When I look back at the first 100 days of P-TECH – the Pathways in Technology Early College High School – it becomes clear that rigor, roadmaps, and role models have been essential to our success. The P-TECH grades nine through 14 model is a forward-thinking example of what can happen when public educators and the private sector work together toward our children’s success. P-TECH also represents new paradigms in American education – a public-private partnership that blazes a pathway from high school through college to careers, a hybrid of high school and college that enables the creation of that pathway, and a repeatable model that any community can follow to connect education to employment. Following our example, Chicago will open five grades nine through 14 schools this fall, and Mayor Bloomberg recently announced plans for three more schools in New York.
P-TECH students – a self-selected group from across New York’s five boroughs – will earn both the high school diploma and an associate degree in technology following a rigorous, six-year program. To accomplish this, our students (and their parents) have had to accept the challenges posed by 90-minute classes and a longer school day. They have had to be ready to tackle Workplace Learning in addition to their core academic curriculum. With help from a dedicated faculty and from the IBM mentors assigned to each pupil, our students have had to rise to the challenge of pushing themselves academically while acquiring the cultural orientation of industry professionals.
P-TECH students come from several cohorts with historically low high school attendance and graduation rates. Sixteen percent of our entering students have Individualized Education Plans, 15 percent are two years older than the average ninth grader, 14 percent are present or former English Language Learners, and 67 percent are non-white males. But as of this writing, they are succeeding brilliantly.
- Of the 35 students whose Lexile Scores were in the bottom third of their class, 23 have increased their scores by at least one grade level. Twelve students have increased their scores by two grade levels, and seven students have increased their scores by three grade levels or more – all after just one term at P-TECH.
- Prior to entering P-TECH, 21 percent of our students had yearly attendance rates of less than 90 percent. But over our first 100 days, 94 percent of our students have maintained an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher.
- Black Males represent P-TECH’s largest subgroup, and throughout America’s high schools, young men of color have the lowest promotion rates and highest drop-out rates. Prior to matriculation at P-TECH, 16 percent of these young men had yearly attendance rates below 90 percent. But after the first 100 days, 96 percent of these students have an attendance rate of 96 percent or higher.
- Finally, after only one term of high school, 89 percent of P-TECH students already meet New York City standards for promotion to 10th grade.
How has this happened? For starters, P-TECH faculty and staff serve as role models for their students. In what I call the “angel adoption program,” each teacher and guidance counselor works with a group of fewer than 10 students to ensure their successful transition to high school. And in addition to learning about industry from their IBM mentors, students have access to college role models from the Black Male Initiative and Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) – two New York City College of Technology groups that work closely with P-TECH.
Our school prepares students for meaningful careers in the growing field of information technology, but similar grades nine through 14 schools will prepare graduates for careers in health care, transportation & logistics, advanced manufacturing, hospitality, and other growth areas. In each instance and in each locale, the school system, the community college system, and industry partners will work together to ensure that students learn marketable skills that lead to sustainable careers. As we can see from the remarkable commitments (and remarkable progress!) made by P-TECH’s students and their families, our communities are hungry for these opportunities and anxious to succeed. It’s only been 100 days, but our future looks bright.
Rashid Ferrod Davis is the founding principal of New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School.