P-TECH ‘Playbook’ Gives Scoop on Replicating Business-Focused School

Associate Editor

By Caralee Adams, Cross-Posted from the College Bound blog

The forces behind the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, do not want their innovative school model to be a best-kept secret. 

IBM Corp. and the City University of New York have established a web site with information to serve as a road map for businesses, colleges, and school districts interested in creating a P-TECH school.

The P-TECH 9-14 School Model Playbook web site, launched late last year, includes action items by year, details on how to map skills into the curriculum, manage a mentoring program, and craft job descriptions and 15 case studies to help others replicate the model.

“As other states become interested, they don’t have to re-invent the wheel,” said Stan Litow, the president of the IBM International Foundation, based in Armonk, New York.

At a P-TECH school, students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree in applied science along with a high school diploma. The curriculum, developed in close collaboration with industry, integrates job-skills training so students are ready to enter the workforce upon graduation.

The first P-TECH school opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2011 and now there are 27 such high schools. In 2015, 10 new P-TECH schools are slated to open in New York and two in Connecticut. (See Ed Week story, “N.Y.C.-IBM Partnership Focuses on Tech Skills.”). The web site is also being used as a training tool to walk administrators through the process of setting up those new schools.

Litow said that, while the foundation does not control how schools develop their models, they must maintain some core elements, which are emphasized in the new playbook. For instance, a P-TECH school serves students in grades 9-14 and job skills are integrated into the curriculum. Also, all students have paid internships, a mentor, and graduates are first in line for jobs at the partner company upon completion of their educational program, said Litow. 

While IBM and CUNY were partners in the inaugural school and the focus was on technology, other P-TECH schools are working in collaboration with companies in advanced manufacturing, energy, health care, and telecommunications. However, Litow notes that the emphasis is not on specific skills but broad workplace skills that are embedded into every course,  such as problem solving, collaboration, and writing.

So far, rates of student attendance, state test results, and students’ progress in college-level courses are promising at P-TECH schools, which have open admission policies, reports Litow.

For example, 70 percent of students in the fourth year of the program at the Brooklyn school have met the New York state college-ready standard in both English and math, a number equaled or surpassed only by students from specialized New York City high schools. At Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, a P-TECH model school in Chicago, attendance rates are 95 percent, compared to the district average of 90 percent.

In 2016, the number of P-TECH model schools could grow to 100 and a pilot school is being planned in Australia.

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