Coming to a school near you: A charter school that prepares students for a job with Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing?

November 5, 2012

If Initiative 1240 passes tomorrow, education entrepreneurs will be able to use the charter school model to develop authentically innovative ways to motivate and educate high-school students. One great example of a new idea in education is PTech High charter school, which opened in New York City on September 8, 2011 with a class of ninth- graders.  The school will run for six years, from grade nine to grade 14.  When they graduate from grade 14 with an Associate’s Degree and a qualified record, PTech High students will be “first in line” for a job with IBM.

PTech High serves students who live in the five Brooklyn boroughs.  Students are not pre-screened for past grades or academic performance.  All students learn the traditional core subjects, but they also receive an education in computer science and complete two years of college work.  

The plan for PTech High was developed by a partnership between New York City schools, IBM and the City University of New York.  It is the first of its kind in the country.  The school has a steering committee and is led by Principal Davis.  Principal Davis took the lead in planning key elements of the school design, including staff selection and hiring. The school will add a class of roughly 100 students each year, growing to enroll between 400 and 450 students on site by school year 2014-15.

PTech High is possible because New York passed legislation in 1998 allowing charter schools.  Since then charter schools in Harlem have shown that poverty can be overcome by strong leadership and intense, effective teaching.   

I am hoping for a charter school in Washington state fashioned after the PTech High model.  If voters pass Initiative 1240, students here may soon be preparing to be “first in line” for jobs at Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing.

Update:  Gary Kipp of the Association of Washington School Principals points out that PTech High does not describe itself as a charter school.  He’s right, and I should have noted that.  What led me to tell PTech High’s story is that it has the essential qualities charter schools use for their success:  The principal is in charge and he can hire and fire teachers based on the needs of students.  It is those qualities that charter schools would use to help students in struggling schools in Washington.




This model could be

This model could be implemented in any regular public school system. Many districts already have partnerships with local businesses, and many students graduate high school with associate degrees from their local community colleges via Running Start. Our Skill Centers have a wide variety programs that often give students certifications that can be used in the job market at graduation. PTech looks like a great school, but it doesn't take a charter school to be innovative.