Education in Communities

Education in Communities

Education is an essential foundation of thriving communities. But it must do more than educate. It must arm students with critical skills and prepare them for life’s complexities, as well as workplace opportunities.

At IBM, we are working to transform educational systems in order to provide children and young adults with both the foundational knowledge and the relevant skills needed to be successful today. In 2013, our portfolio of educational programs continued to evolve and scale in accordance with these goals.

P-TECH 9-14 School Model

New and innovative designs are desperately needed to transform high schools and address the education and skills gap existing in today’s labor market. Shortages are most acutely felt in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but aren’t exclusive to these disciplines. Over the past few years, IBM has worked with educators in K-12 and higher education to create a new approach to high school designed to enable students to gain the academic preparation, credentials, and workforce skills needed to be competitive in the job market—and thus reinvigorate economies. With this approach, IBM hopes to transform not only the educational opportunities available for young people today, but also create a pipeline of talent to help eradicate the skills gap.

Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) are innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. Within a six-year timeframe, students participate in an integrated and rigorous academic sequence of high school and college classes and graduate with an industry-recognized, two-year, postsecondary degree, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step seamlessly into jobs in the Information Technology (IT) industry. This model was designed to be both widely replicable and sustainable as part of a national effort to reform career and technical education, and those plans are coming to fruition.

“This country should be doing everything in its power to give more kids the chance to go to schools like this one.” Barack Obama, president, during a visit to P-TECH in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2013

President Obama at P-TECH

9-14 School Model components

P-TECH schools are public schools, open to students without grade or testing requirements. Students begin in grade nine and continue through a six-year sequence of high school and college coursework to earn a two-year, postsecondary degree that is awarded by the school’s college partner. Valuable workplace skills are integrated into the curriculum.

Students participate in an ongoing, sequenced Workplace Learning curriculum informed by current and future industry standards and solid academics. All students are matched in one-to-one relationships with mentors from IBM and other companies, participate in structured, project-based learning activities, take part in workplace visits, and tackle skills-based, real-world projects through paid internships and apprenticeships. IBM and other industry partners have provided minimum requirements for entry-level IT jobs that have been mapped directly into the curriculum and are serving as academic benchmarks and targets.

Each student moves through a personalized academic pathway, aligned to college and career requirements, which is closely monitored by his or her teachers and advisors, based on his or her individual needs and performance. The focus is on mastery, not seat time.

A model for replication

IBM created the first 9-14 school (P-TECH) in September 2011, in Brooklyn, New York, as a collaboration among the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, and New York City College of Technology (City Tech).

2013 academic achievements at P-TECH in Brooklyn include:

“I had an amazing visit with IBM's P-TECH school today. I am so hopeful, so confident, so optimistic about what these students will accomplish long term. The question for me is always scale. We need more corporations, more leaders, more CEOs to step up and be part of the solution for education. We need more public/private partnerships.” Arne Duncan, secretary of education, following a visit to P-TECH in Brooklyn in February 2013

P-TECH was replicated in five Chicago schools in September 2012. IBM is spearheading one school, the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy.

“With IBM’s partnership, vision, and leadership, Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy provides a rigorous education while creating a bridge between students and jobs of the 21st century economy. Chicago has expanded this model, first pioneered by IBM in New York, to five schools across the City for every student to have equal access to receiving a quality education that will prepare them for success in the classroom and in life.” Rahm Emanuel, mayor, Chicago

Two more schools in New York modeled on P-TECH opened in 2013: Energy Tech High School, in collaboration with ConEd and National Grid, and Health and Emergency Response Occupation (HERO) High School, working with Montefiore Medical Center. Three more in the city will open in 2014.

In addition, the state of New York will open 16 more P-TECH schools this September across the state that are designed to help advance Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Strategy by linking job training directly to employment opportunities. IBM is serving as lead industry partner for Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, along with Newburgh Enlarged City School District and SUNY Orange Community College, and is providing thought leadership across all the schools through its participation in the governor’s steering committee. Among other companies participating are Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, GlobalFoundries, and SAP.

“In partnership with IBM, New York State is making sure our students are more prepared for life after graduation by linking the skills we teach in the classroom with the needs of 21st century employers. P-TECH is a groundbreaking program that will give students across the state the opportunity to earn a college degree while starting on a pathway to a good-paying job when they graduate. These public-private partnerships are a model for success for our students, our employers, and our economy.” Andrew Cuomo, governor, New York

In his 2014 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced that the state of New York plans to add 10 more P-TECH model high schools in 2015. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced that the state also will replicate P-TECH. IBM plans to lead one school that will open its doors in 2014 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and will provide guidance to the state’s P-TECH network of schools the year after.

“As Connecticut industry and government realign for the 21st century, it has become clear that there is a skills gap in our national and state economies. However, Connecticut is home to many industries that will be growth and innovation sectors over the next 10 to 20 years, and we must prepare our students with the skills they need to succeed in that workforce. We began by partnering with IBM to develop our first P-TECH model program in Norwalk, and we are in the process of partnering with other major employers to develop similar models in other communities.” Dannel Malloy, governor, Connecticut

President Obama visited P-TECH in 2013 and created a $100 million grant program, Youth CareerConnect, to better equip high school students with the job skills they will need to compete more effectively in the global economy and expand P-TECH further. The grant program’s goal is to encourage the nation’s high schools to restructure their curricula, in partnership with industry, in ways that will make students—and the nation—more competitive.

By September 2015, it is anticipated that more than three dozen P-TECH schools will be opened.

“Six years for high school? Why two extra years is catching on,” PBS NewsHour

Reading Companion

Literacy is a key contributor to the economic growth of any region, affecting various societal issues such as employment, economic status, and health. There are nearly one billion people in the world today who cannot read job advertisements or decipher directions on a medicine bottle—more than 20 percent of the world’s adult population. According to the World Literacy Foundation, the annual cost of illiteracy to the global economy is $1.19 trillion, and no country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 percent of its adults able to read and write.

While volunteer reading tutors are always needed, a transformative means of using up-to-date technology to advance literacy was also desperately needed. In response, in the Research lab, IBM created Reading Companion®, now a cloud-based literacy initiative that uses voice-recognition technology to help children and adults learn to read in English. Reading Companion is a powerful tool designed to improve literacy rates across the globe by transforming the way people learn to read and empowering them to participate more fully in their respective communities. Developed by IBM researchers in conjunction with schools and nonprofit organizations, Reading Companion is innovative software that “listens” and provides feedback, enabling emerging readers to practice reading and English pronunciation as they acquire fundamental skills and improve their overall fluency.

Users affiliated with Reading Companion grant sites log into the website and are presented with reading materials. The software reads a phrase to the user and provides an opportunity for the user to read the material into a headset microphone. Depending on the accuracy of what was read, the software provides positive reinforcement (for example, “You sound great!”), gives the user an opportunity to try again, or offers the correct reading of the words on the screen. As the user's skills improve, the technology reads less material so that the learner reads more.

IBM employees, teachers, and others interested in contributing to the growing virtual library of original content found in Reading Companion can create practice-reading e-books by using our Book Builder publishing tool. Once e-books are published on the website, they become part of the Reading Companion virtual library that is available to all schools and nonprofit organizations participating in the program around the world. In 2013, 112 new books were added to the virtual library from authors worldwide, bringing the total number of books to 625. Reading Companion also gives educators valuable tools to assess student progress so they can provide more targeted instruction where students need it most. This allows Reading Companion to integrate seamlessly into system-wide literacy initiatives and into existing curricula defined by our partner organizations.

The Reading Companion grant program represents a $36 million market-value investment by IBM to promote literacy globally. Since IBM’s literacy initiatives began in 1996, nearly 1.6 million learners have benefitted from the program in more than 50 countries. In addition to the website, Reading Companion is now also available on smartphones and tablets using the Android operating system. The Reading Companion app can be accessed through the Google Play store.

112 new titles

added in 2013 to the Reading Companion virtual library of e-books from authors worldwide, bringing the total to 625.

1.6 million

IBM has helped 1.6 million learn to read in more than 50 countries since IBM's literacy initiatives began in 1996.

University Relations

At IBM, we believe that higher learning is essential to creating new jobs and building economic growth. We also believe that we can play an important role in helping institutions of higher learning continuously improve their curriculum to keep up with the skills and capabilities in demand today and tomorrow. Recently we’ve engaged with university faculty around the world to help transform their academic programs so they can create a larger pipeline of critical skills in key technologies such as Big Data, analytics, cyber security, mobile computing, digital commerce, and cognitive computing. IBM does this by offering a rich set of resources through our academic initiatives that provide faculty with no-cost access to software, course materials, videos, real-world challenges, and experts. And our faculty and research awards support new programs and research projects. To date, IBM has announced relationships with more than 1,000 universities globally to develop Big Data, cyber security, analytics courses, and degree programs.


the number of universities IBM has worked with to enhance academic programs

Among the highlights in 2013:

Collaborative Innovation Center for Big Data Analytics

Politecnico di Milano and IBM opened a Collaborative Innovation Center, sharing their background and experience to increase awareness, skills, and expertise in the areas of Big Data analytics and optimization. The new center will combine public and private efforts that aim to fill both the need to create new curricula paths and support business development and growth in this area.

Politecnico di Milano’s specialized knowledge in engineering and business management will be combined with IBM research, technical capabilities, and real-world business knowledge in Big Data analytics and its applications. The relationship aims to enhance cultural awareness, education, and innovation in analytics by supporting its usage in business, as well as foster the creation of new analytics-related jobs.

MIP Politecnico di Milano hosted James C. Spohrer, director, IBM University Programs Worldwide

Collaborative Innovation Center for Financial Risk Analytics

The Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF) and IBM created the Financial Risk Analysis Strategic Partnership, designed to help make Shanghai a world-class hub for risk analytics that serves the business community and government regulators. The relationship also aims to build a talent pool and ecosystem to advance risk management in solving industry problems.

According to the agreement, IBM will provide technical support for the center at SAIF, giving financial risk analysis a stronger presence in the institute’s masters program. IBM will provide practicum content, faculty research funds, and scholarships and internships for outstanding students. The center features an open research platform for academic and financial institutions and regulatory officials. It aims to provide innovative solutions to the financial industry through fundamental policy and application research in financial risk analysis, as well as training for professionals in the financial industry.


IBM and SAIF sign an agreement to launch the Financial Risk Analysis Strategic Partnership

Watson in Education

Market researcher Gartner Group predicts that by 2017, 10 percent of computers will learn rather than process. IBM is working to introduce university faculty and students to this next era of computing, known as cognitive systems. IBM’s Watson is a computer platform that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes. Watson has a history of collaboration with top universities, which IBM continues to foster through our Watson in Education program.

In 2012 and 2013, IBM took Watson to university auditoriums and classrooms by providing expert speakers, conducting University Days, contributing curriculum content, sponsoring student competitions and technical challenges, and offering 20 summer internships.

2013 Watson in Education highlights:

In addition, IBM provided faculty awards totaling $200,000 to incorporate Watson into curricula and to assist researchers in expanding Watson and other cognitive architectures to accelerate this new era of computing.

Marketing Engineering Lab

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and IBM opened the Marketing Engineering Lab designed to enrich MBA and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs, conduct relevant marketing research, and act as a test bed for Hong Kong companies to experience the benefits of analytics for business advantage. As part of this program, IBM and CUHK developed a four-day EMBA course called Smarter Marketing that focuses on the evolution of marketing in the era of Big Data and the empowered customer. The course is being offered as part of EMBA programs in Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Sun Yat-Sen University. The China National MBA Committee, CUHK, and IBM also jointly organized a Smarter Marketing EMBA Course Workshop for 65 EMBA/MBA professors from 45 top universities in China. The replication of the course intends to improve business leaders’ ability to leverage analytics to benefit their business.

Opening of the Marketing Engineering Laboratory at CUHK

Opening of the Marketing Engineering Laboratory at CUHK

Great Minds student internship

The Great Minds student internship program is a competition for three- to six-month internships at IBM Research labs in Haifa (Israel), Zurich, or Dublin for students from central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In 2013, 10 students won internships, giving them the unique opportunity to work alongside world-class scientists in a leading industrial IT research organization. Since launching this initiative in 2007, IBM Research labs have hosted more than 40 students who have an opportunity to gain insights into real industry challenges and get hands-on experience. They bring back knowledge of IBM’s advanced technologies as well as contacts throughout IBM Research.

IBM and Louisiana State University

In 2013, IBM announced plans to open a services center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and also made an investment in helping to develop local talent. IBM is working with nearby Louisiana State University (LSU) to expand its School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, offering assistance in mentoring, tutoring, and curriculum. Two new concentrations are being offered by LSU, one that focuses on data science and analytics, the other on cloud and network computing. A minor in computational smart commerce is also in the works.

Since the announcement of the Baton Rouge IBM center, the number of students enrolling in LSU with a declared intention to major in computer science has grown by 60 percent.

“LSU is excited to work with Louisiana Economic Development and IBM on a partnership that is bringing new educational and job opportunities to our state. LSU is committed to having a top computer science program, and welcomes students to take advantage of the opportunities offered through the Geaux Digital partnership and the LSU College of Engineering.” F. King Alexander, president and chancellor, LSU

Teachers TryScience

According to Teaching Matters, a report issued by the RAND Corporation, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. The report also found that effective teachers are best identified by their performance, not by their background or experience.

To improve science education, we must help raise the skill level of our teachers. To help transform science teaching skills, IBM launched its Teachers TryScience website in 2011 as a collaborative effort with the New York Hall of Science and The program is designed to help transform how teachers approach project-based learning by providing free and engaging lessons, integrated with pedagogical strategies and resources. The program also goes beyond lessons by giving teachers the practical support they need to help get them comfortable presenting complex concepts to students. For example, IBM has teamed with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to create videos of board-certified teachers instructing Teachers TryScience lessons, featuring key teaching moments and teacher reflections. IBM is also working with Achieve Inc. and the New York Hall of Science to map project-based lesson plans to Next Generation Science Standards. The goal is to equip all teachers with the tools they need to help young people master science concepts and inspire their love of science.

“Teachers TryScience is helping me connect what I know about science to the best methods for conveying those principles to students in ways that get them excited and engaged. I know the science behind the lessons, but Teachers TryScience gives me additional instructional strategies to use with my students to enable authentic and sustainable learning.” Sandra Kelish, M.Ed., national board certified teacher
Teachers TryScience website

Teachers TryScience website

The site also provides social networking tools that enable educators to comment on and rate the lessons and resources, submit their own teaching materials, and form public and private groups to engage in focused discussions with colleagues in the same district or around the globe.

In 2013, IBM continued to expand the resources on the Teachers TryScience website, which now features nearly 250 lessons and more than 70 teaching strategies and tutorials. Teachers TryScience also now includes Kids TryScience, a repository of 70 experiments for teachers, students, and parents contributed by science museums around the world.

Give me biomimetic shelter


number of lessons available on the Teachers TryScience website


number of teaching strategies and tutorials available on the Teachers TryScience website

KidSmart Early Learning Program

Early learning success is critical to educational success throughout a school career. Providing access to high-quality educational technology in early grades can transform the lives of children in communities around the world. IBM’s KidSmart Early Learning Program enriches pre-kindergarten curriculum with interactive teaching and learning activities through the use of technology. KidSmart features Young Explorer, a computer housed in brightly colored, child-friendly Little Tikes furniture and equipped with award-winning educational software to help children learn and explore concepts in math, science, and language. Since the inception of the KidSmart Early Learning Program in 1998, IBM has donated more than 68,000 Young Explorers to schools and nonprofit organizations in 60 countries, reaching more than 119,000 teachers and serving more than 11 million students. KidSmart has influenced educators' thinking about what young children are capable of learning and how technology can play a positive role in the early childhood classroom.

Increasingly, countries around the world have identified investing in quality early childhood education as vital for the future success of children. For example, in 2001 IBM teamed up with the Mexican government through the National Council for Educational Promotion (Consejo Nacional de Fomento Educativo or CONAFE), an agency of the National Ministry of Education that provides early childhood, preschool, and elementary educational services to socially disadvantaged children throughout the country. To date, IBM has donated 1,930 Young Explorers, reaching more than 33,000 students and 7,000 educators across all 31 Mexican states each school year. In an evaluation of the program completed by Instituto de Evaluación y Asesoramiento Educativo (IDEA), children who attended a program featuring KidSmart were found to have improved skills in math and science, particularly children from the most disadvantaged communities.

In 2013, Salvador Martínez, country general manager of IBM Mexico, signed an agreement with Alma Carolina Viggiano, general director of CONAFE, to continue evaluating and improving the quality of teacher-training courses. The agreement also pledged to evolve the KidSmart Teacher’s Training Manual, which integrates the KidSmart program into the current preschool curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education.

“It is a priority to give our youngest children access to information technology as part of providing a quality education. Our partnership with IBM has made it possible to close the digital divide for more than 200,000 children through the KidSmart program, and through it many parents have also had their first contact with technology. Overall, the KidSmart program provided much more than an introduction to technology, it has been embraced by the entire community and has transformed how students are learning through the use of technology.” Alma Carolina Viggiano, general director, CONAFE

IBM has also partnered with various Sistema para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) agencies to contribute Young Explorers to social service agencies led by the first ladies of different Mexican states and municipalities, supporting the company’s geographic expansion plans.

In 2012 the US Department of Education announced Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a grant competition focused on improving the quality of learning and development programs for young children. In 2012 and 2013, IBM made strategic investments in several states that were awarded RTT-ELC grants including Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, donating 545 Young Explorers, consulting services, and software valued at more than $1.5 million, which exceeded IBM’s promised commitment of $1.3 million.

11 million

Reached more than 11 million students since the inception of the KidSmart Early Learning Program in 1998.

Martha Erika Alonso, Puebla DIF President and first lady of Puebla, and her husband Rafael Moreno Valle, Puebla State governor, with two children receiving a KidSmart donation at their school.

Martha Erika Alonso, Puebla DIF President and first lady of Puebla, and her husband Rafael Moreno Valle, Puebla State governor, with two children receiving a KidSmart donation at their school.

Commemorating IBM and CONAFE’s 12-year alliance supporting education in Mexico