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Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) Shows Equity in Action

by Rashid F. Davis - February 14, 2022

When you accelerate learning you accelerate equity. Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a new grade 9-14 model that opened in 2011 where within six years after entering 9th-grade students can complete a free associate in applied science (AAS) degree in science technology engineering or math (STEM) pathways from a college partner and then be first in line for jobs with an industry partner. In 2021, seven states Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas have produced P-TECH AAS graduates.

The frustrations that community college students experience when transferring credits is a plague thats existed throughout the history of these sub-baccalaureate institutions.  Often referred to as junior colleges, a unfortunate condescending assessment of their value, students viscerally experience the disconnect between higher education sectors when a receiving institution requires a student to re-take an equivalent class completed as part of their associates degree.  This has ramifications, especially students who rely on federal and state financial aid, not to mention prolonging the time until degree attainment.  One way of easing transferability while solving the remediation conundrum as discussed in last weeks commentaries is to enable students to get a jump start on their college careers by concurrently earning a secondary and post-secondary degree, along with a seamless pathway created with baccalaureate institutions.  The Pathways to Technology (P-Tech) high school that was established in Brooklyn, NY and just celebrated its 10th anniversary is a shining example of this approach.  Another way of addressing this problem is by articulating community college degrees with private institutions, an endeavor thats been championed by the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) through a grant from the Teagle Foundation.  The two examples highlighted in this weeks commentaries demonstrate some of the inner workings necessary to engage in creative approaches to prioritizing equity.

- Robin G. Isserles and David Levinson

In March 2011, I resigned from being the principal at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy (BETA), and I became the founding principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). BETA was a new small career and technical education New York City Department of Education High School (NYCDOE) that opened in 2004. BETA was created in partnership with the New Visions organization, and I was the principal who graduated the first, second, and third graduating classes. New Visions shared research and professional development opportunities with principals on how to effectively use data to lead school change. Some of the data and research came from Chicago and students who matriculated from the Chicago public school system to the public college system. The research included early warning signals to help students remain on track to graduate high school in four years. The learning proved to be invaluable as I continued my action research at P-TECH, a publicprivate partnership that began in New York City in 2011 with NYCDOE, CUNY (the Early College Initiative specifically), New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and IBM. P-TECH is a Grades 914 model, and the scholars have the opportunity to pursue a free Grades 13 and 14 pathway in computer sciences and then be first in line for job opportunities. P-TECH is an opportunity for stakeholders to advance their commitment to workforce development and education. P-TECH Brooklyn is a majority-minority school, with more than 95% Black and Hispanic scholars. More than 75% of our scholars families qualify free or reduced school lunch.

With P-TECH, I joined a planning team that included a steering committee with representatives from high school, college, and industry. Typically, a school planning team would include educators who were on the ground with the school leader. P-TECHs planning was unique and included our creating a scope and sequence that showed pathways for high school, college, and industry. Through the intersections of high school, college, and industry, P-TECH addresses skill gaps in economies and education inequities for students. P-TECH is open enrollment, with no testing or grade requirements for admissions. The ninth-grade year has included blended learning since our inception. Thus, in March 2020, when COVID-19 required the NYCDOE to switch to remote learning, students were familiar with online learning. It is important to note that in 2011, with support and funding from a school improvement grant (SIG), the NYCDOE opened P-TECH as a new model of publicprivate partnership with CUNY and IBM. Ten years later, in 2021, that publicprivate partnership existed in 28 countries, with over 200 high school and college partners, and more than 600 industry partners. Young scholars in diverse communities across the 28 countries are receiving opportunities to prepare for and explore high-demand careers and industries during a COVID-19 economy. Despite COVID-19, seven states were able to produce P-TECH STEM college graduates: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas. That these seven states produced P-TECH college graduates provides evidence that many states can use to help address learning loss caused by COVID-19 disruptions.


Figure 1. MDRC Research New York Citys P-TECH 9-14 Schools

Figure 1 is from the United States Department of Educations Institute of Education Sciences (IES) What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). I share the evidence for the intervention and studies to support my belief that P-TECH is equity in action. In January 2021, IES WWC reviewed MDRCs Bridging the School-to-Work Divide: Interim Implementation and Impact Findings From New York Citys P-TECH 9-14 Schools. The research follows seven P-TECHs in New York City. The review indicated that MDRCs research met WWC standards without reservation, had at least one statistically positive finding, and had at least one finding that showed strong evidence of effectiveness. The findings include the following:


Academic achievement (secondary school) outcomesStatistically significant positive effects found.


Attendance (secondary school) outcomesStatistically significant positive effects found.


College readiness (secondary school) outcomesStatistically significant positive effects found.


Progressing in school (secondary school) outcomesStatistically significant positive effects found.

The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER) 2021 states that schools and districts must reserve at least 20% of funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and ensure that those interventions respond to students social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups. The P-TECH work and IES WWC intervention and studies should help districts and states see P-TECH as a means to reach the goals of ARP ESSER.


Figure 2. Remote and Blended High School and College Programming

When we accelerate learning, we not only accelerate equity but we also accelerate earning potential. Figure 2 shows the programming for P-TECH during 20202021 school year, which was also our 10th year of existence. The COVID-19 disruption presents many challenges and opportunities for innovation. Our publicprivate partnership with NYCCT and IBM during COVID-19, providing students with both early college and industry opportunities, should encourage districts and states to embrace such a partnership. With remote college only, remote high school and college, and blended high school and college programming, P-TECH Brooklyn was able to produce college graduates four, five, and six years after eighth grade, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Figure 3. The Research Alliance for New York City Schools New York City Goes to College (Science Technology Engineering and Math Associate in Applied Science, STEMAAS)

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools at New York University Steinhardt is very important for evidence and research-based practices. Figure 3 is from New York City Goes to College New Findings and Framework for Examining College Access and Success by Kristin Black and Vanessa Coca. They found that among every 100 New York City public school students who start ninth grade, only 25 will have completed a college degree 10 years later. How many of the 25 degrees are science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)? How many of the 25 are Black? How many of the 25 are Black males? The answers to my questions are not found in the research, but the number 25 in many ways now becomes a measuring stick. The research does not include students from P-TECH. In 2021, P-TECH completed five cohorts of our Grades 914 model, and average degree attainment of 30 in four, five, or six years after eighth grade exceeded the 25 college degree outcomes in the research. Our STEM degree attainment in less time for underrepresented students assesses with validity that P-TECH is equity in action.

As part of their associates degree coursework, PTECH students are required to enroll in and pass college-level pre-calculus. We are intentional and strategic in strengthening scholars reading and mathematics skills. We meet scholars where they are and allow them to go at their pace. Scholars take college coursework after they have demonstrated readiness based on New York State Regents Examinations and passing high school coursework. It is no easy feat to produce STEM college graduates four, five, and six years after eighth grade. In NYCDOE, students eighth-grade proficiency levels have always shown the need for high schools to address learning loss and to accelerate learning. All students in New York take state ELA and mathematics exams in the eighth grade and receive a state reference proficiency level based on their performance. The performance levels for students are defined as: (1) Well below proficient in math standards for their grade; (2) Below proficient in math standards for their grade; (3) Proficient in math standards for their grade; and (4) Excel in math standards for their grade.


Figure 4. P-TECHs 1st Cohort by Ethnicity and Gender With 8th Grade Math Proficiency Averages

Figure 4 shows the first and only P-TECH cohort to reach the milestone 10 years after ninth grade. The chart shows the 98 students in the first cohort disaggregated by ethnicity and gender. The chart includes their eighth-grade math proficiency average for the ethnicity and gender, and high school and college completion data.

Figure 5 shows the highest degree attainment for the first cohort and the percentage value of lifetime taxes to show the value of education. The data are taken from the Lumina Foundations Its Not Just the Money: The Benefits of College Education to Individuals and to Society. The 98 students in P-TECHs first 10 years after the ninth-grade milestone shows a potential $20,718,683 percentage value of lifetime taxes. There is a value-add for our underrepresented population earning STEM degrees early and on time. Finally, of the 98 students in that first cohort, IBM has hired 24 of the 98. P-TECH opened in 2011 in New York City during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, and our first 10 years ended during COVID-19 and the demonstrations against institutionalized racism. I cannot wait to see what unfolds during our second decade of existence.


Figure 5.  Lumina Foundation Graphic Its Not Just the Money the Benefits of College Education to Individuals and to Society


New York University. (2017). Report reveals improvements and persistent inequities in college access and success in NYC. Phys.org. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2017-06-reveals-persistent-inequities-college-access.html

U.S. Department of Education. (2021). American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER). https://oese.ed.gov/files/2021/03/FINAL_ARP-ESSER-FACT-SHEET.pdf

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 14, 2022
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23985, Date Accessed: 2/21/2022 7:25:30 AM

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About the Author
  • Rashid F. Davis
    Pathways in Technology Early High School (P-TECH)
    E-mail Author
    RASHID F. DAVIS is the founding principal of Pathways in Technology Early High School (P-TECH) which opened in 2011. P-TECH is a grade 9-14 model with a pathway from high school, to college, to a career in industry. The first P-TECH school in Brooklyn is partnered with New York City College of Technology and IBM. He has 25 years of service in education and prior to P-TECH, he was principal of Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy (BETA). He is a 1992 graduate of Morehouse College with advance degrees from Pace University, Teachers College Columbia University, and Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. He is a 2012 Cahn Fellow with Teachers College Columbia University. He is the first recipient of Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education Lifetime Achievement Award. He wrote the Afterword of Stanley Litow’s latest book, co-authored with Tina Kelley, Breaking Barriers: How P-TECH Schools Create a Pathway From High School to College to Career. In 2013, President Obama mentioned P-TECH in the State of the Union and then followed up with a visit to P-TECH on October 25, 2013. As of August 2021, P-TECH is in 28 countries, with over 200 school and college partners and over 600 industry partners. In 2015, Davis was selected as a New York Daily News Education Hometown Hero. In 2016 Davis was selected as a Legendary School Leader by the Black Caucus of CSA and Administrators and received Proclamations from the Council City of New York, the Assembly State of New York, 14th and 25th Senate Districts. In 2016 Davis was named to City and State’s 2016 “Brooklyn Borough 50” list for his contributions to the Brooklyn community. The Brooklyn Borough 50 annually recognizes 50 of the most powerful leaders in government, education, business, and culture who reside in Brooklyn. Davis has written about education, job skills, and training in the 21st-century workplace.
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