To highlight his High School Redesign initiative, President Obama recently visited and spoke at Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn, New York. P-TECH is one of several new transformative high school designs that incorporate innovative approaches to curriculum that help lead to higher academic outcomes, greater student engagement, and future student success. The proposed $300 million High School Redesign program would integrate challenging and relevant academic and career-related learning experiences that prepare students for post-secondary education and careers.
P-TECH, a middle and high school, was established in 2011 as a partnership between IBM, the New York City Department of Education, and the City University of New York's College of Technology. In 2017, the school will graduate its first class of students who, over six years of STEM study and training, earn a joint high school diploma and associate's degree in computer information systems and electromechanical engineering technology. P-TECH's rigorous course of academic study was co-designed with IBM. The company has also invested $500,000 to provide software support, mentors, and internship opportunities for every P-TECH student.
At a time when the cost of attending college continues to rise, too many African-American students are afraid to pursue higher education because they think it is too expensive and will burden their families with debt. But schools like P-TECH allow students to get a head start on their postsecondary education by allowing them to take college-level math and science courses. Radcliffe Saddler, who had the honor of introducing the President, is an example of this curriculum at work. Saddler, who is of Jamaican descent, already has 21 college credits on top of his 42.6 high school credits and five regents needed for graduation.
As President Obama said during his visit, schools like P-TECH are the “ticket to the middle class.” These schools will help ensure every student—regardless of background—has an enriching educational experience that gives them the knowledge necessary for success in today’s global economy and the skills to better themselves and their communities.
David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative contributes to closing the achievement gap for African-American students.