NEW YORK—P-TECH high school in Brooklyn offers its students a first of its kind six-year curriculum, partnering a public high school with the private sector.
On Tuesday, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the innovative school and the students for their efforts.
“It is one thing to see the data, but to hear the students’ stories about how hard they are working and how excited they are to come to school every day, it is pretty amazing to see,” Duncan said during a tour of the school Tuesday.
Duncan was in New York City to tour P-TECH, which has become a prototype for what could be the next evolution in education, as well as attend a forum at Hunter College.
P-TECH is a six-year high school that offers students a high-school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree in technical education.
The curriculum is partly guided by IBM, a private partner at the school. Graduates of the program will be considered for employment with the computer company.
Duncan said he hopes programs like this will help bridge the gap between what the private sector needs and what the educational system can offer.
“We have 2 million high-wage, high-skills jobs we can’t fill. So my question is do we have a jobs crisis or a skills crisis? I am more convinced the skills crisis is a huge part of this challenge,” Duncan said at the forum, which was streamed live on the Web.
Duncan said the curriculum at P-TECH gives students an advantage that will help them compete on the open market against other countries, where education systems have kept up with the changing times.
Tenth-grader Leslieanne, 15, is in her second year at P-TECH, and was a member of the first class to go through the innovative school.
During her afternoon algebra and trigonometry class, instead of listening to her teacher rattle off formulas for her to memorize, the class was building a ferris wheel out of cardboard and toothpicks.
Interactive learning is a part of what P-TECH has to offer and something Leslieanne said suits her better than traditional education.
“I feel like if I sat here and listen to her talk all day, I am going to get really bored and probably fall asleep,” Leslieanne said. “But if I am doing stuff like this, I am going to actually want to learn and do something.”
Duncan said more interactive engagement with students helps provide needed job skills and could help curb the dropout rate, which is near 25 percent nationwide.
Retention for the P-TECH program was high during its first year. Out of the 104 students enrolled during the first year, 99 came back for the second year. Of the five students who did not return, two moved out of state.
Another tenth-grader, Kiambu Gall, 15, also believes in the program. “The idea itself is good. You get an associate’s degree for free. Who wouldn’t want that?” said Gall.
While the extra education may not cost any money, the workload is heavy, Gall said.
“The work is not easy. You have to do your homework right away, but after a while you get used to hard work,” he said.
Gall, who would like to do programming in the computer gaming industry, hopes to graduate with his associate’s degree in four years by taking summer school.
More On the WayP-TECH started a new line of thought regarding educating children, but educators and policymakers are not going to stand around and wait to see how it pans out at the end of six years.
The city of Chicago, taking a page right from P-TECH, opened five campuses in conjunction with IBM this year, following the grades 9 through 14 model. New York City students can stay tuned.
“We are big believers in [career and technical education] and what it does for our students,” New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said. “You will see that spreading throughout New York City over the next two years.”
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