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A P-TECH school is not simply four years of high school followed by two years of college. Instead, students advance through their high school and college courses in an integrated fashion.
Culture of High Expectations
P-TECH schools create a culture of high expectations and a belief that all students can attain their high school diploma and associate degree within a six-year period. Teachers, staff, professors and Industry Partners are all responsible for projecting and embodying this culture and set of expectations for students.
P-TECH schools introduce college as a rigorous and demanding experience focused on mastering the knowledge and skills needed for long-term professional success. In fact, P-TECH schools are not creating a college-going culture as much as an in-college culture. Students are in college as soon as ninth grade begins, even though they are still developing the full range of skills and abilities that college will require. This will contribute to a school culture of high expectations, and will help students internalize the goals of the school.
Early access to college coursework begins building students’ identities as college students. Success in these courses can be a strong motivator for students, and can make the goal of an associate degree feel more realistic and attainable.
As the school adds new classes of students, school leaders need to consider how new staff are integrated into the school community, culture and practices. This includes orientation, training and continued support, such as mentoring, support groups and planning time.
Blended, Not Isolated
Students enter a P-TECH school in grade 9, may begin college courses as early as grade 10, and gradually work their way through the attainment of an industry-recognized associate degree. Graduation can occur in grade 14 (the sixth year of the program) or earlier, depending on the student.
P-TECH students must complete all required high school and college courses, along with their prerequisites, as determined by the relevant college department or division.
While all students move through the same sequence of courses, the timing of their progression through the course sequence varies. Students who meet the proficiency benchmarks for taking a college course sooner could move through the program at an accelerated pace and finish in less time. Whereas students who need more time to meet the benchmarks, will receive additional instruction to master the necessary prerequisite concepts.
A schedule that includes both high school courses and college courses can be challenging to build. The goal is to blend the two learning contexts into a seamless whole, to allow students to progress and meet the increasing demands of the program. Student progression should also take into account the importance of maintaining student cohorts throughout the educational program.
The program is primarily focused on English, mathematics, Workplace Learning and technical courses. These strands should be designed to support and reinforce one another and to develop students’ knowledge and skills in the relevant professional field. Moreover, the career focus should be integrated into core academics to make them more accessible and to expand the available time to tackle content and skills. They should not be considered as isolated instructional strands.
A rigorous and focused curriculum is the hallmark of any successful school, but it is particularly important to the P-TECH Model. The school has no prerequisites or testing for admission and is committed to graduate all students within six years with an industry-recognized associate degree. For this reason, a P-TECH school’s instructional activities must be carefully and purposefully designed. The curriculum must drive toward helping all students develop the skills and knowledge they need to graduate high school and earn an associate degree — regardless of their level on entering the program.
Video: Prepared for Rhode Island: P-TECH and coding
Rushie Vilane is an information technology student at Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center. Through Woonsocket’s P-TECH program, Rushie will be able to graduate with a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and industry experience at CVS’s national headquarters in Woonsocket. Learn more about Prepare Rhode Island and how you can gain hands-on, work-based learning experience at Prepare-RI.org.
Skills mapping works to ensure that all partners fully understand the academic, technical and professional skills students need to succeed in entry-level careers. The process is directly informed by actual job requirements, and is the linchpin for connecting competitive employment opportunities to rigorous classroom learning objectives.
Scope & Sequence
In the P-TECH Model, student learning is organized through a six-year Scope & Sequence, comprising high school classes, college courses and Workplace Learning experiences.
College supports help increase the likelihood of a successful transition from high school to college coursework. Many students begin with “College 101” courses that arm students with the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in college. These courses are aimed at helping students adjust to college life. They cover topics such as:
- How to manage time and tasks
- Tips on studying and test taking
- Stress management skills
These courses may be offered by the high school, or the topics may be covered as part of existing college-credit courses.
P-TECH schools also may offer high school seminars that students take in conjunction with specific college courses. The seminars act as support for these college courses, providing students with practice in developing pertinent discussion skills, vocabulary, and study habits.
During these seminars, students also collaborate to develop strategies for understanding assignments, solving homework problems, and taking assessments. Professors and teachers should be in communication about student performance and needs as part of this seminar.
Location, location, location
Supporting high school students in college courses means being deliberate about where college courses take place and who teaches them.
P-TECH school students should take their first college-level courses in the high school setting with their high school cohort. This more structured approach reduces potential issues regarding travel or integration with older students. It also offers greater opportunities for student academic and social-emotional support in the early years of a student’s experience. This means that college faculty must travel to the high school to teach the courses. To accommodate the college work, the P-TECH school also needs to ensure that any necessary equipment and technology is in place at the school.
All faculty who teach a college-credit-bearing course must have the appropriate credentials, as specified by the college, and must have the preparation necessary to teach high school students. In some cases, a high school teacher may have the appropriate background and may receive approval from the college to teach college credit courses. Additionally, some courses may be co-taught by college and high school faculty. Typically, however, the college hires an adjunct to teach the course.
It is important to note that P-TECH students, who have worked hard to earn early entry into a college class, often are motivated by having a college professor come to their high school to teach their class. Students may feel like they are in a “real” college class when it’s taught by a college professor, rather than by a teacher who also teaches their high school classes.
Early College Liaison
The Early College Liaison serves as the intermediary between the community college and the P-TECH school.
This individual is responsible for registering students for their college courses, tracking student performance, and managing budgets, as appropriate, for college coursework, books, and supplies. Following student performance is done with the active support of the school.
The Early College Liaison is also responsible for convening high school and college faculty on a regular basis to examine student work and performance, shared pedagogical approaches, and interventions and supports for students.
Collaborative Professional Development
Successful schools are focused on continuous improvement and provide meaningful, hands-on experiences that are grounded in students’ needs.
In P-TECH schools, professional development requires more layers and collaboration across institutions. Teachers need time to discuss individual student problems and devise support strategies together as a community that includes High School, Community College, and Industry Partners.
P-TECH schools have substantial professional development opportunities built into the calendar, as well as common planning time on a daily basis. Professional development may include project-based learning, seminars for college faculty on how to work with adolescents, or industry-led workshops that help teachers understand how to integrate real-world problems into coursework.
Common planning time enables faculty from the high school and college to align their curriculum and materials, as well as to discuss student needs and progress.