Thinkstock:Dmitriy Shironosov

First P-TECH Graduates Land Jobs at IBM

By Sonya Stinson

An administrator shares how to make the program successful and scalable.

By the end of this summer, the first six graduates of P-TECH Brooklyn, New York City’s Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) Early College High School, will have associate of applied science (AAS) degrees in computer information systems to go with the high school diplomas they earned in May. Two of the students have already accepted jobs at IBM, the high school’s industry partner.

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) will confer the degrees on the graduates — five men and one woman — each of whom has completed an accelerated career and technical education program designed to let them earn a high school and an associate degree in six years or less. Each member of the 2015 pioneer class completed the coursework in only four years.

“They’ve done fantastically well, and I think everybody’s very proud of them,” says Bonne August, provost and vice president for academic affairs at City Tech.

Besides the computer information systems track, participating students also have the option of earning an AAS degree in electromechanical engineering. All of them complete paid summer internships at IBM, the City University of New York (CUNY) or a local nonprofit, August says.

The P-TECH model is winning fans from well beyond the city, including President Barack Obama, who visited the school in 2013. By fall 2015, the model will be adopted at 40 schools in several states.

August offers several takeaways about what’s required to make a program like P-TECH successful and scalable.

Having a major university partner makes a huge difference. Operating through its Early College High School initiative, CUNY lays a lot of the groundwork in coordinating P-TECH’s structure with IBM and the New York City Department of Education. The university also serves as a clearinghouse for guidelines and best practices in managing relationships among the various partners in the endeavor. CUNY funds the full-time early college high school liaison assigned to P-TECH, as well as the liaison to City Tech’s other early college high school partner, City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology. Both liaisons report directly to August.

You must have clear, written expectations for each partner. Because IBM’s commitment is so deep, the company has hired its own full-time liaison to P-TECH. August notes that industry partners are likely to want varying degrees of hands-on involvement.

Funding support is another issue to hash out early. Because P-TECH students and other early college participants earn college credits tuition-free, “you have to figure out how the colleges will be reimbursed for providing the degrees,” August says.

Setting up the program takes time, and instructors need to be involved in the planning process. “City Tech came into this process just about at the point when the principal was being hired, and there was a tremendous push to get the school moving,” August says.

Administrators had from February 2011 until the following September to get in gear. They had to hire teachers at the same time they were designing the curriculum, scope and sequence of the program.

“It would have been ideal to have teachers more hands-on, directly involved in that process, so that they really owned it,” August says.

College administrators must carefully assess what time and resources they can devote to the project. Even with dedicated liaisons for City Tech’s early college programs, August says they take up a significant portion of her time. An initiative like P-TECH calls for direct involvement from someone who is empowered to make decisions, she says.

“We feel that this has been challenging for us, but well worth the challenge, in terms of what we’ve been able to offer to the students,” August says.

Sonya Stinson

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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