rigorous and economically relevant is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of immediate national importance.”
P-TECH, sponsored by the New York City College of Technology (City Tech), is one of 20 public high schools that the University sponsors. Twelve are “early college” high schools; starting in sixth, seventh or ninth grade, their students can earn up to two years of college credit and possibly an associate degree, along with a high school diploma. In the coming years, CUNY intends to create three more early-college high schools with business partners to prepare students for technical careers.
P-TECH opened in the economically disadvantaged Crown Heights area in Fall 2011 with grade 9 and is adding a grade each year until it is a full high school. Students do college-level work in high school and can earn a City Tech associate degree in grades 13 and 14. It focuses on information technology (IT), computers, engineering, math and science. IBM and other corporations provide all students with one-on-one mentoring, internships and training opportunities.
The school has an open-admissions policy. After just two semesters, half the students met CUNY’s college readiness criteria and virtually all were promoted to 10th grade. Half of the 10th graders already have completed at least one college course at New York City College of Technology, logic and problem-solving, the introductory course to the electromechanical engineering associate degree. By the end of 10th grade, students will have completed an average of 14 college credits en route to their associate degree and career readiness.
Who are these students? “We do not look at averages or tests for admission to this school, but get a wide range of students and abilities,” says Principal Rashid Ferrod Davis. “We take students who may not have seen themselves as college material and are telling them from Day One they are college students. They’re taking a chance on us, and we want to make sure we do right by them and give them the best opportunity we can.”
City Tech was able to start P-TECH and bolster a sister school, City Polytechnic High School (City Poly High), when in 2011 it won two of the 16 statewide “Smart Scholars Early College High Schools (ECHS)” grants funded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Each of the two grants was for $450,000, the largest amount awarded, and covers a three-year period. City Poly High launched in 2009 in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Chicago school system has replicated the P-TECH model in partnership with IBM and other companies. Similar schools are under development in New York and other states.