At 6-Year High School, Students Earn Diploma and Associate’s Degree

Our nation has a demand for more students entering college, more college graduates, and more career seekers who are prepared for the workforce. But how?

We’ve recognized that the pipeline to a college degree starts in early childhood. If students aren’t reading at grade-level by third grade, their chance of graduating high school is significantly decreased. More high schools across the country are also doing their part to graduate more students and send more grads to two-year or four-year college degree programs. Internships, service learning, summer enrichment, and AP courses all give high school students a look at life beyond high school; a perspective that can be integral in connecting a K12 education to graduation and a purposeful career.

Another popular program that aims to aid the high school to college pipeline is dual enrollment. Students enrolled in a dual enrollment program will graduate with a high school diploma and get a jumpstart on their college education. A recent study by Jobs for the Future found:

“…high school students who completed a college course before graduation were nearly 50 percent more likely to earn a college degree from a Texas two- or four-year college within six years than students who had not participated in dual enrollment.”

Though the findings in this one study are positive, I have a hard time believing dual enrollment is the answer to more college graduates and career-ready graduates. Rushing students through college does not address the problem we have with so many students who can barely do high school level work, and so many millenials moving into the workforce with degrees but no work experience to land a job. Just because a student finishes “X” course doesn’t mean they mastered the learning with the rigor required to complete more sophisticated college course work.  This doesn’t mean that dual enrollment isn’t a good option for some students the way AP and IB courses are, but how are we measuring readiness?

P-Tech – Pathways in Technology Early College High School – is an innovative New York school that is bringing college courses to their students without rushing them through high school. The school — created by a partnership between IBM and City University of New York – expects to see their first class of “14th graders” graduate in 2017.  P-Tech students will attend the high school for 6 years; leaving with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in applied science in computer information systems or electromechanical engineering technology (The New York Times). Students have mentors from IBM and take trips to the IBM facilities. After they graduate from the program, they will be first preference for filling openings in their expertise at IBM.

This career-focused school is also a core-curricula focused school. It is a high school and is also a college. For the 88 percent of P-Tech students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, it is the opportunity for an above average education and the connection between earning an education and creating a better future.

“At the center of all this is the notion that there are young people who have as much potential to learn what we think of as basic academics as anyone, but whose learning style, whose interests and preferences are for doing things where they can see: ‘What does this mean? Why am I doing this?’” said Stephen F. Hamilton, a professor of human development at Cornell University in the New York Times article, “At Technology High School, Goal Isn’t to Finish in Four Years.”

There are many options unfolding to teach students skills for college and career, however, not all are created equal and not all high schools push the same emphasis. My books Gifts and Talents: Discovering Your Unique Strengths, Sophomore Guide to College & Career, and Majoring in the Rest of Your Life: Career Secrets for College Students are great companions for the classroom or for an independent reader. Each of my books helps students discover their interests and encourages them to explore their unique abilities through internships, getting involved in school, and creating a path toward their career choice.

What are you doing to give students a taste of college and/or career before graduation day?

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