April 15, 2013
By Ernest A. Logan
Reprint From the April 2013 Issue of the CSA News
A couple of years ago, I invited a group of STEM-savvy Principals and Assistant Principals to join me for a brainstorming session at IBM’s Manhattan headquarters. By then, the concept of creating a public/private partnership with IBM, CUNY and the DOE had become more than a gleam in Stan Litow’s eye.
Mr. Litow, IBM’s Vice President for Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, had been known to a few of our members when he served as a Deputy Chancellor years before. Always a man of ideas, he joined forces with the city to create a six-year high school that would try to close the job skills gap initially for a handful of students and perhaps become a laboratory for learning that would benefit other school districts, corporations and, above all, young people.
That evening on Madison Avenue, I was exhilarated by the enthusiasm of CSA members who, not surprisingly, knew some things about how to get this job done that IBM’s executives and DOE and CUNY administrators didn’t know but fully embraced. Interaction between IBM and some of those school leaders continued for months and the new Principal of this innovative institution, Rashid Davis, was chosen from among this group.
The simple idea behind the school – Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – was to make high school students both college and career-ready as soon as possible and place them first in line for jobs at IBM. As Mr. Litow wrote in a recent NY Daily News op ed piece, “Even in the midst of stubbornly high unemployment, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled because applicants lack the proper skills.”
Now in its second year, P-TECH has inspired cities as different as Chicago and Boise to try something similar. In addition to IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless have stepped up to the plate. Last month, as part of New York’s 2013-2014 Executive Budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined IBM in announcing the cloning of the P-TECH model in the 10 economic development regions across our state.
As long as we get enough corporations with IBM’s “do good to do well” mentality and Mr. Litow’s steely resolve, we school leaders can play an active role in growing more schools like P-TECH across this city where it all began. There would be no losers here if banks like Chase, communications companies like AT&T and insurance companies like MetLife jumped in big-time with the public school system and CUNY to help grow their companies and the city’s economy. Many such companies already have deep experience working on various collaborations through the high-powered partnership program PENCIL and are ready to take the next step.
This is the opposite of privatizing public education; this is fostering our success. It’s a movement that has a lot more possibility of growing to scale than the charter school movement does. This kind of true public/private partnership is what the NYC Partnership and Chamber of Commerce should be focusing their energy on and what the public sector should be encouraging private industry to do. In the case of the fledgling P-TECH, not only IBM but CUNY and the DOE get their props. In this venture, all three went beyond “Adopt-a School” and mentoring models to the real deal.
In the long run, this public/private partnership campaign can move beyond STEM to collaborative schools in education, business, healthcare and the performing arts, with partners like Teachers College, American Express, New York-Presbyterian and Viacom. Every single school will probably start out small, like P-TECH, and it will take some years to measure the results. You don’t usually recognize genius when staring it in the eye; it’s more likely to be visible on reflection.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama summarized the potential and his own commitment in a few words: “At schools like P-TECH…students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering…We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.”