When President Obama, in the midst of speaking about weighty national and international issues, mentioned Brooklyn’s P-Tech High School in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, many Brooklynites and others from the New York metro area suddenly perked up.
Many, if not most, suddenly wanted to know more about this school, which opened two years ago on the former Paul Robeson High School campus in Fort Greene.
“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,” said Obama. “We need to give every American student opportunities like this.”
The school, which combines traditional high school work with associate’s degree-level work in technology in six years, is one of about 12 “early college” high schools administered by the Department of Education.
P-TECH (which stands for Pathways in Technology Early College High School) also has two partners – IBM, as an its industry partner, and New York City College of Technology (City Tech) here in Brooklyn, as its college partner.
How did Obama hear of P-Tech? “Almost certainly through U.S. Secretary of Education Anne Duncan,” said Bonne August, provost and vice president of City Tech. “She’s visited the school several times.”
At P-Tech, Ms. August adds, students take most of their classes at the Paul Robeson campus for the first four years, although they may venture to City Tech to take a few course. Then, during the last two years, they study full-time at City Tech’s Downtown Brooklyn campus.
As of now, she said, there are 230 students in the program, although the school at the present time only has ninth-grade and tenth-grade students. As is customary with new schools, an extra grade will be added every year.
Of the first group of students, Ms. August says, “some were really into technology, but some were just looking for a good school.” As news of the school spreads, she says, she expects more of a tech-oriented student body.
According to P-Tech’s own web site, positions for which the program prepares its students include manufacturing engineering technician, quality analyst and software specialist.
“It’s like the old vocational model,” Ms. August says, but updated for the high-technology age.
One who definitely took notice of the president’s mention of the school was Borough President Marty Markowitz.
“North Crown Heights is one of the most economically challenged communities in Brooklyn, and I am proud of my office’s role in advocating for this new and unique school that will provide students with four years of high school and two years of college at no cost, teaching them the educational, professional and life skills that can lead to rewarding careers,” said the borough president.