An experimental Brooklyn high school that was heralded by then-President Barack Obama as a game-changing force in U.S. education is now quietly changing lives.
Boosters say the model established by Crown Heights’ 595-student Pathways in Technology Early College High School — better known as P-TECH — signals an important direction for the future of workforce development.
For students, the 6-year-old school’s innovative program created in partnership with IBM is a ticket to a better future.
“This school is a once in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of people,” said P-TECH senior Isabelle Luma, 17. “I’m going to be the first person in my family to go to college.”
Luma is one of hundreds of P-TECH students who have taken college classes while still in high school or have participated in paid internships arranged by the school.
P-TECH’s innovative six-year program starts in ninth grade, and students stay until they’ve earned associate’s degrees in a partnership with IBM and the City University of New York.
The school, which selects its students by lottery and doesn’t consider their academic histories, uses mentors from IBM to help kids with advice on their coursework and the connection between their classes, college and careers.
Graduating students earn one of two computer science associate’s degrees from the New York City College of Technology. They then get first dibs on jobs at IBM.
Luma, who lives in East Flatbush, landed a paid internship in IBM’s marketing department over the summer.
Her earnings helped pay for food for her family while her mom was out of work. And she said the lessons she learned on the job will help her succeed in the workforce.
“I learned a lot about marketing and designing and I just seemed to love it,” Luma said. “I want to pursue a career in marketing and management.”
P-TECH first grabbed international headlines in 2013 when then-President Obama singled out the school in his State of the Union address as a model for schools across the nation.
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A year later, Obama visited the school and praised Principal Rashid Davis, saying every American student needed access to a school like P-TECH.
Davis said the stats show his school is delivering on its promise.
“The numbers tell us it’s working,” said Davis. “Students are willing to stick around if they feel they are successful. It’s a better quality of life, better earning potential.”
The principal said 81 P-TECH students have earned associate’s degrees, free of charge, since the school was established. Eighty-one had paid internships and 11 grads have jobs at IBM. The school’s four-year graduation rate of 80% is above the city average.
Stanley Litow, an IBM vice president who worked as a deputy chancellor in the New York City school system from 1989 to 1993, said districts around the world are replicating P-TECH, with a total of 37 such schools in New York state — including seven in the city.
“Now there are 70 P-TECH schools across six states, Australia and Morocco,” Litow said. “The school we opened on Albany Ave. in Brooklyn is now the future of how we’re going to address the skills crisis in the U.S., and across the world.”
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