Moving America Forward

This 6-Year High School Challenges Everything We Thought We Knew About American Education

February 18, 2014
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This 6-Year High School Challenges Everything We Thought We Knew About American Education
Students take pictures at Pathways in Technology Early College High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn on October 25, 2013 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Four years is not enough. Why Brooklyn’s game-changing P-TECH could be the future of education.

At the innovative P-TECH early college high school in Brooklyn, “innovators” (what they call their students) don’t finish school until grade 14. But here’s the kicker: When they graduate, they walk away with an associates degree and a guaranteed job at IBM.

Thanks to public and private partnerships (IBM provides mentors for the school), P-TECH kids are taught science, technology engineering and math skills that get them ready for collegiate success and an invaluable leg up in the global economy. It’s a radical makeover of our traditional education system. As Rana Foorohar writes for her TIME cover story on the school, “a four-year high school degree these days only guarantees a $15 an hour future.”

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P-TECH only launched in Sept. 2011 but already has scores of high-profile endorsements and even imitators. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, inspired by the New York academy, is opening six P-TECH schools in his own city. He told the magazine, “What’s very clear to me is that high school education as it is envisioned today isn’t sufficient for the modern workplace, or the modern economy.”

President Obama visited the Crown Heights-based school last year, and touted its game-changing model in his State of the Union address: “This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one.”

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“Companies, they’re looking for the best-educated people, wherever they live. And they’ll reward them with good jobs and good pay. And if you don’t have a well-educated workforce, you’re gonna be left behind,” Obama said.

The President also said in a speech during his October visit to the school that Verizon and Microsoft are following in the footsteps of P-TECH’s partner, IBM, and are considering public school collaborations. “This is a ticket into the middle class, and it’s available to everyone who is willing to work for it,” he said. “That’s what public education is supposed to do.”

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