By Douglas Fehlen
A Different Kind of School
Is the typical ninth-grader ready to sign on for six additional years of school? Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-Tech) asks students to do just that. Individuals who enroll in the Brooklyn, New York, institution won't graduate after completing the 12th grade. Instead, they'll have to also complete what would seem the equivalent of grades 13 and 14. So what's the payoff?
Students who successfully complete the 6-year program receive not only a high school diploma, but they also earn an associate's degree in computer science. P-Tech represents a partnership between New York City Schools, the City University of New York and computing company IBM. The idea is to help prepare the next generation of tech workers by incorporating technology instruction into secondary education.
Students who want to amass college credits for transfer to an outside postsecondary institution after four years will have to look at other options. Individuals who complete four years at P-Tech qualify for neither a high school diploma nor an associate's degree. Instead, students earn both designations only after completing six full years of learning at the school.
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The New Model for High Schools?
The concept behind Pathways in Technology Early College High School is gaining momentum around the country. Up to five schools in Chicago are slated for conversion into high school-college hybrids based on P-Tech's model. Advocates believe that the concept has the potential to transform how American students are trained for the workforce. Curriculum incorporates experiential learning opportunities, and practical skill-building is a constant focus.
Students who attend institutions that combine traditional high school learning with college-level instruction potentially have a lot to gain. Most significantly, they can earn an associate's degree without spending a cent on college - a benefit that cannot be overemphasized given rising college costs.
Students in Brooklyn's P-Tech and Chicago high school-college hybrids get another benefit: Graduates have an inside track for securing entry-level jobs with project partner IBM. While having this advantage over other applicants at the computer maker, individuals are in no way indebted to IBM. Instead students may pursue positions in other top technology firms - or other companies - upon graduation.
Some experts believe American high schools must dramatically alter the way they teach students. Learn more about ways high schools may be failing students.