High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.
Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.
. . . Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.
Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.
Despite high unemployment, some 600,000 jobs in advanced manufacturing and other high-tech fields are unfilled for lack of qualified workers, testified Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Chicago is trying to fill the skills gap.
Five high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district, including Corliss High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Lake View High School, began offering career-training tracks in September. The vocational programs are aligned with the needs of area businesses such as IBM, Motorola, and Verizon, which each partnered with a school to design alternative curricula, according to the CPS Website.
. . . Students enrolled in the program can earn a technical certification and credit toward an associate degree from City Colleges of Chicago, along with a high school diploma.
Two-year technical pathways can lead to lucrative careers, notes U.S. News. “Electrical engineering technicians earn a median salary of about $56,000 with an associate degree, and the median pay for nuclear technicians is roughly $68,000 with an associate’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Radiology technicians also earn high salaries with a two-year degree.
Students are competing for a shot at a six-year high school in Brooklyn that offers vocational training and college classes, reports the New York Times.
By 2017, the first wave of students of P-Tech — Pathways in Technology Early College High School — is expected to emerge with associate’s degrees in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology, following a course of studies developed in consultation with I.B.M.
“I mean, in 10th grade, doing college work?” said Monesia McKnight, 15, as she sat in an introduction to computer systems course taught by a college professor. “How great is that?”
New York City plans to open several more schools on the P-Tech model, and other states are following suit.
“When we view high-quality C.T.E. programs, we see how engaged those students are and what clear aspirations they have for their future,” said John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner. “Unfortunately, that’s not always present in some of our struggling schools.”
In its second year, P-Tech houses ninth and 1oth graders at Paul Robeson High School, which is being phased out because of poor performance. Some 88 percent of P-Tech students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Half tested below proficiency in eighth grade, but they’re already passing state Regents exams and taking college courses.
Students attend from 8:35 a.m. to 4:06 p.m., 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.
Students who straight to the workforce will be prepared for “entry-level technology jobs paying around $40,000 a year, like software specialists who answer questions from I.B.M.’s business customers or “deskside support” workers who answer calls from PC users,” reports the Times. Students aren’t guaranteed a job at IBM, but they should have skills required by many companies as well as the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in two years.
Each student also is paired with an IBM mentor and visits the company’s offices and labs. The principal also has an IBM mentor. The company helped train the school’s teachers and funds a full-time liaison to work with college faculty, who also helped develop the curriculum.
Chicago will open as many as five high-school, community-college hybrids next fall, reports the Chicago Tribune. Students could enroll for up to six years to earn a high school diploma and associate degree in technical fields.
IBM is giving Chicago a $400,000 grant and helping develop the schools,which will be modeled on New York City’s newly opened Pathways in Technology Early College High School. P-Tech is a partnership between IBM, the New York City College of Technology and the City University of New York.
IBM will recruit Chicago Public Schools teachers who want to be trained to work in the new schools.
“If we’re going to really meet our commitment to young people to say, ‘You’re going to be prepared for entry-level jobs in a good-paying career, not just a job that leads to a dead end,’ they’re going to need an associate’s degree,” said Robin Willner, an IBM executive who’s overseeing the Chicago initiative. “This is not about narrowing a student’s opportunity. It’s saying not only will you be first in line for a job at IBM, but also prepared for an IT career (elsewhere).”
The P-Tech model assumes that some students will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, while others will be able to start a career immediately.
Students need new options beyond a four-year college for all, write Stanley S. Litow, president of the IBM Foundation, and Robert B. Schwartz, academic dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-author of the Pathways to Prosperity report. New York City is opening a model school that will take students from ninth through “14th grade.”
. . . while preparing for college has become the nearly exclusive focus of educators, the fact is that seven in 10 Americans don’t earn a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s. Moreover, only slightly more than 20 percent of students who enroll in community colleges obtain a two-year associate degree, even after three years. . . . roughly one-third of new jobs over the next decade will require some form of postsecondary education or training but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.
Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, is a collaboration between the New York City schools, City University of New York (CUNY), New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and IBM. Students will have the opportunity to complete a high school diploma and an associate degree in applied science. Some will go on to a four-year institution, while others will be first in line for a job at IBM or other companies with a demand for IT workers.
Students will begin earning college credit in the 9th grade through a curriculum that combines the best in STEM education—or science, technology, engineering, and math. As part of this program, students will be immersed in project-based and workplace learning experiences that will provide them with academic and career skills. The focus is on mastery, not seat time, so students who excel can earn their degrees at an accelerated pace. Because the demands will be great, students will be supported with mentoring and extended-day and summer learning opportunities.
IBM will provide information for curriculum development by defining the skills it seeks in new IT hires with an associate in applied science degree.
The city hopes to open similar schools focused on health, banking and other fields where industry partners are available.