P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, started off co-located in a beloved neighborhood high school, Paul Robeson, which had started out as a stellar school with high graduation rates but fell into decline. The community was not happy to hear that Robeson would be closing and did not embrace P-TECH.
P-TECH is situated across the street from public housing, in a high-crime, low income community. The school was an unknown entity—students wanted to attend more established high schools and a year-round 6-year high school model was confusing to parents and students. It doesn’t seem that it would have succeeded.
But P-TECH has surmounted all these obstacles. Now, families move to Brooklyn so their kids can be closer to the school. Six students have completed the 6-year program two years early. Of those six, three have accepted full-time jobs at IBM earning more than $50,000 a year; the other three are continuing their education at four-year colleges. P-TECH is a success being replicated not only in New York, but in other states and perhaps internationally. Against these odds, how is it working?
The founding principal, Rashid Davis, says the school succeeds because of “the context of industry mentors, paid internships, and a sense of urgency about completing the post-secondary credential so students are first in line for job opportunities at IBM or admission to a four-year school.” The post-secondary credential Davis refers to is an associate degree: a free, two-year degree students earn through P-TECH’s affiliation with New York City College of Technology, also known as City Tech.
But for students to graduate from high school and then spend two more years earning an associate degree—at no cost—means they must be screened before they’re admitted, right? Davis answers with an emphatic no. “Our school is open enrollment,” he says. It is the only early college high school in New York that doesn’t require an exam for admission. Students apply and are accepted through a kind of lottery—but there is no test, no “creaming.” Stan Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation and a key architect of the P-TECH model, says, “We weren’t looking to see if we could do well with high-performing students, because that’s already been established. But could we take kids that might not have had the academic preparation or support—could they achieve?” Clearly, they can.
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