When Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, visits Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) tomorrow, he is going to see a school working successfully towards preparing underrepresented students to be college and career ready.
“But, I would also suggest to you that higher education is approaching a crossroads, where leaders will be asked to choose between incremental and transformational change. At the heart of this choice is a paradox. In many ways, our system of higher education is still the envy of the world…. And yet, for all its success, our system of higher education has to get dramatically better. In the era of the knowledge-based, global economy, America has to rapidly accelerate college attainment and learning to prosper and maintain its global competitiveness.”
Much of the success of P-TECH is due to its founding principal, Rashid Davis. A dynamic leader, Davis is adept at distributive leadership and works closely with his staff. “He has carefully selected his teachers and support staff and reinforces high expectations for them as well as the students,” said Wendy Brannen, a KnowledgeWorks Technical Assistance Coach working with P-TECH. “He provides common planning time for them to build their collaborative practice and cooperative teaching.”
Entering into its second year, P-TECH is a STEM focused early college high school. Students will graduate from the school with both their high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree from New York City College of Technology (City Tech). P-TECH has an attendance rate of 94.2 percent that ranks them fifth among the 13 New York City high schools that opened in September 2011. Their October year-to-date attendance of 95.8 percent is currently highest among their peer institutions.
As KnowledgeWorks continues to partner with P-TECH, we’ll be focusing on Unit Design and the Rigor and Relevance Framework. Brannen hosts professional development sessions with staff. She also has observation time built into each of her school visits, which provides insight into instructional practices. Over the next year, Brannen said, “The focus continues the work with teachers to strengthen their cooperative teaching practices and interdisciplinary unit planning.”
The school’s private partner, in this public/private venture, is IBM and is able to provide students with opportunities that will prepare them for careers in technology and other STEM fields. National Director of KnowledgeWorks Early College High Schools, Andrea Mulkey, sees this partnership as an asset to students because of the one-to-one mentoring. “Each student is matched with an IBM mentor and works closely with them over the course of the year,” she said. “It gets to the heart of our work of ensuring that every student in an early college high school has someone paying attention to them and encouraging them through their academic career.”
While the Secretary of Education tours P-TECH tomorrow, we’re sure he will witness the dedication of its staff and students who are excited about school and the opportunities it’s giving them.