In 2010 – in direct response to the skills crisis – IBM designed P-TECH, a grade 9 to 14 school. And from the launch of the first school in 2011, P-TECH has grown to nearly 70 schools across three continents – with more than 300 business partners following IBM’s design. There is only one reason a program like P-TECH has grown so fast; spread so widely across states, continents and cultures; and garnered endorsements and support from such a broad array of education, industry and political stakeholders: replication was built into P-TECH’s design, and consequently its results show great promise in better preparing students to advance from school to college to career.
At this year’s annual retreat (our seventh) for the teachers and administrators of eight P-TECH schools where IBM is serving as the lead industry partner, nearly 100 participants had the opportunity to reflect on past achievements and look ahead to continued success. Most important, participants had the chance to learn from each other how to increase their level of performance.
The annual retreat highlights a core success factor of P-TECH: partnerships. Each P-TECH school is a partnership among a school district, a community college and one or more employers. By integrating our expertise, we are able to provide students with a continuum of supports from the moment they enter a P-TECH school until the moment that they walk across the stage and get their dual degree.
Each P-TECH student works with high school teachers, college faculty, industry mentors and industry managers during paid internships. This is part of a comprehensive surround that enables students to build their academic, technical and professional skills and uncover their potential for success. Each P-TECH graduate – whether they move directly into new-collar employment, pursue a four-year college degree or both – is well-positioned to become a contributing member of the 21st century economy.
2017 Brooklyn P-TECH Graduates
This year’s retreat marked the first time that we were able to reflect on the full six years of the model, with P-TECH’s initial site in Brooklyn completing a full six years. We celebrated the first cohort’s 56 percent graduation rate with both their high school diploma and their AAS degree within six years – more than four times the national on-time community college graduate rate, which stands at 13 percent and is even lower for students from low-income families. We also celebrated the 11 P-TECH graduates who now work at IBM, with other students pursuing four year degrees, and the fact that not one P-TECH student has taken a remedial course – in stark contrast to two-thirds of community college students nationally, who must take at least one such non-credit-bearing class.
More significantly, we were able to stimulate a discussion of the best cultural, practical and pedagogical practices that resulted in this early success, and how we would build upon those experiences across the P-TECH network. Sharing these best practices was of essential importance. We committed ourselves to publishing new tools and resources on ptech.org and through social media, including the Twitter sites of individual schools and staff members.
We also discussed ways to better communicate results across the network of schools to encourage further replication of the P-TECH model, and to make P-TECH schools available to more students across the U.S. and around the world. We know that it is our interconnectedness and ongoing support that attracts, engages and energizes P-TECH students, those who teach them, and those who hire them upon completion of their programs.
It is this sense of community – and the success that it enables – that will attract and inspire additional states and countries to the P-TECH model, and to the commitment to better prepare young people for the demands of our modern economy.
Jennifer Ryan Crozier is President of the IBM International Foundation and Vice President of IBM Corporate Citizenship. Rashid Ferrod Davis is the Founding Principal of Brooklyn P-TECH.
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