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Brooklyn’s New High School Offers a Pathway to the Future

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Last year Brooklyn’s Crown Heights in New York City was the stage for a new school experiment. P-Tech, which stands for Pathways In Technology Early College High School, is a unique place created through the efforts of NYC and IBM, where students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree in computer science and the related fields. Besides, it is here that students have a chance to first try their hand at IT jobs.

IBM, which is the main sponsor of the project, also took participation in developing the curriculum and recruiting the staff for the new school. Skills that IBM wants its future job applicants to possess include problem solving, writing and team playing abilities. Such active involvement of the global technology giant represents a new tendency in education, where tech-companies partner with schools to educate skilled and innovative U.S. workforce, which could compete at a global level. What was previously limited to injecting money in schools and hoping it would be enough to get the results, has now changed and more and more leading technology companies feel the need to take a firm line on the issue. We’ve already seen Microsoft sending their workers to teach high schoolers computer science and Google’s initiative aimed to ensure a better quality STEM education in schools. It is now IBM’s turn to have a say in the matter.

Thus, P-Tech proudly presented a six-year curriculum, which was designed to tailor students’ skills and abilities so that they would correspond directly to the needs of the U.S. technology industry. By 2017 P-Tech is expected to graduate its first 230 students, who will be equipped with associate’s degrees in computer science or engineering. All students take regular high school courses along with college-level ones such as networking, presentation and business ethics. Each student at P-Tech also has their own mentor who helps to adapt school program to their needs and provides the support and assistance. The students have a unique chance to visit IBM facilities and see for themselves how its products are created.

The school enrolls its students through lottery, which, according to Josh Thomases, the Education Department’s deputy chief academic officer, is not based on a person’s academic performance. Thus, over 50% of its students scored low in mathematics and English eighth-grade finals.

Interestingly though is that the school itself appears to be a rather shabby building in need of painting. The school’s principal, Rashid F. Davis, says his main priority is intellectual capital that’s why most of the resources are steamed into hiring academics.

The P-Tech project’s start was so successful that the initiative was adopted by a number of schools around the country. For instance, Chicago officials joined their forces with some telecommunications and technology companies to open five similar schools in the city. The states of Maine, Tennessee, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Missouri are considering creating such schools and are currently seeking support from both the government and tech companies.

 

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