Education is a state function in the United States, and even as the balance shifts among local school districts, state education agencies and the federal government, it is at the state level that critical policy and operational decisions are made that impact the success of a P-TECH school.
Policies and Regulations
This innovative model touches on every aspect of secondary and postsecondary education, and there are numerous issues that must be resolved at the state level for effective implementation. A strong state champion and partner can establish an environment that nurtures and supports the P-TECH Model. Otherwise, local partners will be regularly requesting waivers and special treatment, and eventually, the school’s sustainability will be in jeopardy. Funding formulas and eligibility are key but they not the sole issues.
The policies and regulations that originate at the state level are pervasive. They include:
- State learning standards, including curriculum frameworks
- Baseline high school diploma requirements, including expectations for student assessment
- Criteria for special high school diploma designations, e.g., advanced or honors designations, CTE, etc.
- Standards and access for English language learners and students with disabilities
- Operational requirements for new high schools
- Student data collection
- Accountability measures, including calculations for 4-year graduation rates
- Teacher licensing and certification
- State aid for high school students and community colleges, including dual or concurrent enrollment
- Designations for Career Pathways
- Approval of Associate Degree Pathways
To understand the wide range of issues that a P-TECH planning team will encounter and that the school leader will need to address, a few examples of the topics above are instructive.
- P-TECH students remain on the high school register for up to six years, to avoid the hazards of the transition to college and to clearly assign accountability for their success. However, many states have requirements for students to maintain their high school status, some of which present barriers to this model. In New York, for example, high school students must take a half credit of physical education every semester they are enrolled in high school, a requirement that could be waived for years 5 and 6 of P-TECH. Other states have minimum requirements for the amount of time that students are participating in high school instruction each semester. These requirements must be redefined for students who are taking a majority of their courses at the community college, along with Workplace Learning and internships.
- Many states have developed advanced or honors designations for their high school diplomas, requiring students to complete additional courses and/or exams to demonstrate college readiness. A six-year, integrated Scope & Sequence that provides for a 60-credit college degree, plus Workplace Learning activities each year, will rarely leave time for these additional high school courses. P-TECH students who have completed an AA or AAS degree are unquestionably prepared for further college and should be recognized with a designation of equivalent status and weight. Otherwise, families may be wary of sending their children, and school district leaders may raise concerns about the district’s reputation and accountability if the number of advanced diplomas declines.
- If students stay on the high school register beyond four years and often after the point at which they complete all high school graduation requirements, they may negatively impact the school’s four-year graduation rate. Students’ persistence and success will not be reflected in the accountability measures unless a new calculation is developed for the six-year model.
- Funding is perhaps the issue that looms largest over the implementation of P-TECH schools. Will students be counted on both the high school and community college registers for state aid purposes when taking dual enrollment courses? Will P-TECH students generate state aid developed for early college high school models? Will P-TECH schools be eligible for state or federal funding for CTE programs? Additional information can be found in the Funding.
- Workplace Learning is an essential component of the P-TECH Model. States vary in their approach to granting high school and college credit for structured internships, teacher supervision requirements, etc. All of these will impact the cost, schedule and availability of opportunities for P-TECH students, as well as impact the quality of the relationship with employers.
This is not an exhaustive list. A strong champion on the state level will not only assure that these issues are addressed, but also will find numerous opportunities to promote the model, recruit new partners and help to bring the best practices to bear on other high school and community programming. The result is a state environment that will sustain the P-TECH Model and lead to broader improvements across the education landscape.
In some instances, a fourth partner such as an intermediary or school development organization may play an important role in a P-TECH school. Intermediaries may be non-profit organizations or may be affiliated with a state- or district-wide effort to establish a new type of school.
Typically, intermediaries have expertise in designing school models and supporting the start-up process. They coach the partner organizations through the initial stages of school planning. They also share insights into the specific elements of the model.
In addition, intermediaries often provide professional development for school staff, and facilitate the exchange of resources and best practices across a group of schools that share the same goals. These organizations advocate for policies and funding to support the schools. Some intermediaries also sponsor research into the efficacy of the school model and promote the model to other districts and regions.