Remember how the best part of high school was graduation? You were finally done with four years of social stress, SATs and cafeteria food. Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, NY, however, plans to extend high school by two years.
As part of a collaboration effort between New York public schools, City University of New York and IBM, P-Tech will educate students in high-tech concentrations in computer science or engineering.
Students will then be able to graduate with an associate’s degree, and some will even have the opportunity to land a job with IBM right after graduation.
At first glance, six years might seem like too many. Do American students, who are significantly behind the rest of the world in science, technology, engineering and mathematics test scores, need more time in school or just an overall better education system? P-Tech is challenging this notion and giving city students an opportunity to a college degree without having to pay for at least a community college education.
U.S. President Barack Obama visited P-Tech Friday to praise the school’s vision of generating a new middle class of American entrepreneurs and technicians capable of competing in the global economy, according to a Friday Time magazine story. After only three years in operation, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has so much faith in the school that he announced a plan to open up 16 more public schools like P-Tech throughout the state, according to the school’s website in August.
P-Tech is a public school with clear opportunities and advantages. It is not organized babysitting for someone whose parents work minimum-wage jobs. It encourages upward mobility in America. If P-Tech is successful, inner-city students will have access to an education similar to an upper-class American’s with powerful connections.
P-Tech draws from a 2-year associate’s degree track at community colleges. It is a public high school education and college education intermingled to fill the holes in STEM education.
But what about those life lessons you learn at a university? These students are being funneled into the workforce right after their graduation. How will they learn how to be independent enough to do laundry or balance a job while attending school? There is so much more to college than learning. You grow as a person and you learn how to be an adult. P-Tech students lose those life experiences you cannot get while living at home. College gives you a safety net to learn and grow.
But a traditional college experience is not necessary for all fields. A college experience does not land people jobs — hard work and degrees do. Why pay tuition to an expensive private university while you can attend public school and still get an equivalent degree?
This school fuses academia and a trade school while de-stigmatizing trade schools. That idea of a Hollywood college experience, a 4.0 GPA, drunk friends and cool internships is not feasible for all Americans. Schools such as P-Tech are realistic with feasible goals. It should be supported and encouraged because not every person is cut out for university far away from home.
For a school aimed at building pathways from the lower class to the middle class, P-Tech shows signs for surefire success for all graduates while at the same time addressing gaps in American STEM education.