Brooklyn School Takes Different Approach to Vocational Ed

Increasing access to high-quality vocational education for students who do not wish to go on to college after high school graduation is a hot topic. A New York City school is taking that objective seriously by creating an experimental 6-year program that combines high-school and college-level material to prepare its graduates for jobs in the [...]

Increasing access to high-quality vocational education for students who do not wish to go on to college after high school graduation is a hot topic. A New York City school is taking that objective seriously by creating an experimental 6-year program that combines high-school and college-level material to prepare its graduates for jobs in the technology industry.

The first graduating class from Crown Heights, Brooklyn-based Pathways in Technology Early College High School – known to its students simply as P-Tech – is expected to graduate in 2017. In addition to a high school diploma, they will have also fulfilled requirements for an associate’s degree in applied science. Students can choose a concentration in one of two areas: computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology. Both programs were developed in partnership with IBM.

The New York Times reports that while the U.S. continues to lead the world in the proportion of its population earning a college degree, there continues to be a severe shortage of graduates prepared to enter STEM fields – science, technology engineering and mathematics – upon college completion. Schools like P-Tech are aiming to fill that gap.

 Officials in Chicago were so taken by New York’s school that they opened five similar schools this year with corporate partners in telecommunications and technology. Besides New York and Illinois, education officials in Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee have committed to creating such schools, and the Obama administration has recommended that Congress provide more money for vocational education — the preferred name is career and technical education, or C.T.E. — to promote this approach.

Even in New York, P-Tech is just the beginning. Plans are already underway for two additional hybrid schools to open their doors next fall. Computer science won’t be the only focus, either. Department of Education officials hope to craft a program to prepare students to forge careers in the healthcare field.

Paul Robeson High School, whose building is currently playing host to P-Tech, is being wound down due to chronic under-performance. As the student body at P-Tech grows – currently there’s a ninth and a tenth grade – they will take over more of the building until they gain the complete ownership of it.

The school day at P-Tech is quite unlike that of Paul Robeson. Instead of getting out of school by 3PM at the latest, P-Tech students attend class between the hours of 8:35am and 4:06PM.

… in 10-period days that intersperse traditional classes like math and English with technology and business-centric courses like “workplace learning,” which teaches networking, critical thinking and presentation skills. Second-year students are offered physics and global studies as well as the business courses and college-level courses in speech or logic and problem solving — or both. There is also a six-week summer academy for geometry.

Parents seem to be convinced. Merely a year after opening, the applications to be part of the second freshman class numbered over 600, a 600% increase over the year before.

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