On Saturday, September 20th, I had the opportunity to meet a special group of new students at Richard J. Daley College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. These students came in on a Saturday to learn about the Daley College community and the resources available to support them on their educational journey.
What distinguishes this group 100+ students is the fact that they do not yet have a high school diploma. They are taking courses at Daley College while enrolled in Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy, one of five Early College STEM Schools created through partnerships among the Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, and five technology companies led by IBM – creator of the P-TECH grades 9 through 14 schools model. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched the Early College STEM High Schools in 2012 based on recommendations from an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge partnership with the City.
I am a member of IBM’s Academic Initiative team, and recently volunteered to run a team-building activity at the Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) Summer Academy in Connecticut. NECA is a partnership among the Norwalk Public Schools, Norwalk Community College and IBM, and will officially open this fall as Connecticut’s first P-TECH model school. As with all P-TECH schools, NECA will capitalize on a public-private partnership between an employer (IBM) and educators to provide an academically rigorous and economically relevant grades 9 through 14 education that will launch graduates into meaningful, middle-class careers. NECA graduates will receive both a high school diploma and a no-cost associate degree in technology, and will be first in line for consideration for jobs with IBM.
The NECA Summer Academy was attended by local dignitaries and media, school faculty, IBM volunteers and 50 bright young students anxious to get a head start on the school year. My role was to introduce attendees to the type of workplace learning and skills-building exercises that are part of every P-TECH school curriculum. Our project – to build a bridge out of marshmallows and dried spaghetti – was designed to get students to think and act like engineers…as a team. The students in my group ended up doing a great job on two separate bridge concepts.
How did I spend my summer as a 17-year-old? Teaching young girls how to kayak in a freezing cold lake at an overnight camp in northern Ontario. How is Leslieanne John, a 17-year-old rising fourth-year student at Brooklyn, New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), spending her summer? She’s completing an eight-week internship with the Center for Applied Insights – a thought leadership team within IBM. I’ve had the privilege of serving as Leslieanne’s manager and mentor this summer, and can attest to what a truly invaluable experience this has been for both her and our team at IBM.
P-TECH is an innovative grades 9 through 14 school from which students will graduate with an Associate in Applied Science degree that will enable them to gain employment in the IT industry or continue their studies at a four-year college or university. Leslieanne is a star student P-TECH – from which she plans to graduate in four years instead of six – and aspires to attend an Ivy League institution. President Obama even commended her in a speech when he visited the school last October.
En route to a summit with President Obama, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) for some fact-finding and possible inspiration for a P-TECH program in Australia. Prime Minister Abbott first heard about P-TECH in President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address. Upon his visit – during which he spoke with students, faculty and IBM mentors, and met with Principal Rashid F. Davis and myself – Mr. Abbott expressed his strong belief that P-TECH was “an innovative and valuable education model for us to consider in Australia.”
Though P-TECH started in New York City, it’s significance is being recognized across the country and around the world. A collaboration among employers and educators to reinvent American high school, connect education to jobs and close America’s skills gap, the
P-TECH movement is rolling across New York State (16 new schools this fall, with 10 more forthcoming) and Connecticut (which opens its first P-TECH school this September), along with five schools in Chicago and other locales in the pipeline. The fact that the Prime Minister of Australia wanted to see P-TECH for himself after hearing about it from the President of the United States and his staff clearly indicates that other leading economies are seeking ways to sharpen their competitive edge by transforming their high schools,
and that the innovative P-TECH model depends less on geography than on the will to embrace change.
The Australian economy faces many of the same challenges we see here in the U.S., including a worsening disconnect between education and industry in a time of upheaval across the higher education sector. It’s no wonder that Prime Minister Abbott would be interested in a school-to-career model designed to serve all children through a program that capitalizes on public-private partnerships, prepares its graduates for growth-industry employment, and makes these connections within existing public budgets. That’s the reason P-TECH is attracting interest from around the world and is being replicated so rapidly. Visitors from five continents have come to P-TECH to see innovation in action and get America’s best thinking on reinventing education.
Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and a former Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools.
High schools “made with IBM”? Yes, it’s happening here – with the P-TECH grades 9 through 14 school model, an innovative approach that’s sparking change in the way we think about education. Through P-TECH, IBM is working with educators in school districts and higher education to redesign high schools – expanding them from four to six years so that students graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate in applied science degree. Equipped with these degrees, graduates will be prepared to embark upon entry-level careers in the IT industry or continue their educations.
Why is this important? Because in the 21st Century economy, those with postsecondary degrees will have much better chances of making it to the middle class – having fulfilling careers, raising families and giving back to their communities. A high school diploma alone just isn’t enough today, and often can limit one to the low-wage life of the working poor.
Here at P-TECH – the Pathways in Technology Early College High School – we’re dedicated to preparing our students for long-term success. For some, that will mean moving directly into middle-skill employment – the booming economic sector that promises 14 million new jobs over the next 10 years. For others, it will mean pursuing four-year degrees (and beyond) after completing their no-cost Associate in Applied Science degrees after six years at P-TECH. And for all of our graduates, we expect long-term success to include service to communities as earners, tax payers, heads of households, mentors and role models. The P-TECH “experiment” is working.
P-TECH’s story continues to be told because it’s a story worth telling. Begun in 2011, new chapters of our narrative are being written in Chicago and New York City, and across Connecticut and New York State. P-TECH is on the move.
It’s been years since we learned that the world is “flat” and that all enterprises – whether commercial, governmental or non-profit – are globally connected. But what we’re still learning in this era of global integration is how to prepare the next generation of leaders to realize what we characterize as the triple benefit – developing their skills while solving communities’ problems and opening new markets. This isn’t just a “business” problem.
It’s an issue that impacts – and will shape the future of – almost every human endeavor
on the planet.
Running our cities, educating our children, protecting our health and sustaining our environment are just some of the world’s critical challenges that no single company or economic sector can address or solve alone. Mastering the world’s challenges requires the world’s collective intelligence and expertise and true collaboration. That’s why legacy models of top-down corporate philanthropy have become obsolete. In their place have arisen innovative approaches to transforming the ways we interact, learn and lead. At IBM, these approaches involve maximizing the value of our most important assets – the time and talent of our employees – versus merely donating our excess cash.
The State of Connecticut will open our first P-TECH-model grades 9 to 14 school in Norwalk this September. The six-year Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) is being developed as a public-private partnership among the Norwalk Public Schools, Norwalk Community College and IBM, and will graduate students with both a high school diploma and a free Associate in Applied Science degree. Students at NECA will be paired with an IBM mentor and will be first in line for jobs at IBM upon graduation.
NECA will be only the first of many planned P-TECH schools across the state – each school partnered with one of Connecticut’s growth employers in such industries as advanced manufacturing, biotech, health care and insurance. As I mentioned in this
year’s State of the State address, these innovative P-TECH schools will play a critical
role in keeping Connecticut at the forefront in public education as they help to ensure
that our young people are prepared for the successful pursuit of higher education and meaningful careers.
One of the most promising experiments in American education – Chicago’s Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy – is a new type public high school designed to achieve two of our country’s most urgent goals: help more young adults gain the skills they need to succeed in today’s globally competitive economy, and supply companies with the trained talent they require. Sarah E. Goode, a P-TECH-model school, was featured in the February 24, 2014 TIME Magazine cover story.
But for too many students, schools like Sarah E. Goode simply are not available. It’s time for students across the nation to have access to redesigned career and technical high schools offering this vital 21st century approach.