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Innovative Six-Year High Schools Emphasize STEM

In Brooklyn, New York, a new approach to high school has emerged: a six-year public school with specific emphasis on STEM coursework. The first school, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), opened in 2011 in a run-down part of Brooklyn, to be more available to low income students in the area.

The workload is not light. Students are finding that they are working hard year-round and not having a lot of leisure time as a result, but the gain is essentially two free years of college-level education to help position them for better jobs when they enter the workforce, and for further education. A large part of the motivation for the school is the recognition that a standard high school degree is not enough for good jobs in the workforce anymore. Coupled with low employment rates for young people and a strong need for STEM-trained workers, these programs could make up a big shortfall while giving young people opportunities to start out strongly in the work force.

The first three classes of students are now enrolled at this first school. IBM partnered up with the New York City Department of Education and City University of New York to get the school started, though IBM's role now is not financial. The company is assisting through mentorships and internships for the students. Students are accepted by open lottery without any academic testing or requirements. The potential is seen as being so promising that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that 16 new P-TECH schools are expected to open in New York in September.

It will be interesting to watch the success rates of the schools - how many accepted students graduate, completion rates, employment rates, further education rates. It's a unique approach to grow the numbers of STEM field-capable workers in a way that, being free, might not otherwise be available to a lot of young people.

Read more about P-TECH: Six years for high school? Why two extra years is catching on

Read more about the increasing involvement of high tech companies with school programs: SAP, IBM and JP Morgan invest in STEM education in high schools

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